The Four Elements of Medical Malpractice

Photo of a document that reads "Medical Malpractice" with a pair of glasses, scrubs, and a stethoscope in frame.

Medical malpractice is a serious medical and legal issue that can be incredibly complicated. To be successful in a medical malpractice lawsuit, there are four essential elements that must be established. We will discuss these four elements and their legal definitions and provide examples to better understand what they mean.

1. Duty of Care

Duty of care is the legal obligation of healthcare providers to provide a specific standard of care to their patients. This duty arises from their relationship with the patient, whether a doctor-patient or a nurse-patient relationship. Healthcare providers must adhere to the accepted standard of care, which is defined as the care that a reasonable provider would have provided under similar circumstances. The standard of care takes into account the patient's medical history, current health condition, age, and other relevant factors.

For example, if you go to a hospital for a heart condition, you expect your doctor to provide you with the appropriate treatment. However, if the doctor doesn't follow the expected standard of care, then they have breached their duty to you.

2. Breach of Duty

Once the duty of care has been established, the second element of medical malpractice is "breach of duty." This occurs when a medical professional fails to provide the appropriate level of care, thus violating the duty of care. A breach of duty can be intentional or accidental.

For example, if a surgeon doesn't follow proper protocol during surgery, such as leaving a surgical instrument inside a patient, this would be considered a breach of duty.

3. Causation

The third element of medical malpractice is "causation." This means that the breach of duty must have been the direct cause of harm or injury to the patient. Without causation, a medical malpractice lawsuit cannot be successful.

For example, if a doctor prescribes the wrong medication, but it doesn't cause any harm or injury to the patient, there is no causation, and a lawsuit would not be successful.

4. Damages

The fourth and final element of medical malpractice is "damages." These are the injuries or harm caused by the breach of duty, and they must be significant enough to warrant the damages being requested in the lawsuit. These damages may include physical injuries, emotional distress, or financial losses.

For example, if a surgeon makes a mistake during surgery, and the patient suffers permanent nerve damage in their arm, this would be considered significant damage.

Handling Medical Malpractice & Serious Injury Cases

At Curtis & Co., we believe that no one should have to suffer at the hands of a trusted medical provider if you or someone you love has been harmed by someone else—whether a doctor, a nurse, or even a medical facility—we can help.

Schedule a free consultation with one of our medical malpractice attorneys today by calling (505) 871-3740 or by reaching us online.

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