Medical malpractice is a legal term when a healthcare professional fails to provide a patient with the appropriate standard of care, resulting in injury or death. To win a medical malpractice lawsuit, the plaintiff must prove four elements
However, one element is harder to prove than the others. Unless you can demonstrate causation for your injuries, you may have a hard time collecting compensation. Find out how a medical malpractice lawyer in Connecticut can help you prove causation and argue on your behalf through your case.
The Four Elements of Medical Malpractice
These four elements are common to every successful medical malpractice case:
- Duty of care: The healthcare professional owed the patient a duty of care. This means that the professional had a legal obligation to act in a way that was reasonable and prudent, given the patient’s circumstances.
- Breach of duty: The healthcare professional breached the duty of care by failing to act reasonably and prudently. This could involve making a diagnosis, treatment, or medication administration mistake.
- Causation: The breach of duty caused the patient’s injury. In other words, the injury would not have occurred but for the healthcare professional’s negligence.
- Damages: The patient suffered damages due to the injury. This could include medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and emotional distress.
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Of these four elements of medical malpractice, causation is often the hardest to prove. It can be difficult to establish that the patient’s injury would not have occurred but for the healthcare professional’s negligence. Several factors can make causation challenging to prove, including:
- The presence of other contributing factors: The patient’s injury may have been caused by a combination of factors, including the healthcare professional’s negligence and other factors beyond the professional’s control.
- The lack of medical certainty: It may be difficult to determine whether the patient’s injury would have occurred even if the healthcare professional had not been negligent.
- The patient’s own actions: The patient’s own actions may have contributed to their injury, making it difficult to prove that the healthcare professional’s negligence was the sole cause of the injury.
Causation and Damages
To prove causation, the plaintiff must typically present expert medical testimony establishing that the healthcare professional’s negligence was a “substantial factor” in causing the patient’s injury.
This means that the negligence must have been a significant cause of the injury, but it does not have to be the only cause. Even if the plaintiff is able to prove causation, they may still not be able to win their case if the damages they suffered are not significant.
In most cases, the plaintiff must prove that they have suffered actual damages, such as medical expenses or lost wages. However, in some cases, the plaintiff may be able to recover from “pain and suffering,” which is the emotional and physical distress caused by the injury. This makes it critical to work with a medical malpractice lawyer.
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The “But For” Test
The most common way to prove causation in a medical malpractice case is by using the “but for” test. This test asks the question: “But for” the healthcare professional’s negligence, would the patient have been injured? If the answer is yes, then the negligence was a substantial factor in causing the injury.
For example, let’s say that a patient is admitted to the hospital with a broken leg. The doctor orders a cast, but the cast is not applied correctly. As a result, the patient’s leg does not heal properly, and they develop a permanent limp.
In this case, the “but for” test would be satisfied. The patient would not have developed a limp if the cast had been applied correctly.
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The Material Contribution Test
In some cases, the “but for” test may not be enough to prove causation. This is because the patient’s injury may have been caused by a combination of factors, including the healthcare professional’s negligence and other factors beyond the professional’s control.
In these cases, the court may use the material contribution test.
The material contribution test asks whether the healthcare professional’s negligence contributed materially to the patient’s injury? If the answer is yes, then the negligence may be enough to establish causation, even if it was not the only cause of the injury.
Proving Causation in Complex Cases
Proving causation can be especially difficult in complex cases involving birth injuries or complex medical procedures. In these cases, the plaintiff may need to present expert medical testimony establishing the causal relationship between the healthcare professional’s negligence and the injury.
The expert testimony must be based on sound scientific principles and relevant to the case’s specific facts. The expert must also be qualified to testify about the causal relationship between the negligence and the injury. This makes it important to work with a medical malpractice lawyer who can identify the right expert for your case.
For example, in a case involving a birth injury, the expert might testify about the standard of care for obstetricians and how the healthcare professional in question deviated from that standard. The expert might also testify about the likelihood that the injury would have occurred if the healthcare professional had not deviated from the standard of care.
The Role of the Courts
The courts play an important role in determining whether causation has been proven in a medical malpractice case. The court will consider all of the evidence presented by the parties, including the expert testimony, and decide whether the plaintiff has met their burden of proof.
Sometimes, the court may find that the plaintiff has not presented enough evidence to prove causation. In other cases, the court may find that the plaintiff has met their burden of proof and that the healthcare professional’s negligence was a substantial factor in causing the patient’s injury.
Proving causation is often the most difficult element of a medical malpractice case. However, it is not impossible. With the help of an experienced medical malpractice lawyer, plaintiffs may be able to overcome the challenges of proving causation and win their cases.