Your healthcare provider is someone you naturally trust and feel comfortable with when you are ill or injured. Usually, they care for your medical needs in the best possible way and help you regain good health. Unfortunately, they occasionally fail to uphold the standard of care required of their position. A patient affected in this case will want to hold the medical professional accountable for falling short, but not every error will constitute patient negligence.
With this in mind, you may be wondering what kind of errors amount to medical negligence? The 4 D’s of medical negligence will provide the answer to this question. But first, let us briefly consider some of the mistakes made by medical professionals that could amount to medical negligence.
- Surgical error
- Prescription or medication error
- Failure to order appropriate tests
- Failure to act on a test result
- Premature discharge
- Leaving foreign items in a patient’s body
If you are considering bringing a medical negligence claim against your healthcare provider, it is in your best interest to reach out to medical negligence solicitors with experience in handling medical negligence claims.
The Four D’s of Negligence: A Guide
Your solicitor will help you prove what is known as the 4 elements of malpractice or the 4 D’s of negligence:
- Direct cause
1. Duty: The Medical Professional’s Duty of Care
“Duty” means that a relationship exists between a healthcare provider and patient with respect to the patient’s medical care. For a patient to reasonably expect a doctor to correctly diagnose and provide acceptable medical care, a doctor-patient relationship must be established. This relationship is established when the doctor consents to provide medical assistance to the patient. In this case, the doctor now has a “duty” of care.
Due to his skill-set and level of training, a doctor or medical professional is held to a high standard of care. This standard is much higher than what is expected of an ordinary person. For instance, if someone who witnesses a car accident decides to render first aid assistance, such one will likely not be held to a professional standard of care.
So, when a doctor consents to provide medical assistance to a patient, this “duty” means that the patient can rely on the doctor’s experience to provide the needed care. In a situation where the doctor is unable to provide the expected standard of care, he must refer the patient to a medical professional who can.
However, it is worth noting that acceptable “duty” varies even among medical professionals. If you have a heart condition, for instance, the duty of care expected of a general practitioner will be more lenient when compared to the duty of care expected of a cardiologist. This is where the patient’s role comes into play. As a patient, you are to supply all relevant information concerning your condition to enable your doctor diagnose and treat it.
When you supply all necessary information and the doctor, who does not possess the skill-set required to handle your condition, fails to refer you to a specialist, this can be considered professional negligence in medical practice. You may be able to sue the doctor for patient negligence.
2. Dereliction: Deviation from the Standard of Care
Dereliction, the second of the 4 elements of malpractice, is the failure of a medical professional to maintain an agreed-upon relationship with a patient. This means that the physician did not meet the expected standards, and stepped out of bounds.
Deviation from expected standard of care could fall into any of the following:
- Misdiagnosis or missed/delayed diagnosis
- Birth injury
- Surgical error
- Medication error
- Post-operative negligence
Most medical negligence claims revolve around dereliction. As a result, it is usually the most complex element to prove; this is why expert witnesses are so crucial here. Expert witnesses are well trained medical professionals; in most cases, they are licensed, full-time professionals who may have retired from medical practice.
Although expert witnesses are usually paid for the testimony they provide, they are bound by law to provide an honest and professional opinion. If you seek the services of a paid expert witness, the defendant may call the court’s attention to this fact. However, the use of paid expert witnesses is common practice in medical negligence claims.
Damages represent the third element of the 4 D’s of medical negligence. It refers to the quantifiable amount that a patient has lost due to medical negligence. Damages may cover your medical bills, lost earnings, and the pain, suffering and emotional distress you experienced as a result of the negligent act.
Factors like pain and emotional injury are particularly tricky to quantify but can be determined by considering the severity of the injury, length of recovery time, future medical costs and the overall circumstances.
Proving Damages to a Patient
Evidence of damages usually include:
- Prescription records
- Medical records
- Medical bills
- Testimony of an expert witness
- Your own testimony
While proving and calculating total damages can be difficult, it is important that you get the right amount. This is where medical negligence solicitors come in; a skilled solicitor can help you quantify the right amount to ensure you receive the compensation you deserve. This is especially important because you will be unable to make further claims if you run out of money after you have been awarded compensation.
4. Direct Causation: Relationship Between Dereliction and Damages
The fourth element, direct causation, is the second most contested element of medical negligence. No matter how negligent your physician has been, you will be unable to make any medical negligence claims unless you can prove it. Essentially, this means that the mere fact that you suffered a negative result does not mean that your healthcare provider caused the bad outcome, unless you can prove otherwise.
The causation must be direct. For instance, if an oncologist administers a wrong dosage of chemotherapy to a patient, and the patient dies after reacting to the drug, direct causation must be established before a claim can be made.
Was the outcome caused by the wrong dose, the patient’s reaction, or the cancer itself? Further investigation, including medical expert opinion, will likely be required. The purpose of this investigation will be to determine the cause of death and DIRECTLY tie the actions of the doctor to the death.
The complex nature of medical negligence underlines the need for strong legal support from skilled medical negligence solicitors. Proving the 4 elements of malpractice ultimately depends on the facts your case, the outcome of a comprehensive investigation, and the skillful negotiation strategy of a solicitor.
Contact A Specialist Solicitor Today For A Free Claim Assessment
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If you or your loved one have suffered an illness or injury as a result of a healthcare provider’s substandard care, we recommend you speak with an experienced solicitor. Your solicitor will help you understand the 4 D’s of negligence, evaluate the strength of your case, and explain the legal process involved and possible outcomes.
With loads of successful claims under the belt, Medical Negligence Direct has the knowledge, resources and experience to walk you through the complex legal process. At no financial risk to you, we provide the best legal representation you can possibly get and work on a No Win No Fee basis.
Get in touch with Medical Negligence Direct now at 0800 644 4240 for an instant, no obligation advice from our friendly solicitors. You can also fill out our online form to contact a specialist or get a free assessment of your case.