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Steps to Proving Medical Negligence
Medical professionals take an oath to “do no harm” when they enter the field of medicine. Sometimes, however, these same professionals act in a negligent manner and harm (injuries) are caused. When a person is a victim of medical malpractice, they have the right to seek compensation for their losses.
A Mistake Does Not Necessarily Mean Malpractice Occurred
Under Oklahoma law, medical negligence only occurs when the standard of care provided causes the patient direct harm or injury. This is a very important point of the law. If a mistake was made and there was no harm to the patient, malpractice has not officially occurred.
The same applies to treatment outcome. If a patient does not achieve the desired outcome of any medical care or treatment that they received does not mean that the doctor committed malpractice. All medical care and treatments come with risks and no guaranteed results. Only when an injury occurs can a person seek compensation for medical malpractice.
4 Steps To Proving Medical Negligence
If you wish to file a lawsuit against a medical care provider for injuries you received under their care, there are four steps that must be followed to prove that medical malpractice has occurred. The requirements in these four steps must be met before the court will allow a malpractice case to proceed.
Establishing Patient/Doctor Relationship
There must be evidence to show that you were an active patient of the doctor and that the doctor knowingly treated you as their patient. This can easily be established through the use of medical records. If your doctor is treating your conditions in their facility and receiving any form of payment, they are clearly your medical care provider.
The importance of establishing this relationship is to prevent confusion on who is the responsible party. In some instances, where a patient is seen in an emergency room by many doctors and nurses and staff, establishing the relationship is a little more difficult. However, since most emergency rooms are very meticulous about keeping records, your attorney can find the responsible party in an ER setting by going through the records carefully to see who provided what treatment.
Care Provider Acted Negligently
The next step in a negligence case would be to establish that the standard of care given by your doctor was negligent. The term “Standard of Care” refers to how the medical community would treat a condition as a whole. For example, it would be the standard of care to treat a broken arm by taking an x-ray, setting the arm correctly and then placing it in a cast to heal. Deviations from this accepted standard of care would be negligence.
To prove that your doctor caused you harm, your OKC medical negligence attorney must show that a different doctor with the same credentials and experience would have treated your condition in a different manner.
It is very important to understand that a breach of the standard of care does not mean that your doctor didn’t treat you with the latest or best technologies. A breach of the standard of care means that the doctor did not “act like a reasonable doctor would act” under the same circumstances.
The Negligent Act Caused You Harm
Once it has been established that the standard of care was breached, your attorney must prove that the breach caused an injury or harm. A mistake or mistreatment is not considered malpractice if harm does not come from the action. There must be a direct connection between your injury and the medical care provided.
If you think of the broken arm scenario mentioned above, a breach of duty would be to not cast the arm and allow it to heal on it own without protection. As a result of that breach, the arm healed incorrectly and the patient now has lost partial or full use of the arm, is suffering in pain, and will require surgeries to repair the damage. This is a direct line between the treatment and the injury.
There are times when the insurance company covering the malpractice event tries to fight the injured party stating that they were already sick or injured at the time and their new conditions were a result of that, not the care provider. Your OKC medical negligence attorney will build a solid case against this type of rationale and show how the actions of the care provider impacted your health.
The Injuries Caused You Losses
The final step is to show that the injuries you have received have caused you losses and hardships. This may include extensive medical bills to correct the condition, cost of care if you need continued care, loss of income and earning capacity, loss of enjoyment of life, loss of consortium if you are married, and pain and suffering. Your attorney will inform you of any other forms of compensation you may be entitled to under state law.
In some rare cases, the court will also award the injured party punitive damages. Punitive damages are a court-imposed punishment that they place on the negligent party as a warning that the actions of the negligent party were not acceptable. This is generally reserved for negligent acts that were very heinous in nature or were done through malice or intent. The court may also award punitive damages if it is discovered that the medical care provider acted negligently because they were under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
Speak With An Attorney
If you have been injured while receiving care from a medical care provider, it is important that you protect your rights and speak with an OKC medical negligence lawyer about your case. Your attorney will work with specialists in the medical industry to build a solid case for compensation.
Malpractice cases can become quite complex when you move through these four steps to prove that you have been injured by a negligent action. Having quality legal representation during this difficult period will be beneficial to your case.