A successful medical malpractice suit hinges on the plaintiff’s ability to prove the presence of four legal elements that are present in the case. We covered the first element (a legal duty of the health care provider to provide the patient with care or treatment) in our previous blog. The second element is the breach of this duty on the part of the health care provider due to a failure of the provider to provide a reasonable standard of professional care. This is also known as medical negligence.
The Legal Elements of a Medical Malpractice Claim
Breach of Duty
The breach of duty can only occur after the health care provider and the patient have entered into a contract that the provider will care for and/or treat the patient in a professional setting. Therefore the plaintiff must first prove that this element is present in the case, which is fairly simple to do. The next step is proving that there was a breach of duty, meaning that the health care provider was medically negligent and did not provide a reasonable standard of care. A reasonable standard of care is defined as what another medical professional would have done in the same situation.
Expert witness testimony by other professional health care providers is necessary to prove that the standard of care was not met. The exception would be in extreme cases where the medical negligence is obvious, such as the amputation of the incorrect limb. If expert witnesses confirm that the defendant did not meet a reasonable standard of care and was medically negligent, then the plaintiff has established the breach of duty.