Medical Evidence in Medical Malpractice Cases
Being told surgery is necessary to correct a serious medical issue is a conversation no one wants to have. Surgery presents a lot of risks, and potential complications are a hazard that every surgery patient must face. While such danger is somewhat reduced in elective surgery because the patient does not have a medical condition taxing the body, life-threatening issues are still possible. Despite the inherent risk of all surgery, doctors are still obligated to exercise care in the performance of the procedure to prevent the exposure of the patient to unnecessary risk. If the doctor fails to uphold this standard, the physician may be liable for medical malpractice. Unfortunately, due to the invasive nature of surgery, the injuries suffered due to medical negligence are often quite severe.
A man who entered a Boynton Beach hospital for the removal of a cancerous growth on his colon was left with part of the drainage tube in his abdomen for months. Typically, the plaintiff in a medical malpractice case is responsible for proving the doctor or healthcare facility was negligent, which means the plaintiff must present stronger, more convincing evidence than the defendant to win the case. This requirement exists because the law does not assume that a medical injury automatically indicates that negligence occurred. Since medical evidence goes to the heart of any malpractice case, understanding what this evidence needs to show and the circumstances that shift the burden to the defendant is necessary.
In most Florida medical malpractice cases, the law states that a plaintiff holds the greater burden to demonstrate the defendant breached his/her professional standard of care than the defendant does to contest the claims. In other words, the plaintiff must present more evidence supporting the allegations of medical negligence when compared with the evidence submitted by the defense that the treatment was appropriate. When it comes to surgical and diagnostic procedures, the plaintiff must specifically prove the injury he/she experienced was an unnecessary or unforeseeable result of the doctor’s intervention. Establishing the injury was unnecessary or unforeseeable indicates that the treatment provided did not meet the professional standard of care. In fact, a malpractice case may be entirely based on a doctor ordering or administering unnecessary testing that could not reasonably lead to a discernible diagnosis and/or treatment plan for the patient.
As noted above, plaintiffs hold the duty to prove negligence in the majority of medical malpractice cases. However, in instances where a patient is left with foreign object inside his/her body following a surgery or diagnostic testing, the burden shifts to the defendant to show a breach of care did not happen. This shift takes place because there is now a presumption that the health care provider was negligent that he or she must disprove.
Knowing what to prove to convince a jury malpractice occurred is only half the battle. Now, the focus switches to understanding how one shows a doctor was negligent. The success or failure of almost all medical malpractice cases hinges on the testimony and other evidence presented by a medical expert. The role of the medical expert is to explain to the jury why a doctor’s treatment was inappropriate or otherwise deviated from the care other doctors in a similar situation would provide. Because this evidence is central to a malpractice claim, there are rules related to the participation of medical experts in these lawsuits. Specifically, all testifying medical experts must review all relevant medical records, and meet the following criteria:
- Must practice in the same area as the medical professional he/she is testifying against; and
- Must have spent the past three years in active practice, teaching, or participating in a clinical research program.
Talk to a Florida Medical Malpractice Lawyer
If you suffered an unexpected complication or injury following a medical procedure, do not assume the doctor provided proper care. Any unexpected injury should cause a person to seek out a medical malpractice lawyer who can evaluate the facts and decide if a case for malpractice exists. The lawyers at the Miami law firm of Pita Weber & Del Prado have years of experience in this area, and can speak with you today. Contact us for a free consultation.