How Do You Prove a Doctor Caused Your Injury?
If you are reading this blog post, it might be because you are thinking about filing a claim for medical malpractice. If you do file a claim, how do you prove a doctor caused your injury?
If you have done any reading about medical malpractice, you probably know that there are four elements to a successful claim:
- The existence of a duty;
- The breach of that duty;
- An injury that results from the breach;
- Damages that result from the injury (such as additional medical bills, lost wages, etc).
In most medical malpractice cases, the existence of a duty is not hard to prove, because the doctor-patient relationship creates a duty in the doctor to treat the patient as a reasonable doctor in the same situation would. This is the standard of care.
The existence of an injury is probably what brought you to the point of considering legal action, and damages may also be fairly easy to identify. The most challenging part of a medical malpractice case is usually proving that a doctor breached their duty, and then connecting that breach to the problems the patient is experiencing.
Challenges in Proving Causation
There are a couple of reasons proving causation can be difficult. For one thing, the reason you were working with a doctor in the first place is that you were having health problems. It may be difficult to distinguish between a progression of the medical issue you were already experiencing and an injury caused by the doctor. In other words, just because you're feeling worse doesn't mean it is the doctor's fault.
Even if the treatment does leave you in worse shape than before, it may not be the result of a breach of the doctor's duty to you. For instance, if you had surgery, you signed a form consenting to the surgery that told you about possible complications that might result, even if those complications were unlikely. The doctor could have done everything right, but problems still resulted.
Of course, the injury you suffered could very well have been due to negligence on the doctor's part. One way to uncover negligence is to review the patient's medical records. But who creates the medical record? The professionals who provide the care. It is possible that a doctor, recognizing that they made an error, might make notes painting their treatment in a more favorable light than it deserves.
All of these things, of course, make it difficult to draw a straight line between a doctor's treatment and a patient's injury. They may make you wonder if you even have a legitimate claim. However, you should not let the potential difficulties in proving causation prevent you from making a claim.
The First Step in Proving Causation
When considering whether to file a medical malpractice claim, the first thing you should do is schedule a consultation with an experienced medical malpractice attorney. Initial consultations are always at no charge, so there is no risk to you, but considerable benefit. An attorney who has seen many medical malpractice cases can help you evaluate the strength of your claim as well as the type of evidence needed to prove it.
An ethical attorney will never encourage you to make a claim that doesn’t have a reasonable chance of success. Not only would that be unfair to you, but it would be bad business for the attorney, who does not receive a fee if your case is unsuccessful.
If the attorney thinks your case does have merit, they can let you know what to expect so that you can decide how you want to proceed. If you file a claim, of course, you come back to the matter of proving causation. Here is where an attorney who concentrates most of their practice in medical malpractice will give you an advantage. Not only will they have experience with these types of cases, but they will have relationships with the most respected medical experts, whose testimony will likely be necessary on the question of causation. It is frequently expert witnesses in these cases whose testimony “connects the dots” for the jury.
Remember, too, that unlike a prosecutor in a criminal case, you do not have to prove every element of your case beyond a reasonable doubt. In a medical malpractice case, you simply need to prove that it is more likely than not that the medical professional caused your injury. While this may not be easy to do, it is a far lighter burden.
If you are wondering whether you have a provable case for medical malpractice, don’t let time pass you by. You have only a limited period of time in which to file a claim. After that window of time closes, you cannot file a case, no matter how much merit it might have. We invite you to contact Huegli Fraser to schedule a complimentary consultation with experienced Oregon medical malpractice attorneys.
The information in this blog post is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended to be legal advice. You should not make a decision whether or not to contact a qualified medical malpractice attorney based upon the information in this blog post. No attorney-client relationship is formed nor should any such relationship be implied. If you require legal advice, please consult with a competent medical malpractice attorney licensed to practice in your jurisdiction.