Palm Beach Injury Lawyer Talks the Toughest Part of Proving Medical Malpractice

Medical malpractice lawsuits are among the most difficult types of personal injury cases to prove. They have a higher proof burden, short statute of limitations, and require expert witness testimony just to get your foot in the door. A poor medical outcome – no matter how devastating – doesn’t automatically mean the doctor was negligent. Healthcare workers are loath to have a black mark on their record, so they fight back hard against medical malpractice claims – meaning cases take years to litigate, even if the claim is strong. Palm Beach injury attorney

As a Palm Beach injury lawyer can explain, there are four basic elements one has to prove in order to prevail in a Florida medical malpractice case – but one is often more difficult than the others.

Elements of a Florida Medical Malpractice Case

There are four main elements one must prove to win a Florida medical malpractice case:

  1. Duty of Care
  2. Breach of Duty
  3. Causation
  4. Damages

Let’s start with duty of care. This means establishing that the defendant (in this case, the doctor) had a duty to the plaintiff (patient) to provide care that meets the standard recognized by the medical community. They are expected to deliver care that would generally be expected of any reasonably competent practitioner with the same or similar level of skill, resources, and knowledge.

This differs slightly from other types of general negligence cases (such as car accidents) in that the expectation is not that they must act as a “reasonable person” would, but as a “reasonably competent practitioner of the same or similar level of skill, resources, and knowledge.”

Establishing what is “reasonable” requires something different for each. With medical malpractice, we have to hire an expert witness right off the bat to help us make the case – even if negligence seems obvious. Florida medical malpractice laws actually require that we do so.

Next up is causation. We need to show that there was a direct and causal link between the doctor’s breach of duty and the harm suffered by the patient. Whether the harm involved an injury, worsening condition, or death, we need to be able to establish that it was the result of the provider’s negligence.

Even if we can show the doctor was negligent and that the patient was harmed, that’s not enough to win a Florida medical malpractice case. As Palm Beach medical malpractice attorneys, we must be able to establish that the patient’s harm was because of the doctor’s mistake, inaction, error, oversight, etc.

Finally, we must prove damages. This is the amount of losses of the plaintiff due to the doctor’s negligence. It includes not only tangible financial impacts, such as medical bills and lost wages, but also intangible losses such as loss of life enjoyment. Medical malpractice lawyers have strategies that we use to quantify both past, current, and future financial losses, as well as those intangible losses.

The Toughest Element to Prove: Causation

Establishing each element of medical malpractice can prove challenging. However, causation is consistently one of the most difficult elements to prove.

Among the reasons why:

  • Numerous contributing factors. Many patients have pre-existing conditions or other health issues that may make them more susceptible to injury. That doesn’t mean the doctor’s negligence didn’t cause their harm, but it can be trickier to prove for certain.
  • Medical science is complex. The practice of medicine – and the outcomes that result – involves highly specialized knowledge. Knowing exactly what act or omission caused that precise harm can be difficult to establish with absolute certainty.
  • Conflicting expert opinions. Expert witnesses are required of plaintiffs in medical malpractice cases. But it’s likely both sides are going to have an expert witness – probably multiple expert witnesses. And they may be arguing opposite opinions on causation. It may be up to the jury to decide which is most convincing.
  • Conditions don’t always surface immediately. Sometimes there is a time lapse between when the medical care was provided and when the injury becomes apparent. A lot can happen in between, and it can make it difficult to confidently assert that it was in fact the medical procedure that caused the harm, and not some other interceding cause.

That doesn’t mean medical malpractice cases are impossible to win. On the contrary. But it’s in your best interests to be working with a skilled injury lawyer with experience specifically in handling medical malpractice cases.

Contact the South Florida personal injury attorneys at Halberg & Fogg PLLC by calling toll-free at 1-877-425-2374. Serving West Palm Beach, Miami, Tampa, Orlando and Fort Myers/ Naples. There is no fee unless you win.

Additional Resources:

Medical Malpractice Law, Justia

More Blog Entries:

Doctors With Prior Florida Medical Malpractice Claims 4x Likelier to Have Another, May 15, 2024, Palm Beach Medical Malpractice Lawyer Blog

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