As we discussed in our previous blog, proving the breach of duty is one of the four essential elements of a successful medical malpractice suit. The health care provider’s duty to provide a reasonable standard of care is breached when, as a result of medical negligence, they fail to meet the standard of care that another professional would have provided. Expert witnesses are necessary to confirm that this standard of care was not met. The next step, demonstrating that the breach of care led to an injury on the part of the patient, must be proven in order to proceed to the final element of the suit: damages.
Breach of Care and Damages
Once the failure to provide a reasonable standard of care has been established, the plaintiff must prove that this failure led to an injury. If the standard of care was not met but there was no injury, then the case cannot continue. The plaintiff must have suffered an injury that was a direct result of medical negligence on the part of the health care provider. There is one other option, known as proximate causation, in which "the patient can show a legally sufficient relationship between the breach of duty and the injury." If either of these methods demonstrate the relationship between the breach of duty and the injury, the case will proceed to damages.
Damages in a medical malpractice suit are classified into two categories: economic and non-economic. Economic damages are those damages that can be easily quantified. These include hospital bills, lost wages, insurance payments, and anything else to which a dollar value can be easily affixed. Non-economic damages include less tangible losses. These include pain and suffering caused as a result of injury, inability to work in the future, and overall decrease in quality of life as a result of medical negligence.