Filing a medical malpractice lawsuit means that the burden of proof is on the victim. You must show the court that the medical provider is at fault for your injuries (meaning they were the direct cause of your injuries). Proving causation is a cornerstone in a medical malpractice case, and you must prove that not only did the medical provider owe you a duty of care, but that they breached it and the breach led to your injuries.
Proving causation is not something you should do alone. Instead, you need the assistance of an attorney with experience handling malpractice claims. Medical malpractice claims themselves are overly complicated, but you might also be going up against a team of attorneys that fight these types of cases weekly. Therefore, you need an advocate that not only knows how to prove causation but will aggressively fight for your right to maximum compensation.
Taking on the Burden of Proof – the Job of the Plaintiff
In civil court, the one accusing the defendant of negligence is the one shouldering the burden. You must use a preponderance of the evidence to show that the defendant caused your injuries and that you are entitled to compensation because of those injuries. The preponderance of the evidence does not work the same as if you were in criminal court and you must prove beyond a reasonable doubt.
Instead, it works like a scale. Picture a scale where both sides of the scale hang equally. Now, the stronger the evidence, the heavier each side gets until one side weighs heavier than the other. That is the preponderance of the evidence proving guilt.
The Types of Causation in a Malpractice Case Will Matter
There are two primary types of causation: proximate and actual. These are highly different, and you must know which applies to your case in order to use the right evidence and present the proper argument in court.
- Actual Cause – With actual cause, the injuries suffered by the patient would not have occurred if the doctor or medical care provider had not been negligent, and the injury was a foreseeable risk for that negligence.
- Proximate Cause – Proximate cause means that other factors led to the injury, but they were still related to the defendant’s actions.
The Defense Will Try to Demonstrate Other Causes
Because it is on the plaintiff to prove that there was causation, the defense will work hard to prove there were other causes for the plaintiff’s injuries. For example, they may use pre-existing medical conditions, or even the original illness, as the cause.
Also, if the healthcare provider had deviated from the acceptable standard of care, they may do so stating that there was an intervening cause that forced them to do so. The health care provider may even try to argue that the patient was negligent in some way – trying to state that they were partially to blame for their bad medical outcome.
Fighting Back with Expert Medical Testimony
Due to the fact that you need to not only prove that the defendant caused your injuries, but that they breached medical protocols or the acceptable standard of care, you need medical experts to testify on your behalf.
Most juries will not understand how to take medical information from your medical records and infer that the physician was negligent. Instead, they need a professional to testify, put it into terms they can understand, and validate the case.
The expert needs to be in a similar field and with similar education and background to the medical care provider you are holding accountable. Therefore, if your injuries were sustained from a cardiothoracic surgeon, then you would need a cardiothoracic surgeon to testify – not a family medical physician.
You Need a Medical Provider to Validate Your Lawsuit before You Even File
Before you can file your lawsuit, you must prove that the suit has merit. To do that, you must have a medical provider essentially “sign off” on the application, which you will send in along with your initial claim. Kentucky has changed the rule so that you cannot file a medical malpractice claim unless you have the certificate of merit signed by a physician.
If you have hired a malpractice attorney, they will handle these steps for you and there is nothing for you to do on your end.
How to Prove Causation
There are several steps you and your attorney must take to prove that the medical provider was at fault for your injuries. These include:
- Proving that there were valid medical provider and patient relationship. The medical provider you accuse of malpractice must have oversight of your care and be responsible for that care. Establishing the patient-provider relationship is as easy as showing medical records or billing records for services rendered. Without a patient-provider relationship in place, you will not have a case against that medical provider.
- The provider breached the acceptable standard of care. Using an expert’s testimony and your medical records, you should be able to prove that the medical provider breached the acceptable standard of care. Physicians and healthcare providers are held to a higher standard, and when they breach those standards and cause patient injuries, they must be held accountable.
- The breach was the cause of your injury, and you suffered damages as a result. You must show that your injury stemmed from the provider’s breach of care. Just because you had a bad medical outcome does not mean it is malpractice; instead, there must be negligence that caused the bad outcome. Also, you must show that there were emotional, physical, and monetary damages – otherwise, you have nothing to collect on.
Speak with a Local Lawyer That Knows Malpractice Claims
If you or a loved one was injured due to substandard medical care, contact attorney Seth Gladstein at the Gladstein Law Firm, PLLC. We can video conference if you prefer, or you can schedule a time to talk over the phone by calling the office.