How to Prove Medical Malpractice

Gavel and stethoscope on top of a clipboard

If you or your loved one were injured by a doctor or other healthcare professional, you may need to learn how to prove medical malpractice. Malpractice can cause serious injuries, illness, or other harm, and comes in many forms. You may even develop permanent conditions and have a decrease in quality of life.  

There are some common signs of medical malpractice that you should be on the lookout for. These signs include things like a major disease or condition being diagnosed by only basic lab tests, the treatment that isn’t working, or treatment that doesn’t seem to fit the condition. An example of this would be invasive treatment or surgical procedures being the first course of action, rather than a less invasive procedure to start.

You may also have experienced your doctor putting your concerns about the condition on the back burner and seeking out a second opinion as a result. If the second opinion disagrees with the original doctor’s diagnosis, you may have a case for a medical malpractice lawsuit. If this has happened, and you are wondering what to do if you have been misdiagnosed, a visit with a medical malpractice lawyer may be in order.

Proving Medical Malpractice

In order to prove medical malpractice, there are certain required standards that your claim must meet. The good news is that your standard of proof in medical malpractice claims is a preponderance of the evidence, which means each facet of your claim is more than likely to be true. This is a lesser burden of proof than a criminal charge would be, where you are required to prove beyond a reasonable doubt. 

If you’ve already determined that you believe you are a victim of medical malpractice, your medical malpractice lawyer will be able to help you gather the evidence you need to prove your case. Your attorney will likely want to move on this as quickly as possible due to the Illinois statute of limitations for medical malpractice lawsuits. The statute of limitations states that you have 2 years from the date of the injury, or from the date you could reasonably be expected to have discovered the injury, to file a claim. In either case, the total time limit indicates that you must file suit within 4 years of the date the injury or death occurred. 

Illinois makes exceptions for minors or people with certain disabilities. A minor may have 8 years to file a medical malpractice suit, but may not do so after his or her 22nd birthday. Also, if a person has a qualifying disability, including mental illness and other qualifying mental conditions, the statute of limitations doesn’t begin until the disability has been removed. In the case of some permanent disabilities, this means the statute of limitations never starts, and thus the lawsuit can be filed at any time.

Additionally, if the medical malpractice was actively concealed, preventing the patient from learning about it, then the statute of limitations doesn’t apply. Illinois will also apply this same rule to patients who have retained foreign objects inside of them after undergoing surgery.

The Elements of a Medical Malpractice Claim

There are certain elements that must be present in order to have a valid medical malpractice claim. A medical malpractice lawyer will be the best person to help you go through your own situation and determine if you can prove medical malpractice. Regardless of the age or disability of the victim, all medical malpractice lawsuits will need to prove 4 elements exist in order to be valid. The elements required are the following:

  • The existence of a doctor-patient relationship
  • Breach of the duty of care
  • Causation of the patient’s injuries
  • Damages suffered by the patient.

Evidence to Prove Medical Malpractice

The first piece of evidence that you’ll need to provide is proof of a doctor-patient relationship. This could be proved through an explicit agreement for treatment, like a medical bill, or a scenario where an agreement could be reasonably inferred, even if treatment was provided without any explicit agreement in place. This aspect of a medical malpractice case is rarely challenged by the defense and is the easiest piece of evidence to provide.

Next, you’ll need to prove that the doctor or health care professional who treated you failed to do so with the same standard of care that a similarly trained professional would have used under the circumstances in question. Your attorney will likely choose to use medical expert witnesses to provide proof that the standard of care was not maintained. The defense will likely hire their own medical expert witnesses to argue their side as well. Often, clinical guidelines, published by medical professional groups, can be used to prove what the standard of care should be.

Another step where your attorney will likely be using medical expert witnesses to prove medical malpractice is in proving that the provider’s actions or failure to act, indeed caused your condition to worsen, or caused you additional injury or harm. The medical expert will be used to prove that your injuries aren’t caused by some underlying condition, but are, in fact, due to the substandard care you received from the defendant.

Finally, you will need to provide evidence of damages caused by the substandard care you received. These could be additional medical expenses, any income you’ve lost already or may lose in the future due to your inability to work, and proof of pain and suffering.  You will be able to quantify damages for pain and suffering both physically and mentally in a case like this. 

 Your medical malpractice lawyer will be your most effective advocate in helping you to gather evidence to prove your case, strategize the best approach to your lawsuit, and argue your case in front of a jury, if required, in order to ensure you get the best results possible in your unique situation.

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