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What are the elements of medical malpractice?

Entering a hospital for emergency care or undergoing a planned procedure usually comes with a certain degree of stress and anxiety. Of course, when you leave the hospital with further injuries because of the negligence or errors of the hospital or those who work in it, you understandably have a lot of frustration and want to hold someone responsible.

Traditionally, victims accomplish this through a medical malpractice claim that outlines failures in care that lead to injuries and losses requiring compensation. A carefully constructed medical malpractice claim with compelling documentation may still take months or even years to resolve. You must take great care as you build your claim and use the full range of legals options you have available to make sure that you stand a good chance of receiving fair compensation and to keep your rights secure.

Medical malpractice claims involve three components:

  • A duty of care owed to the victim
  • A breach of that duty of care
  • Harm resulting from the breach of care

You should review the details of your own experience to make sure that it meets the standards necessary to file a successful claim.

Who owed you a duty?

In order for some medical care provider or hospital to commit medical malpractice, some party must owe the individual who suffered harm a duty of care. This means, for instance, that a doctor had a duty to provide care for you and failed to do so. If a doctor never has a duty to care for you because he or she was never assigned to your case, then filing a claim against the doctor may not hold up in court.

In most cases, it is relatively simple to identify who owed you a duty of care, but it is important to explore all potential defendants to make sure you do not miss any opportunities to broaden your claim.

Was there a breach of duty?

Not every instance of a medical procedure failing to meet its goals means medical malpractice occurred. There are many ways that a skilled physician may follow all the proper procedures and still fail to resolve an existing injury or sickness.

However, if a doctor or other care provider does not follow proper procedures, malpractice is possible. This may be the case when a doctor performs a surgery and fails to remove a surgical sponge or tool from the victim before closing up the surgical opening. Leaving a sponge inside a victim is certainly not part of proper procedures. Still, it is important to remember that not all unsuccessful surgeries involve malpractice.

Did you suffer documentable harm?

Even if you can identify duty and breach on the part of your care provider, you may not have a strong claim until you can provide proof of harm resulting from the malpractice. In the example above, a surgeon may accidentally leave a sponge inside the victim in a surgery, only to realize the mistake before the patient leaves the surgery venue, allowing him or her to safely remove the sponge and close the surgical opening. In this case, while the doctor did have duty and potentially breached that duty, catching the mistake and making it right probably avoids a malpractice claim.

Your own claim may hang on the details of your experience. An experienced attorney can examine all sides of your experience to see if a malpractice claim is justified. If so, you can begin to develop a strong strategy to protect your rights and well-being.

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