If you were injured or suffered adverse health conditions because of something your doctor did wrong, you may be able to sue the doctor – and sometimes the hospital – for medical malpractice. When you bring one of these lawsuits, one of the most important steps will be proving what exactly your doctor did wrong, which usually means proving medical negligence. The Dallas medical malpractice attorneys at The Queenan Law Firm, P.C. explain how to prove medical negligence in Texas and what kind of evidence these claims require.
What Constitutes Medical Negligence in Texas?
Texas law allows people who were injured while under someone else’s medical care to sue them for negligence in a medical malpractice lawsuit. These lawsuits are often complicated and difficult to understand because they deal with complex issues of medical science, expectations and standards for medical professionals, and legal issues. While your attorney can handle many of the complex issues, it is important to understand what the basic building blocks of a medical malpractice claim are.
To prove a doctor’s care was negligent, you must prove 4 major elements in your case:
- The healthcare provider owed you a duty defined by the “standard of care” in your case.
- Your healthcare provider breached that duty, usually by failing to use the necessary care or skill.
- The doctor’s breach of duty caused your injuries or complications.
- The injuries or complications involve damages or harm the court can compensate you for.
Proving that doctor negligence actually caused the injuries is not always at issue in the case, but some problems do involve this element quite heavily. Similarly, the fact that you suffered damages is not usually in question, but rather the amount of damages is often debated in most cases. This means that the case will usually focus on the first two elements: defining what the doctor’s duty was and proving that the duty was breached.
Proving the Standard of Care in a Medical Malpractice Lawsuit
For the court to determine whether the doctor breached the duty they owed you, you must prove to the court what your doctor’s duty was. It would be simple if the duty was something general like “do no harm” or “make the patient better,” but these standards are somewhat impractical because they are either too vague or too difficult to uphold. Instead, the standard of care in your case will be based on the specifics of your case and the standards that a reasonable physician would have upheld in the same situation.
Each case is different, and the facts and equipment that your doctor has will inherently define what options they have in providing you with care. It is simple to pinpoint what went wrong after the harm has already been done, but these cases work by analyzing what should be done from the outset based on the skills and information a doctor has. Therefore, the standard of care is usually defined by looking at what other doctors would have done in the same situation. If your doctor did something else or failed to do what they should have done, it will be considered a breach of their duty to you.
Typically, you prove the standard of care by having another doctor testify as a medical expert. The defendant doctor will use their own medical expert, and the outcome of the case will often be based on which expert the jury believes. The medical experts will be able to testify as to what a doctor should do based on the information that was available in your case and whether the choices your doctor made were negligent or not.
Proving a Breach of the Standard of Care in a Texas Medical Negligence Case
Many healthcare procedures, treatments, and diagnoses have inherent risks and might have bad outcomes. Just because you had a bad outcome, however, does not mean that the doctor was did anything wrong. Instead, looking at the choices your doctor made and comparing them to the standard of care is how you prove negligence, not by proving that you faced injuries or that something went wrong.
Many complications and injuries in medicine are natural, unavoidable issues. For instance, blood loss is common during surgery, and it would typically not be considered medical malpractice if a patient woke up a bit woozy from blood loss after surgery. However, allowing a patient to lose extreme amounts of blood and failing to stanch the bleeding or provide a blood transfusion to replace lost blood might be well below the standard of care.
Similar issues arise when the care provided was reasonable but still resulted in injuries. It is often difficult to tell if a doctor failed to diagnose an illness because they were not looking in the right place or because failing to catch the diagnosis was a reasonable mistake that most doctors would have made. Alternatively, it may be hard to determine if a surgical error was caused by negligence or resulted from reasonable limitations based on the fact that the surgery was performed by a human.
In most cases, the definition of the standard of care will determine how the breach can be proved, but testimony from other medical professionals that were involved with your care and expert testimony from medical experts will be essential evidence at trial to prove the breach of duty.
Call Our Dallas Medical Malpractice Injury Attorneys for a Free Legal Consultation
If you or a loved one was harmed by medical care that fell below the standards your doctor should have followed, you may be entitled to compensation. By filing a medical malpractice lawsuit for your injuries or the death of a loved one, you may be able to get the financial compensation you need. Talk to an experienced Dallas personal injury lawyer at The Queenan Law Firm today to set up a free legal consultation on your case. Our phone number is (817) 774-9627.