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What are the four elements of medical malpractice?

On Behalf of | Jan 10, 2023 | Personal Injury

What do you need to know about medical malpractice? Anyone can be a victim. If you’ll continue reading, you will learn what constitutes medical malpractice. If you become a victim, you’ll need the legal services and advice that an Indiana medical malpractice attorney offers.

A study conducted by Johns Hopkins University suggests that more than 250,000 people in the U.S. die every year from medical negligence and medical mistakes– this means that medical malpractice is the number three cause of death in the United States.

How do you pursue a medical malpractice lawsuit? How are these cases resolved? When should you contact a medical malpractice attorney? For the answers you may need, keep reading this brief discussion of medical malpractice claims, the law in Indiana, and your rights.

What Are the Elements of a Medical Malpractice Claim?

To prevail with a lawsuit if you have been injured by medical malpractice – or if you are injured by medical malpractice in the future – you and your attorney must prove these four “elements” or parts of a medical malpractice claim:

  • A professional duty of care was owed to the patient.
  • That professional duty was breached.
  • The patient suffered injury or harm caused by that breach.
  • Damages were the result of the injury or harm caused by the breach.

What is the Professional Duty That Doctors Owe to Patients?

The first element of a medical malpractice claim is that the medical provider had a legal duty to provide reasonable, professional medical treatment and care to the patient. Usually, this part of a malpractice claim is easily proven. The duty is presumed when doctors agree to care for patients.

The duty to provide professional care is established even when a doctor is “covering” for another doctor, working at a walk-in clinic, or providing emergency services at an accident scene.

In some states, to encourage medical professionals to help at accident scenes, the law limits a doctor’s liability in these situations, but reasonable, professional medical treatment and care still must be provided.

How Can You Prove That a Doctor’s Duty Was Breached?

In most medical malpractice cases, in order to prove that a doctor breached the accepted standard of professional care, your Indiana medical malpractice lawyer may call on expert witnesses to provide statements or testimony.

While jurors may not be able to understand the details and nuances of medical care in most medical malpractice cases, some breaches of the standard of care are so egregious – amputating the wrong limb, for example – that an expert’s testimony or statement may not be necessary.

By itself, a breach of the standard of care is not grounds for legal action unless it causes harm or injury to a patient. To prevail with your medical malpractice claim, your Indiana medical malpractice attorney must prove that the breach caused the harm or injury you suffered.

What Damages Can a Medical Malpractice Victim Recover?

The final element of a claim for medical malpractice is the calculation of damages. “Economic” damages include the cost of additional medical care due to medical negligence, lost wages and projected future lost wages, and related quantifiable losses.

“Non-economic” damages may be awarded to compensate a victim of medical malpractice for personal pain, suffering, and emotional distress.

When Should You Contact a Medical Malpractice Attorney?

In Indiana, the statute of limitations – the deadline for filing a medical malpractice claim – is two years from the date of the alleged medical malpractice incident, with some exceptions, e.g.:

  •  The medical malpractice victim was a minor when the incident occurred.
  •  The victim was incapacitated or could not have reasonably discovered the injury earlier.
  •  The medical provider knowingly concealed the negligence or continued being negligent.

However, you cannot wait for two years to meet with a lawyer if you are a medical malpractice victim. Your lawyer needs time to review your claim and to obtain and review copies of your medical records, and investigate the case.

Moreover, your claim will be stronger and more likely to prevail if your lawyer can examine the evidence while that evidence is “fresh” and speak to the witnesses before their recollections start to fade.

How Will Your Medical Malpractice Claim Be Resolved?

Most medical malpractice claims in Indiana are settled privately through out-of-court negotiations versus jury trials. A good medical malpractice attorney is also a savvy and astute negotiator who will negotiate aggressively for the maximum compensation amount that is available.

However, if liability for the injury or harm you suffered is disputed, or if no acceptable settlement amount is offered in the private negotiations, you and your lawyer may choose to take your claim to trial, explain to a jury what happened, and ask that jury to order the payment of your compensation.

What Does It Cost to Sue for Medical Malpractice?

You may struggle financially after an incident of medical negligence, and you may even be unable to work, but do not let financial concerns stop you from pursuing justice. Medical malpractice attorneys generally represent their clients on a contingent fee basis, so you’ll pay nothing upfront.

If you’re a victim of medical negligence, your first consultation with an Indiana medical malpractice lawyer is also offered without cost or obligation, and you pay no lawyer’s fee unless and until that lawyer recovers your compensation with a negotiated settlement or a jury verdict.

If you have been injured by negligence while you were seeking medical treatment in Indiana, arrange right away to speak with a reliable medical malpractice attorney. A good attorney’s help is your right.