If you were injured due to the carelessness of a doctor, nurse, or other medical provider, you may have a medical malpractice case. Medical malpractice cases are a type of negligence action. That means, in order to win at trial, a plaintiff must prove the defendant owed them duty, the defendant breached that duty, and the breach caused some type of injury. Medical malpractice cases are complicated, because some of the key issues are ones that the average person does not understand. For example, everyone knows that a driver shouldn’t leave their lane and hit another car while driving down the highway. But most people do not know whether a decision by a doctor is right or wrong. That’s because doctors need years of training and experience to know what it takes to make patient care decisions. Most people trust their doctors, partly because they don’t have the expertise needed to second-guess doctors.
Duty, breach, causation, and damages take a specific form in medical malpractice cases. When people drive a car, they owe a duty to everyone else on the road to obey traffic rules and drive with reasonable care. A medical provider, on the other hand, only owes duties to specific people. For example, a doctor owes duties to patients with whom they have a doctor-patient relationship. This is usually the easiest element of a medical malpractice claim to establish, because a doctor-patient relationship exists where the doctor agrees to provide a patient with a diagnosis or treatment – or where a doctor provides care even without such an agreement to do so.
The next element – breach – is often the toughest to show in medical malpractice cases. We all know that a driver who leaves their lane and hits another car has violated the rules of the road, but what about when a doctor performs one type of surgery when they could have performed a different one? The average person can’t tell you whether the doctor’s decision was right or wrong. This is when experts become really important. A medical provider is not guilty of negligence simply because the patient suffered a bad result. In order to win, a plaintiff must show the provider breached the prevailing standard of care exercised within the medical community under similar conditions and like circumstances. In most medical malpractice cases, plaintiffs need a medical expert to tell them whether the standard of care was breached. And in Georgia, plaintiffs need an expert to give a sworn statement that, in their opinion, the provider breached the standard of care that applied at the time of the alleged negligent act. This rule is the law’s way of preventing people from filing any lawsuit they can think of against a medical provider so they can see what sticks. There is a very specific set of rules governing what types of experts can give opinions in medical malpractice cases, so most people need a lawyer just to identify the right person for the job.
Once a plaintiff has shown through expert opinion that the provider breached the standard of care, he or she must show that the breach caused an injury. This is also complicated in a lot of cases. When a person gets into a car crash and suffers broken bones, it’s usually pretty obvious that the crash is what caused the bones to break. However, if a doctor performs one type of surgery when they should have performed another type, it’s not always obvious what injury was caused. For example, if a doctor removes most of a cancerous tumor, but misses part of it, the doctor’s lawyers may argue that a “proper” surgery would have also left cancer in the plaintiff’s body, or that the cancer would have come back shortly after the surgery anyway, so no harm was done by the breach. Most people do not have the education or experience to say whether those types of arguments are right or wrong; plaintiffs need a skilled team of lawyers and medical experts to show that a breach actually caused them harm.
Medical malpractice issues are complex, and not every lawyer is prepared to handle cases like these. Contact us by clicking here or calling 404-800-1156 to find out how we can help you recover for injuries sustained due to the negligence of medical providers.