Ohio Medical Malpractice Lawyers Explain How To Prove A Medical Malpractice Claim
Each year, there are hundreds of medical malpractice cases filed in Ohio. Healthcare professionals can be liable for medical malpractice when their performance falls below the standard of care, harming a patient.
If a healthcare professional harmed you, you might be able to bring a medical malpractice claim against the professional. A skilled medical malpractice lawyer may be able to help you build your medical malpractice case. To get in touch with a knowledgeable Ohio medical malpractice attorney, contact The Eisen Law Firm at 216-687-0900 or contact us online and request your free consultation. An Ohio medical malpractice lawyer can help you prove your medical malpractice claim.
Proving A Medical Malpractice Claim In Ohio
Healthcare professionals can be liable for medical malpractice when they commit negligence while practicing medicine. Medical malpractice is negligence by a medical professional in a healthcare setting. A person is liable for negligence when:
- They owed you a duty of care
- They breached their duty of care by doing something they should not have done, or by failing to do something they should have done;
- You sustained injury; and
- That injury caused damages.
To prove that a doctor or other healthcare professional committed medical malpractice, the patient (through their attorney) must establish four main elements:
- Duty—The healthcare professional had a duty to care for you.
- Breach—The professional breached their duty of care to you.
- Harm—You suffered an actual injury or harm.
- Causation—The professional’s actions caused the harm.
The Healthcare Professional’s Duty Of Care
To assert a medical malpractice claim, the first element you must prove is the healthcare professional’s legal responsibility to you. This criterion typically is easy to establish.
Are you a patient of the doctor? If yes, then the doctor or medical professional owes you a duty to provide reasonable and prudent care. A healthcare professional must have had a provider-patient relationship with you to be liable for medical malpractice. Going to see a doctor in a professional setting creates this duty.
However, suppose you Google a medical condition and up pops a video of a doctor espousing a particular home remedy for a condition from which you believe you suffer. You follow that advice, which turns out to be wrong, and you suffer a serious injury. The doctor who made the video likely would not be liable for medical negligence, as that doctor did not have a doctor-patient relationship with you. Therefore, that doctor did not owe you a duty of reasonable and prudent care.
Does that mean that you must personally meet a doctor before that doctor can be held liable for their mistake? No, there are many situations where doctors who never meet the patient may be held responsible because they have entered into a doctor-patient relationship without ever seeing the patient. For example, a radiologist who misreads a radiology study (x-ray, CT scan, MRI, etc.) is considered to have such a relationship with the patient whose study they interpret, even if they never meet the patient. The same is true of a pathologist who makes an error in reading pathology slides. These are just two specific examples, but there are many other circumstances where a duty exists even in the absence of the doctor actually meeting with or speaking to the patient.
Medical Standard Of Care
Once there is a doctor-patient relationship, your healthcare provider must treat you according to the medical standard of care. This standard is not necessarily something that is written down in a medical textbook. Instead, the standard of care is what a reasonable and prudent physician would do in like and similar circumstances. The care does not have to be perfect, but it must be reasonable and prudent under the circumstances. In nearly all cases, the standard of care must be proved in court by expert medical testimony.
Breach Of Duty Of Care
The second element of a medical malpractice claim is the breach of duty. Once you have established that the doctor or other healthcare professional owed you a duty of care, you need to show that they breached this duty.
When a medical professional’s conduct falls below the medical standard of care, they have breached their duty of care. If similarly situated medical professionals would not have made a particular medical mistake, the professional who made a mistake has breached their duty of care to their patient. This can include the medical professional not taking action when such action is required by the standard of care.
Suffering An Actual Injury
Holding a medical professional liable for medical malpractice requires you to have suffered a real injury. If a doctor made a mistake, breaching their duty of care to you, but you sustained no injuries, the doctor cannot be held liable for malpractice. These situations – where the doctor makes a mistake, but the patient is not injured – are sometimes called “near misses.” Our legal system does not provide a remedy for such near misses; you must have an injury to hold a medical professional liable for medical malpractice.
Examples of injuries that could give rise to medical malpractice claims include:
- Broken bones
- Progressions of untreated diseases
- Injuries that cause disabilities, such as cerebral palsy
- Traumatic brain injuries
The Medical Professional’s Actions Caused The Harm
After proving that the medical professional breached their duty of care, and that you suffered physical harm, you must establish a causal link between the healthcare professional’s actions and your injury. If your injury was unrelated to the medical professional’s actions, you do not have a medical malpractice claim. The patient must prove this causal connection to a reasonable degree of medical probability. In other words, the patient must show that more likely than not, the healthcare professional’s mistake caused the injury. Proof that the mistake “might have” caused the injury is not sufficient.
A medical malpractice lawyer can help you collect evidence to support your medical malpractice claim. Many cases require specialized knowledge. Expert testimony can provide technical knowledge that establishes the four elements of a medical malpractice claim. A medical expert may:
- Testify as to the medical standard of care.
- Explain what conduct falls below the medical standard of care.
- Describe the severity of an injury.
- Show how a medical professional’s decisions caused harm.
At a trial, a medical malpractice attorney can use demonstrative evidence to help establish the four elements of medical malpractice. Types of demonstrative evidence that your attorney may rely on include:
- Photographs, such as photographs of your injuries and condition, may show the severity of the harm.
- X-rays, CT scans, and MRIs can show the harm the medical professional caused.
- Models and medical illustrations can help a jury understand relevant anatomy.
- Computer animations can show how a particular procedure is supposed to be performed.
Once you have established the four elements of negligence, a medical provider may be inclined to settle the case and avoid a trial. As many as 95 percent of cases settle before trial. But you and your attorney must be prepared to take the case to trial. Knowing that your attorney will take a case to trial plays a significant role in pre-trial settlement.
Ohio Medical Malpractice Attorney
If you were the victim of a medical mistake, you might be able to bring a medical malpractice claim against your healthcare provider. Proving an Ohio medical malpractice claim requires understanding the law and the healthcare system. A skilled medical malpractice attorney can help you establish the four elements of your medical malpractice claim, setting you up to achieve a favorable result.
The Eisen Law Firm offers free consultations for people considering pursuing medical malpractice claims. Contact The Eisen Law Firm at 216-687-0900 or contact us online to get in touch with an Ohio medical malpractice lawyer.