Proving causation in medical negligence can be tricky and difficult rather than straightforward and easy. This is majorly because we want to find out what would have really happened if there was no breach of duty by the defendant.
Again, where a medical negligence claim involves where the claimants were already ill before the alleged negligence and still remained ill even after treatment, which is most often the case in most medical negligence cases, it can be a complex situation.
The causation law can be quite confusing and that is why you need the right medical negligence solicitors to give you the legal help you need if you feel like you have a claim. When making the decision to make a medical negligence claim, you should be prepared to prove two key areas;
- That you received poor care or substandard treatment
- That the injury you suffered and are making claims for is as a direct result of the poor care received.
This is what is called proving breach of duty and causation.
What Is Causation In Medical Negligence?
Causation in a clinical negligence claim means establishing that the negligence of your healthcare provider or the breach of duty of care is the reason for the injury suffered.
Medical Law Negligence
When establishing if negligence has occurred or not, the “but for” test is applied. This means, but for the negligence, would the claimant have sustained the injury? This hypothetical but crucial question is the key to any medical negligence claim.
For example, if there is a delay in administering a medication, the court will ‘but for the delay, would the injury or complication still have occurred?’ if the answer is no, then causation has been proven.
On the other hand, if the court finds out that the claimant would still have suffered the same fate even if the negligence did not occur, then causation has not been established and the claim will be unsuccessful regardless of the magnitude of the negligence of the healthcare provider.
Also, the court also puts into consideration the condition of the patient before undergoing the treatment. This is to establish if the underlying condition could also lead to complications even in the absence of a negligent treatment.
The onus therefore lies on the claimant to prove that the injury was solely as a result of the negligent treatment or poor care and not because of any underlying or pre-existing condition.
Proving Causation In Medical Negligence
In proving causation, it is important to isolate the effects of the injury or illness for which treatment was sought from the effects if the poor care received. Therefore, when proving if there was a breach of duty or not, independent medical experts in the relevant field are consulted to give their reports or opinion on whether causation can be proved.
4 Elements To Prove Negligence In Court which is sometimes known as the 4 D’s are;
- Duty- that the defendant had a duty of care towards you
- Deviation- that the defendant deviated from (breached) the duty of care
- Direct Causation- that breach of duty of care is the cause of the injuries being claimed for
- Damages- that you have suffered damages as a result of the negligence
The ‘But For’ Test
This is the standard test for proving causation is the ‘but for’ test. This is asking, but for the existence of the doctor’s negligence, would the injury to the claimant have occurred?
This clearly means that the claimant has to show that their injury was caused by the poor care received and that if there was appropriate care, the injury would not have occurred.
If this cannot be established- if the loss or damage would still have occurred even if there was no negligence, then the claim will fail. Necessity is laid upon the claimant to prove ‘on the balance of probabilities’ (more than 50% likely) that that the injury was caused by the alleged medical negligence.
The Material Contribution Test
In cases where there may be multiple causes of the injury, the ‘but for’ test can cause some problems and so another test is applied in this respect.
The ‘but for’ test can clearly cause problems for Claimants in cases where there may be multiple causes of the injury. This is why a modify test known as the ‘material contribution test’ is applied. Here the court asks if the alleged negligence contributed to the injury and if the contribution was significant hence ‘material’.
There are areas to be satisfied in order to pass this test. They are;
The negligence must contribute to the injury or harm caused and not just increase the risk of injury or harm. However, in some exceptional cases, negligence increasing the risk of injury can be taken by the court.
The contribution of the negligence or breach of duty of care must be material- that means it must be significant and the court reserves the right to choose the measure of materiality
Also, there must not be an alternative complete cause of the injury or harm. This implies that there are multiple causes of the injury and just once cause cannot be established as the sole cause.
A Balance Of Probabilities
It is true that with treatments and several procedures, complications may arise which may affect the outcome. Therefore, it is important to prove causation by showing that through a ‘balance of probabilities’, the breach of duty of care was the cause of injury.
For instance, we could use an example to show this.
Sarah was admitted to the A&E with severe stomach pain and vomiting but after being reviewed by a doctor, she was sent home. However, the patient died 7hours later from arsenic poisoning. Now, while we can agree that the doctor was negligent, causation can not be proven as no treatment could have saved the patient.
Proving Causation In A Personal Injury Claim
In order to prove to the defendant’s insurer that your injuries were caused as a result of the carelessness of their client, you will need to obtain and provide the following;
When you suffer an accident, it is proper that you seek medical treatment as this will ensure that your injuries are properly assessed and treated.
Also, your medical records will document the injuries for which you received treatment and what type of treatment was given to you. This document can help you prove causation.
Depending on the type of injury you sustained, you may need follow-up care. Your GP will keep records of these appointments and you can use these records to show that the injuries sustained continue to affect you for a period of time after your accident.
A Medical Assessment:
You may also need a medical assessment. This would be done by an independent medical expert. He will then from his findings write a report so that the interested parties in the claim can know the state of your injuries as well as prognosis.
Additionally, there are other documents you may need to bring to prove your claims asides your own statements. These are;
- Witness details
- Photographic evidence
- Accident report forms
- Security camera footage
- Your Financial records to show losses incurred as a result of the injury
How can we Help you?
Proving a medical negligence claim can be difficult as the court will try to determine the causal connection between the breach of duty of care and the damage suffered on a balance of probabilities.
Our solicitors recognise this and are very well experienced in this area of the law, to ensure that victims of medical negligence are well represented and also get the compensation they deserve.
We undertake these claims under our No Win No Fee offer and so we make a thorough and professional assessment of your claim to be sure that you really have a claim. And when we are sure that you have the claim, we will put in our very best to successfully prove causation and win you a deserving compensation amount.
You can call our helplines 0800 644 4240 or fill out our online enquiry form to speak with one of us.