What Does It Take to Prove Medical Malpractice?

Sep 23, 2022 - Medical Malpractice

Medical malpractice is alarmingly common. But, even though this is the case, proving your legal rights as a victim of medical malpractice can still prove challenging. Proving medical malpractice requires clear evidence of liability, and, to pursue claims, patients and their families must have a clear understanding of when medical mistakes are severe enough to justify claims for financial compensation.   

Evidence Needed to Prove Medical Malpractice

We’ll talk about the evidence needed to prove a medical malpractice claim first. To be clear, the evidence needed in any particular case will depend on the specific facts and circumstances involved. A piece of evidence that is critical in one case might be completely unnecessary in another. With this in mind, some examples of the types of evidence our lawyers frequently use to prove our clients’ medical malpractice claims include:

  • The Patient’s Medical Records – Medical records are essential in any medical malpractice case. These records show what treatment the patient received and when, and they can serve as key documentation of many types of common medical mistakes.
  • Test Results, Scans or Prescriptions – These records can also serve as key documentation in many cases. For example, if a doctor failed to diagnose a bone fracture that was plainly visible on a patient’s x-ray, obtaining a copy of the patient’s scans will be critical. Likewise, if a physician prescribed a patient the wrong medication, the prescription (or prescription bottle) will be a key piece of evidence in the patient’s medical malpractice case.
  • Diagnosis and Treatment Recommendations (from a New Provider) – When seeking financial compensation for medical malpractice, it is critical to obtain a diagnosis and treatment recommendations from a new healthcare provider who can assess the consequences of your previous provider’s mistake.
  • Expert Reports and Testimony – In addition to seeing new providers, we will also have our clients speak with medical experts who specialize in evaluating cases of medical malpractice. These experts then prepare reports and testify on behalf of our clients as necessary.
  • The Provider’s Internal Records – Through the discovery process, our lawyers can obtain healthcare providers’ internal records. From internal policies and procedures to emails and text messages, various types of internal records can potentially point to medical malpractice.
  • Testimony from the Provider (or the Provider’s Personnel) – Our lawyers can also obtain testimony from the provider (or the provider’s personnel) through the discovery process. This testimony can be extremely compelling evidence, and damaging testimony from providers’ personnel will often spur settlement negotiations.
  • Photographs and Videos – Photographs and videos of patients’ injuries and the effects of their undiagnosed or untreated medical conditions can also be critical for proving that they are entitled to just compensation.

Keep in mind these are just some examples of the evidence our lawyers may need to prove liability or the fact that your provider committed medical malpractice. In medical malpractice cases, patients and their families must also present evidence of their damages or how much they are entitled to recover. Once we establish liability on behalf of a client, we then work with our client, our client’s new healthcare providers, and our trusted medical and financial experts to determine how much financial compensation to seek on our client’s behalf.

What If It Was an Honest Mistake?

Virtually all cases of medical malpractice involve honest mistakes. Physicians, physician assistants, nurses and other healthcare providers never intend to cause their patients harm. If your healthcare provider made an honest mistake, this has no bearing on your legal rights.

In fact, medical malpractice insurance companies and defense lawyers often coach their policyholders and clients not to say “I’m sorry.” This is because they know that by apologizing, providers are effectively admitting to making a mistake. This admission, in turn, can compromise the provider’s defense, as it suggests that the provider knows he or she made a mistake that could—and should—have been avoided.

When it comes to establishing liability for medical malpractice, the question is not whether or not the provider intended to cause harm. Instead, the question is whether the provider met the requisite standard of care. In Pennsylvania, all healthcare providers have a duty to provide care at a level consistent with the standards of the medical profession. If a doctor or other healthcare provider makes a mistake that falls below this standard, then the provider is liable—no matter how inadvertent the mistake may have been.

Is There a Difference Between Medical Malpractice and Medical Negligence?

Another question we frequently receive from patients and family members concerns the difference between medical malpractice and medical negligence. The simple answer is: There is no difference. Medical malpractice is a form of negligence, and Pennsylvania law holds negligent parties accountable for the consequences of their mistakes.

Let’s consider an all-too-common scenario: A patient goes to the hospital for treatment. The patient is experiencing chest pain and slight shortness of breath. After a short physical exam, the patient receives a diagnosis of heartburn and is sent home with instructions to stop at the pharmacy for some over-the-counter medication.

On the way home, the patient experiences a heart attack. Was the patient’s doctor negligent? Almost certainly. The patient presented with telltale symptoms of cardiovascular distress, and yet the doctor failed to perform the tests needed to accurately assess the patient’s condition. It is also well-known that cardiovascular distress is among the most commonly misdiagnosed medical conditions. Due to the doctor’s negligence, the patient would likely have a strong claim for medical malpractice, and the patient would be entitled to just compensation for his or her treatment costs, lost wages, pain and suffering, and other losses.

Do You Have a Medical Malpractice Claim? Schedule a Free Consultation Today

If you think you may have a medical malpractice claim in Pennsylvania, we encourage you to contact us promptly for more information. With offices in Easton, Stroudsburg, Doylestown, Bethlehem and Allentown, we handle claims against healthcare providers throughout the Commonwealth. To speak with an experienced lawyer in confidence as soon as possible, call 888-777-7098 or request a free consultation online now.

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Drake, Hileman & Davis

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