How Do You Prove Medical Negligence?
February 1, 2023
Doctors and medical professionals should always keep their patients’ safety and well-being in mind. There are situations where healthcare professionals make mistakes when treating a patient. Unfortunately, those mistakes can happen in an instant but can leave lasting consequences on the victim.
When you suffer an injury during the course of your medical care that is unforeseen, you may be the victim of negligence. Medical negligence is common but not always apparent, and many victims may not realize their injuries are due to negligence.
If you believe you or a loved one has been the victim of medical negligence, a medical malpractice lawyer can help you understand your legal rights and options to seek compensation for damages. While many healthcare procedures and treatments can carry unavoidable risks, sometimes a bad outcome is caused by the negligence of your medical provider rather than the known risks.
What Is Medical Negligence?
Doctors, nurses, assistants, and other healthcare professionals treat and care for patients daily. As part of each medical profession, certain guidelines or standards are expected of an individual who takes on the role of a medical provider. While healthcare workers may have some discretion when treating patients, they also have norms and safety procedures to follow to protect patients whenever possible.
Patients come to doctors and healthcare settings to seek treatment for illnesses and injuries. Doctors cannot always provide successful treatment for every patient. However, when a doctor or other healthcare staff takes action to serve a patient’s needs, they must do so while upholding the duty of care required of their position.
Any time a medical provider deviates from their duty of care, they risk causing a patient harm. Medical negligence occurs when a healthcare provider causes preventable harm to a patient through their direct acts or failure to act that violate the standard of care. Reports by the Institute of Medicine (IOM) indicate that medical negligence and malpractice errors can lead to 29 billion dollars in costs and damages annually across the U.S. In addition, medical-related errors can lead to an additional 7,000 patients losing their lives each year.
The Elements Necessary to Prove Medical Negligence
As part of filing a claim or lawsuit for medical negligence, a victim must prove that malpractice has occurred. Insurance companies and the court where a victim may sue for damages will look to the elements of a medical negligence case to determine whether your case meets each element under the facts leading up to your illness or injury.
The elements of medical negligence are as follows:
- That you and the party at fault have an established healthcare relationship
- The at-fault party in some way violated the duty of care owed to you
- You suffered an injury, illness, or worsening of a condition
- The cause of your harm is the action or inaction of your healthcare provider
Can You Sue if You Believe You Are a Medical Negligence Victim?
If you believe you have been the victim of medical negligence, you may be able to take legal action against the party or parties at fault for your damages. However, filing a lawsuit for medical negligence is not a simple procedure. Michigan has extensive statutory requirements that a plaintiff in a medical malpractice case must abide by when pursuing compensation for their losses.
You must provide notice to the healthcare provider or healthcare facilities involved in the medical negligence action within a certain deadline. There are complex requirements for what must be part of that notice.
How Can You Show You Are a Victim of Medical Negligence?
Many victims of medical negligence may suspect that they have suffered harm because of the negligent actions of a medical provider, but they may be unsure. In many cases, a doctor or other provider will not admit to mistakes or careless errors that occured during your treatment or care.
When you suffer harm you did not expect during your care under a medical professional, it warrants a closer look. An attorney with experience dealing with medical negligence can help you determine whether negligence occurred based on the facts and evidence leading up to your injury, often by consulting with an expert doctor who knows the standards of care.
It is not easy to prove medical negligence, but it is possible. Your attorney can help you uncover medical records and other information that may prove negligence and a healthcare provider’s deviation from their duty of care required under the law.
Evidence that may support a claim for medical negligence can include:
- Medical records, reports, and notes
- Prescription history
- Provider’s history and routine practices
- Testimony of witnesses
- Expert testimony of healthcare experts that can establish common standards
- Your testimony of the events leading to the harm and the outcome of the damage
- Photographs, videos, or records showing your injuries and illness
What Are Some Common Scenarios Where Medical Negligence Can Occur?
The complexity of medical negligence cases is that when a patient receives care for an illness or medical condition, there are many points where something can go wrong. Pinpointing the exact cause of your harm following a procedure or treatment can be challenging, especially as patients lack in-depth or professional medical knowledge and experience.
Additionally, it is not uncommon for a victim of medical negligence to not realize at first that the negligence occurred. In some instances, it may take some time for a victim to begin to suspect that something is wrong or that their condition is due to the actions or inaction of their provider.
