Once you have identified the person responsible for an injury, you need to decide whether their actions actually caused your client’s injury. This is called Proximate Cause; a vague term that means the chain of events by which the act of medical malpractice or dental malpractice caused injury or damages.
Malpractice can be Obvious or Remote
Some cases of malpractice can be obvious, such as a patient bleeding to death because a surgeon failed to tie off an artery during surgery. Or, it can be remote, such as an Ohio case in which a surgeon botched an operation on a girl’s face. The surgery had to be re-done, resulting in scarring. The girl sued the surgeon, not because of her scarring and disfigurement, but because it caused her father, who was mentally unstable, to commit suicide. Sound far-fetched? It was, but the girl succeeded in winning the case.
Hospital Malpractice was a Foreseeable Risk and a Proximate Cause
The most far-out example they teach in law school is the case of the man who was hit by a car and taken to a hospital ER, where he was injured as a result of a doctor’s malpractice. Since the accident occurred in a state that limits the amount a plaintiff can receive from a hospital for malpractice, and the driver who hit him was insured, the plaintiff sued the driver for all his injuries; those resulting from the doctor’s malpractice as well as from the crash.
Sound far-fetched? How can you hold the driver of a car responsible for what a doctor did in the hospital ER? The court ruled that the plaintiff could collect, because hospital malpractice was a foreseeable risk and was the result of the accident, which caused the plaintiff to be taken there. There was proximate cause.
A Bad Result does not always mean Malpractice Occurred
Just because something went wrong, or your client had a bad result, does not always mean the doctor committed medical malpractice or dental malpractice. Babies are born with birth defects, and even the best-planned medical treatment can produce bad results. As the Supreme Court of the State of Washington put it: “A physician does not undertake to cure his patient, nor insure that treatment will be successful, and neither does failure to perfect a cure evidence of want of proper care or skill.” A New Hampshire man sued his surgeon, because at the end of open-heart surgery, an air bubble from the aorta went to his brain and left the patient paralyzed. He lost. The court ruled that open-heart surgery is a high-risk undertaking, which it is, and the air bubble was a normal and usual hazard.
Find Out if You Have a Malpractice Case
Every day, lawyers start medical malpractice or dental malpractice lawsuits, because their clients have suffered injuries, only to find out later they do not have a case. Time and money have been spent for nothing, because the doctor did not commit malpractice, or malpractice did not cause the bad result.
The Rule Is: In every successful malpractice action, there is some identifiable occurrence that was probably malpractice and probably the proximate cause of the injury. Establishing a convincing chain of proximate cause is a job for an experienced lawyer and one reason why plaintiffs should not prosecute a malpractice case without one.
Thousands of patients suffer due to medical and dental malpractice and do not get the compensation they deserve. If you are a victim of malpractice, or your client is a victim of malpractice, contact JD.MD, Inc., today at 800-225-5363. We can provide you with an initial case evaluation or an expert’s opinion.