In order for a medical malpractice claim to be successful, the plaintiff must prove four legal elements. These elements are (from the NCBI):
- The existence of a legal duty on the part of the doctor to provide care or treatment to the patient.
- A breach of this duty by a failure of the treating doctor to adhere to the standards of the profession.
- A causal relationship between such breach of duty and injury to the patient.
- The existence of damages that flow from the injury such that the legal system can provide redress.
In the next several blogs we’ll break down each of these elements individually and explain what exactly the plaintiff must establish to prove that each of these four elements are present in his or her claim.
The Legal Elements of a Medical Malpractice Claim
Defining the legal duty of the health care provider to the patient is the first and most straightforward element to establish. Professional health care providers have a legal duty to provide their patients with reasonable professional care When a patient seeks treatment from a health care provider and the provider undertakes the care of the patient in a professional setting, this duty has been established. There is one exception to this rule. A health care provider may establish a duty of care in the event that he or she provides care for the victim of, for example, an car accident. However, despite the fact that the legal duty was established, the liability of the provider is reduced due to the nature of the circumstances. The only case in which a health care provider would not have a legal duty to a patient is in the event that the provider sees a patient outside of the professional setting in which care takes place and that the care was not provided as a result of an emergency. For example, it may have been solicited by the patient in a social setting.