Examples of medical negligence may include:
- Procedure on the wrong area of the body
- Incorrect prescription dosage or medication
- Improper follow-up care
- Secondary infection
- Failure to properly diagnose
The Damages a Victim of Medical Negligence Can Seek From the Responsible Parties
The types of damages and compensation a victim of medical negligence can seek will depend on the facts of the case and the law that applies to the case. Compensation for losses following a medical negligence incident can include economic and non-economic losses. A medical negligence injury’s intrusive and negative impact can cause challenges whether you suffered a minor injury or a life-changing injury.
A medical negligence lawyer can help you determine the recoverable compensation amount of money that may be available to you. Calculating damages is a routine task in the organization and preparation of a medical negligence case.
Knowing the extent of your losses and taking the time to consider and calculate all future potential losses can help you and your attorney make the best decision regarding settlement offers or further legal action in your case.
The categories of damages that may be available in a medical negligence insurance claim or lawsuit include the following:
- Medical costs
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of income or future earnings
- Permanent or temporary disability
- Loss of quality of life
- Loss of enjoyment of life
How Can You Pursue Compensation if You Suffer Injuries Due to Medical Negligence?
You may think filing a lawsuit will be the best and first action in a medical negligence case. However, negotiating a settlement without the court’s involvement may be in your best interest if a fair and reasonable settlement offer is achievable in your case. Negotiations for settlements can occur with the medical malpractice insurers who insured the at-fault provider or facility.
When negotiations are not possible, probable, or in your best interest, your medical negligence attorney might recommend filing a lawsuit naming all parties responsible as defendants in your case. Going to trial often means the case will take time to reach a resolution, but in some cases, it may give you a better chance at nearing the maximum compensation possible for your case.
Does Medical Malpractice Insurance Cover Medical Negligence?
Although there may be some differences in what qualifies an act of medical negligence or medical malpractice, medical malpractice insurance coverage often covers the damages to victims. Unfortunately, Michigan law does not require that healthcare providers carry malpractice coverage.
If you are a victim of medical malpractice and the healthcare provider to blame for your injuries chose not to carry malpractice insurance, you will be unable to file an insurance claim for your losses, but you can still file a lawsuit. Medical provider who does not carry malpractice coverage opens themselves up to personal liability and lawsuits for any negligence they engage in that causes harm to a patient.
Who Could You Hold Liable for Your Damages?
You may not know who ultimately made the grave mistake leading to your injury. However, a medical malpractice attorney can enlist the help of witnesses and medical experts to help you narrow down how the negligence occurred and who may be responsible.
If more than one party may have had a hand in causing you harm, then your case may have multiple defendants. Liability for medical negligence can be tricky, but your lawyer will work hard to discover all parties liable to you.
Examples of individuals or parties that may be at fault for a medical negligence event include:
- Medical support staff
- Imaging techs
- Healthcare facilities, hospitals, or physician groups
- Pharmacy or pharmacists
- Any other medical professional who is licensed by the State
What Should You Do if You Are a Victim Of Medical Negligence?
If you are unexpectedly unwell following a routine medical procedure or suffer a mysterious injury or ailment while under the care of a provider, you may be a victim of medical negligence. What you choose to do at the outset of your suspicions or discovery can impact your case and, ultimately, even the amount of compensation you may be eligible for under the law.
Call a Lawyer as Soon as Possible
You should not hesitate to call a medical negligence attorney as soon as you think you may be a victim of negligence. With high stakes on the line, you must take steps to ensure the case goes forward with the utmost care from the outset to protect your rights and interests when going up against big-name healthcare conglomerates, insurance companies, or highly regarded doctors.
Medical negligence cases involve sensitive information, and organizations and doctors are at great risk of ruining their reputations. There is too much risk of losing access to records, manipulation of information, or time-sensitive materials if you wait too long after experiencing malpractice. Find the right lawyer and get them involved as soon as you can.
Gather Evidence and Records
The moment you think something is amiss, you should begin to collect and save any and all information and records you have access to regarding your care. This can include medical charts, notes, and records you may have in physical form or you may have access to online. Begin to save any pertinent information you come across to discuss further when meeting with your medical malpractice attorney.
Do Not Notify the At-fault Party of Your Intentions To Pursue A Claim
It is understandable to feel frustration and anger following a possible act of medical negligence that leads to preventable harm to you. However, it is vital that you do not discuss your intentions of seeking legal action with your provider, the facility, or staff until you decide whether or not you will hire an attorney. Causing an alarm may put records at risk and make it more difficult for you to retrieve the evidence you need.
When you contact and hire a personal injury law firm in Grand Rapids, they can take the appropriate legal action to preserve evidence in your case and notify the parties involved of any claim or lawsuit you choose to pursue.