What Are the Four Factors of Causation in Medical Malpractice Claims?

When you file a medical malpractice claim as an injured patient in Kansas City, it is your responsibility to meet the burden of proof. In a personal injury claim, the burden of proof is a preponderance of the evidence: clear and convincing evidence that the defendant is at fault for the injury. Proving a Kansas City medical malpractice claim generally requires clear evidence of four key factors: duty, breach of duty, causation and damages. These are the four elements of negligence.

Duty: A Doctor-Patient Relationship Exists

The first factor of causation is a duty of care. There must be proof that the defendant owed a duty of care to the injured patient (plaintiff). If you are filing a medical malpractice case against a doctor, for example, you must have evidence that a doctor-patient relationship existed at the time of the alleged act of negligence or malpractice. Without an official doctor-patient relationship, the physician or practitioner will not have the same obligation of care over the patient. Asking a friend who is a doctor for his or her opinion on a mole at a cocktail party, for example, does not give them a duty of care to you. 

When a duty of care exists between a medical professional and a patient, this places high expectations on the practitioner to use a reasonable level of training and skill. This duty of care means that a doctor must act as an ordinarily prudent medical professional would in the same or similar circumstances, as well as in accordance with the rules and requirements of the medical industry. You can typically prove a defendant’s duty of care to you as a patient in Kansas City using your medical records.

Breach: Proof the Standard of Care Was Breached

The second factor of causation in a medical malpractice claim is a breach of the duty of care. There must be clear and convincing evidence that the defendant committed an act or omission that fell short of the accepted standard of care for a provider with his or her training. A breach of duty in the medical industry can refer to many different careless mistakes or a wanton disregard for the safety of a patient. Common examples of breaches include:

  • Misdiagnosis
  • Delayed diagnosis or failure to diagnose
  • Failure to communicate
  • Failure to treat/premature discharge
  • Failure to prepare for a surgery
  • Surgical or anesthesia mistake
  • Medication mix-up
  • Causing a birth injury

If the defendant did anything that a prudent doctor would not have in the same circumstances, he or she could be guilty of failing to meet the expected level of care as a medic. In other words, the defendant was negligent. Proof of a breach of duty often consists of testimony from a comparable medical expert who can explain to a jury what the defendant reasonably should have done to properly care for the plaintiff, and why the defendant’s actions were a departure from the standard of care.

Factors of causation in medical malpractice cases

Causation: Proof the Negligent Care Directly Caused the Harm

The third factor of a claim is evidence that the lapse in the standard of patient care directly caused the injury or harm in question. You must have proof that the defendant’s breach of the standard of care was the proximate, or main, cause of the harm that you are claiming. In other words, your injury, illness or harm would not have occurred but for the defendant’s negligence. You will not have grounds to file a medical malpractice claim in Kansas City if the doctor’s mistake or lapse in care directly caused your injury.

Damages: Losses Occurred

The fourth and final element of a medical malpractice claim is proof of damages connected to the defendant’s action or failure to act. Damages refer to specific compensable losses suffered in the event. They can include an increase in medical care costs, lost wages from an injury or illness, physical pain and suffering, emotional stress, legal fees, and loss of consortium. Demonstrating your losses may take copies of your medical records, bills, receipts and/or an injury journal. 

An attorney in Kansas City can help you establish all four of the elements of a medical malpractice lawsuit. Please contact Dickerson Oxton, LLC for assistance with your claim.