How do I prove medical negligence?

Posted in: Medical Malpractice | Jan 07,2022

If you have landed here from asking a search engine, “How do I prove medical negligence?”, you or a loved one has likely endured a complex hardship involving medical care. Maybe you have already talked to attorneys, or maybe you don’t know where to begin. 

It’s important to know the definition of medical negligence, how to recognize it, and how to proceed from there. In this post, we’ll break down what is considered medical negligence and what you need to prove it.

What is medical negligence?

Medical negligence (or medical malpractice) is defined as a healthcare provider’s failure to uphold the standard of care, and that failure causes harm to the patient. “Standard of care” is the professional expectation that is considered to be the safest in the medical profession. 

Types of medical malpractice

Medical malpractice usually falls into one of four categories: 

Failure to diagnose.

 Failing to diagnose a disease or condition can lead to devastating consequences. Examples of this include:

  • Misinterpreting lab test results
  • Not consulting with the patient about their symptoms, not investigating potential causes of a patient’s symptoms, and/or not following up with the patient
  • Not screening for a particular medical condition
  • Not referring a patient to a specialist

Unnecessary or faulty surgical treatment.

An unwanted surgical outcome is not, in and of itself, medical malpractice. However, if the surgery was performed incorrectly–or if the surgery was medically unwarranted to begin with–then the standard of care may have been violated.

Birth injury.

While childbirth can have unpredictable complications, medical professionals are expected to know how to navigate these difficulties. Birth injuries can result from:

  • Improper use of forceps or vacuum extraction
  • Oxygen deprivation or umbilical cord problems
  • Pulling on the baby’s head, shoulders, and/or arms
  • Failure to diagnose maternal infection
  • Failure to identify risk factors during pregnancy
  • Failure to order necessary tests for mother before delivery
  • Failure to perform cesarean section (C-section)

Incorrect medication.

 It’s important to remember that in order to have a case, harm must have occurred. In more than 75 percent of prescribing errors, no harm comes to the patient. However, when a patient is harmed, there may be a medical malpractice claim against either the prescribing healthcare provider and/or the entity dispensing the medication(s).

Prescribing errors:

  • Prescribing the wrong (or inappropriate) drug 
  • Prescribing the wrong dosage or frequency of the medication
  • Prescribing the wrong format (e.g. pill vs. liquid)
  • Prescribing medication that interacts poorly with another medicine that the patient is already taking
  • Not giving clear guidance to patients on how they administer the medicine or drug prescribed
  • Prescribing medication that does not take into account a patient’s physical condition
  • Prescribing medication that the patient is knowingly allergic to
  • Prescribing the medication in question for too long a period of time, or not monitoring and reviewing this for repeat prescriptions
  • Not including sufficient details on the prescription

Dispensing errors:

  • Giving the patient the wrong drug
  • Filling the wrong dosage
  • Filling the wrong format  (e.g. pill vs. liquid)
  • Failing to identify potential drug interactions.
  • Failing to provide instruction or counseling to the user
  • Failing to ask the prescribing doctor for clarification
  • Misreading the order

How do I know if I have a potential medical malpractice claim? 

The simplest explanation for determining if you have a potential claim is to consult the “four Ds” of medical negligence:

  1. Duty of care. Did the medical provider owe a duty to the patient? In other words, was there a relationship?
  2. Dereliction of that duty. Did the medical provider violate the standard of care? Did they commit malpractice?  
  3. Direct causation. If so, did that negligence cause (or contribute to) damages?   
  4. Damages. If so, can you prove those damages (medical bills, lost wages, funeral & burial costs, e.g.) incurred by the negligence?

You can assist your attorney by maintaining meticulous records. Gather all the medical, pharmacy, and insurance records related to your case. Consider: a course of care lasting only a few hours may include interaction with dozens of hospital employees. For instance, a mistake, like a faulty diagnosis, can be compounded if not correctly diagnosed later. Well-kept records can assist in the investigation.

So, how do I make a formal complaint against a doctor? It starts with a call to an attorney knowledgeable in Indiana malpractice laws and experienced in successfully defending medical negligence and malpractice cases. It’s helpful to find a legal team backed by healthcare experts because these cases are often complex and lean upon expert testimony.