Why is Medical Malpractice Legally Difficult to Prove?

Medical malpractice is often broadly defined as harm caused by a doctor’s mistake. However, this definition is simplified too much to be useful in legal contexts and courtrooms. The truth is medical malpractice claims are difficult to win because legally recognized or defined medical malpractice incidents are just as difficult to prove.

Why is medical malpractice so difficult to prove when the overall concept seems so simple? Much of the issue can be traced to intentional interference and complications from legislation that has been lobbied to benefit healthcare companies and not injured patients.

Defining an Acceptable Standard of Care

The first and perhaps the largest hurdle for a medical malpractice plaintiff is proving that they did not receive an acceptable standard of care from the defendant. Whereas in many personal injury cases the plaintiff can sometimes find success just by reasonably proving the link between the defendant’s actions and their injuries, medical malpractice plaintiffs need to make establish clear causation that meets four specific prerequisites.

The patient needs to prove they had a doctor-patient relationship with the medical provider who hurt them, which makes it immediately difficult to bring a claim against any medical professional working in an urgent care or emergency room center. Oftentimes, medical professionals in these settings will see and treat or diagnose a patient without ever having met them before.

A successful claim must also prove that the medical provider acted in a way that went outside the usual standard of care. If another medical professional would have made the same decisions or could have likely made the same mistakes in the same situation, then the plaintiff’s claim will be weakened. Furthermore, the mistake must have caused real harm or failed to prevent further harm to the patient, who then experienced real damages as a result.

Damage Caps & Other Legislative Opposition

Beyond the difficult-to-overcome evidential expectations, medical malpractice claims are commonly limited by damage caps and other forms of legislative opposition. In many states, medical malpractice plaintiffs can only receive a capped amount for noneconomic damages, such as pain and suffering damages that account for the hardships they have had to endure. No matter how difficult their life has become due to an injury a medical provider caused, the plaintiff will only be able to receive that capped amount at a maximum. There are even some states that put a damage cap on compensatory damages, such as medical bills associated with the patient’s recovery.

Medical malpractice plaintiffs also have to push through the inaccurate yet widely held belief that medical malpractice claims are the cause of higher healthcare premiums. For years, lobbyists have used all sorts of tactics to convince legislators and the average American that tort reform to further restrict medical malpractice claims will help save the nation money on insurance costs. The lobbyists have been effective because many people still believe that lawsuits raise healthcare prices despite factual evidence showing that premiums do not go down in states and regions with significantly and historically lower amounts of medical malpractice claims.

For an Uphill Battle, Work with a Trusted Team

Although medical malpractice claims pose an uphill legal battle for both evidential and legislative reasons, you should not be deterred from exploring your options after a medical provider’s mistakes cause you to suffer a new or worsened injury. Instead, you should think about working with a trusted local team of medical malpractice attorneys. Using a lawyer’s experience and insight, you can see if your case is worth pursuing and what to do if it is.

For potential medical malpractice claimants in Philadelphia, call (215) 278-4449 and talk with the attorneys of Golomb & Honik, P.C. about your case.

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