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How Do You Prove Fault in a Medical Malpractice Case?

How Do You Prove Fault in a Medical Malpractice Case?

Is medical malpractice common in Dallas, Texas? Sadly, the answer is yes — but not only here. Every year, hundreds of thousands of people are injured and killed throughout the United States due to medical errors. One study published by Johns Hopkins University has the number of annual deaths attributable to medical malpractice at over 250,000. If you or someone you love has suffered because of medical malpractice, a medical malpractice lawyer can help.

Understanding Medical Malpractice

All medical professionals make mistakes, just as workers in other fields do. However, medical malpractice does not deal with common mistakes. Medical malpractice encompasses actions that a reasonable health care professional would not have engaged in while treating a patient. More technically, Texas law describes medical malpractice as a departure from accepted standards of medical care.

For example, if an emergency room doctor fails to identify a condition in a patient who entered their emergency room, and the patient dies, the question would be: Did the ER doctor depart from accepted standards of care? If it were discovered later that the ER doctor failed to administer a standard test that would have caught the condition, the answer may very well be yes.

No Guarantee to Be Pain-Free

In medicine, there is no guarantee that you will be free from pain during or after being treated. The body is still quite a mystery to medical science. In other words, pain alone is not sufficient grounds for a medical malpractice allegation, especially if it was explained as one of the risks of the treatment. But pain could be and often is a clue of negligence. Accompanied with other facts, pain could indeed form part of the foundation for a medical malpractice lawsuit.

Results May Vary

In many cases, the results of treatments between patients can vary widely. In one case, a treatment could be an utter failure or even injurious, and in another, it could be the perfect cure. In other words, patients must understand that results may and do vary, and the failure of a treatment is not necessarily grounds for a medical malpractice lawsuit.

But a lot depends on the actual treatment. More complex treatments naturally have a higher rate of failure than, for example, the treatment for a sprained finger. A high failure rate for sprained fingers would indeed draw inquiry, but a dangerous surgery with a low survival rate is a different matter.

What you are guaranteed when you seek the services of a licensed medical professional or a licensed medical facility is a reasonable standard of care. If your health care professional does not deliver this, and you are injured, you can potentially sue for damages.

How to Prove Fault in a Medical Malpractice Case

Without an admission from the health care professional in question, proving fault in a medical malpractice case is typically a complex, multi-layer process. A deep knowledge of the law and procedure relating to medical malpractice is necessary, as well as professional-level medical knowledge. For these reasons, while a seasoned Dallas medical malpractice attorney will have quite a bit of in-depth medical knowledge, they will also rely on medical professionals who are experts in their respective fields.

Initial Proof of Medical Malpractice

In many cases, the initial evidence of medical malpractice is a symptom exhibited by the patient. In others, the evidence is revealed during a treatment or checkup following an act of medical malpractice. Whatever the initial evidence may be, a patient’s medical malpractice lawyer will begin by evaluating their client’s claim for the existence of the following elements:

  • An established patient-healthcare provider relationship
  • Behavior that demonstrates a deviation from the standard of care
  • Proof that the deviation from the standard for care directly caused injury
  • Proof that compensable damages resulted.

If your Dallas medical malpractice attorney believes the case has merit, they will move forward with the case. To arrive at this point, you, as the patient, must provide your attorney with your medical records and potentially other documents.

Certificate of Merit

If an attorney takes your case, one of their first acts will be to file a Certificate Of Merit. This document contains a statement from a medical expert in the field in question, stating that your allegations of medical malpractice indeed have merit. This stage exists to prevent frivolous lawsuits from bogging down the medical profession.

Allegations of Negligence

Within your initial claim for damages, your Dallas medical malpractice lawyer must demonstrate specific acts of negligence as well as causation (that the acts of negligence actually caused the losses at hand). It’s not enough to say that a doctor, nurse, or other medical professional was negligent. The claim must show how the professional was negligent.

In some cases, the negligent act is evident on its face, such as a case involving the amputation of the wrong body member. Shockingly, these cases are not as rare as they should be. But what is most common are the complex cases, where the decisions of skilled and educated professionals must go under a microscope of analysis to determine whether they were negligent.

Specific Acts of Medical Negligence

Other acts of medical negligence that commonly occur include:

  • Missed Diagnosis: Failure to recognize that an illness or condition can lead to catastrophic consequences
  • Misdiagnosis: Diagnosing the wrong condition and leaving the actual condition untreated, leading to dangerous and unnecessary treatments
  • Surgical Errors: Surgical errors range from wrong-site surgical errors to those involving objects left inside the body
  • Medication Errors: Errors in the prescribing, dosing, and administration of over-the-counter and prescription medication
  • Anesthesia Errors: Dosage errors, improper patient monitoring, and delayed or improper delivery of anesthesia drugs

This is just a small list of the numerous specific examples of medical malpractice that occur regularly.

Liable Health Care Professionals

Your Dallas medical malpractice lawyer will identify not only the specific acts of medical negligence but also the specific actor or actors involved. In any medical setting, there are various licensed and insured medical professionals, including:

  • Doctors
  • Nurses
  • Chiropractors
  • Midwives
  • Physician’s assistants
  • Nurse practitioners
  • Pharmacists
  • Licensed practical nurses
  • Nursing assistants
  • Medical and nursing students
  • Medical lab testing professionals

Within the complaint will be the name of the medical professional and their alleged actions.

Health Care Facilities

Various types of health care facilities treat patients for all manner of conditions. Each of them is required to deliver their services according to accepted standards of institutional care. Some examples of facility negligence include:

  • Lack of staff to serve patients
  • Untrained staff
  • Unlicensed staff
  • Scheduling negligence, such as scheduling employees for too many hours
  • Sanitary and hygiene issues
  • Lack of or problems with security
  • Inadequate resources such as standard medical equipment.

Additionally, hospitals, clinics, and other medical facilities may be sued for the negligent acts of their employees under the doctrine of vicarious liability. Whether the facility itself was negligent is irrelevant. If one of the medical professionals on its staff acted negligently and caused harm, the facility can be held liable.

Specific Evidence of Medical Malpractice

In medical malpractice cases, as in many other types of law, what happened did not happen without evidence, and the victim’s testimony is never enough on its own. Hence, medical malpractice attorneys must gather specific pieces and types of evidence to build a strong case.

Common types of evidence used in medical malpractice cases include:

  • Medical records and history of the patient
  • Autopsies
  • Expert testimony
  • Witness testimony
  • The victim’s testimony
  • The medical professional’s history of lawsuits
  • Photos and video footage of the injury and its impact.

As mentioned, some cases require very little evidence gathering, such as cases involving surgeries performed on the wrong patient. However, many more cases necessitate much time in collecting proof. In either case, the services of an experienced Dallas medical malpractice lawyer are invaluable.

Speak With a Medical Malpractice Lawyer Today

At Crain Brogdon, we will identify medical malpractice and hold the right professionals responsible. Give us a call today at (214) 522-9404 for a free consultation.

Quentin-Brogdon-Photo

Attorney Quentin Brogdon

Quentin Brogdon has over thirty years of experience and expertise in the field of personal injury trial law. He is board certified in both personal injury trial law and civil trial advocacy. Quentin has received an AV rating from Martindale-Hubbell, the highest possible rating. This rating reflects an attorney’s ethics and abilities according to reviews from fellow attorneys. [ Attorney Bio ]

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