Legally Reviewed by:

Jonathan Rosenfeld

April 8, 2022

Over $400 Million worth of case results

Awarded The Best Lawyer in 2024 by U.S. News

Nationally Recognized in Legal Community

When you trust your health to a doctor or any other healthcare provider, you should expect a minimum level of care.

While you do not always get the best results from treatment, you should also not be injured when a doctor makes medical errors.

Still, not everything that goes wrong in your case means the doctor did something wrong. The doctor’s negligence all depends on the individual facts.

Here is how you can know whether the doctor breached the professional duty owed to you as we discuss the four elements of medical malpractice.

If you believe a medical error has injured you, contact a passionate personal injury lawyer in our law office for a free legal consultation.

four elements of medical malpractice

The plaintiff must prove the four elements to win a medical malpractice case.

Negligence in a Medical Malpractice Case

While medical negligence is much more complex than other personal injury cases, it requires the same legal analysis as any other case.

A malpractice claim involves an allegation that the doctor was negligent (causes medical errors). Therefore, the elements of medical malpractice are similar to the same four-part negligence test used in any civil legal action.

Negligence is a legal term that describes an action in which someone does not live up to what is expected of them in a certain situation. What it means in a civil case depends on the circumstances.

The Four Elements of Medical Malpractice

In medical malpractice cases, the broad general test used asks the following questions about the four elements of medical malpractice:

  • Did the doctor owe you a duty of care?
  • Did the doctor breach the duty of care by acting unreasonably under the circumstances?
  • Did you suffer an injury?
  • Was the doctor’s unreasonable action the proximate cause of your injury?

In any medical malpractice case, you have the burden of proof for every single one of these elements.

The Duty of Care Owed in a Medical Malpractice Claim

Little doubt exists about the first of the four elements in medical malpractice lawsuits. When you have a doctor-patient relationship, the medical professional assumes a duty of care to you.

They must act reasonably under the circumstances. Under medical malpractice law, the doctor is not the only person or entity that can face a medical malpractice lawsuit.

The following may also owe you a duty of care:

  • Hospitals
  • An emergency department that treated you
  • Medical assistants
  • Pharmacies
  • Nurses

Anyone who performs medical services for you owes you a duty of care.

Breaching the Duty of Care in Your Medical Treatment

The most complex part of malpractice litigation is proving that the doctor’s duty was breached.

This detailed analysis requires you to show what the doctor did and compare it to what a reasonable doctor would have done under similar circumstances.

You must show that your doctor’s actions fell short of what a reasonable doctor would have done.

This is often a difficult task for plaintiffs. Juries tend to be sympathetic towards doctors, seeing them as experts in their field and well-qualified to perform their duties.

They have a certain amount of respect for medical professionals.

Proving that the Doctor Breached the Professional Duty Owed to You

The doctor would likely not admit that they made a mistake or that their negligence caused your injuries. Therefore, it is up to you to show what the doctor did and how it fell short of what they should have done to treat you.

You would start with the medical records showing exactly what the doctor did. You have a legal right to the records in your case.

The doctor should have documented what they did to treat you. Not all medical records are complete and tell the entire story, especially when the doctor has something to hide.

Your best help in any medical malpractice lawsuit is expert testimony describing what the doctor should have done.

In every medical negligence case, your lawyer will work with one or more expert witnesses to have them comment on what a doctor should have done and how they breached their professional duty.

They will show exactly how the doctor made a mistake. Your lawyer may also use other evidence, such as witness testimony from people who were there and saw what happened.

Did the Patient Suffer an Injury?

Whether the plaintiff suffered an injury may seem straightforward in every medical malpractice claim, but it may not always be that way.

The plaintiff’s injury may not always be apparent on MRIs, x-rays, CT scans, or other medical tests.

The plaintiff may sometimes suffer continuous pain or emotional harm from the medical error, but it does not always appear in a test.

You can always count on an insurance company to dispute a patient’s injury if they can do so.

Did the Medical Error Cause the Patient’s Injury?

Causation is the fourth of the elements of medical malpractice. Even if you suffered an injury, the doctor’s office may deny that they were the cause of the injury.

They may claim that you suffered from a pre-existing condition or would have suffered the injury anyway, regardless of what the doctor did or did not do.

However, a doctor takes their patient as they find them, and aggravating a pre-existing condition could still result in financial compensation.

Causation is critical in cases where the doctor allegedly has a missed diagnosis.

When a plaintiff alleges that incorrectly diagnosing their condition was the cause of their injury, the doctor may argue that the plaintiff may have suffered the same injury anyway, no matter what mistake the doctor may have made.

Examples of Medical Negligence

Here are some examples of mistakes that a doctor makes that may meet the four elements of medical malpractice and result in financial compensation for the plaintiff.

In all these cases, a jury could find that medical malpractice occurs from the doctor’s actions or inactions.

  • Failing to diagnose a condition costs the patient valuable treatment time
  • Failing to monitor a mother during the pregnancy or perform a cesarean section surgery during delivery, resulting in a birth injury
  • Performing an unnecessary surgical procedure on a patient
  • Failing to monitor a patient after surgery leads to complications properly
  • Leaving medical equipment inside a patient during surgery

Damages in Medical Malpractice Cases

If you are able to win your medical malpractice case by settling the claim or getting the jury to vote in your favor after you have proven the elements of medical malpractice, you may be entitled to the following damages:

  • Lost wages for the time that you have missed from work
  • The cost of all your medical bills for additional medical treatment to treat your injuries from the malpractice
  • Pain and suffering for the ordeal that you have gone through
  • Loss of enjoyment of life due to injuries
  • Wrongful death

Call our office for a free no-obligation case evaluation to learn more about your potential financial compensation. Our office has numerous practice areas, including medical malpractice.

Contact a Medical Malpractice Lawyer

If you or a loved one have a potential medical malpractice case, a medical malpractice lawyer in our law office can work to help you recover compensation for your injuries.

The first step is to call a passionate lawyer for a free case review. A medical malpractice suit requires knowledge and tenacity.

At Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers, our legal team believes that a patient should hold a healthcare professional accountable for injury caused by their negligence.

For a free case evaluation, call us today at (888) 424-5757 or contact us online.

Our personal injury lawyer will explain your legal options for your medical malpractice settlement and a path forward at your free consultation. Before we form an attorney-client relationship, continue to look for our medical malpractice blog posts.


Free Consultation (888) 424-5757
Scroll to Top