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What are the requirements of a valid medical malpractice claim?

Nearly every professional will make a mistake at some point in his or her career. Unfortunately, when the professional is a doctor, nurse or other healthcare provider, one mistake can be deadly. When a medical professional's mistake results in the death of the patient, the medical provider may be liable for medical malpractice, which could also be the basis of a wrongful death lawsuit.

There are generally three main requirements for a valid medical malpractice claim. The first requirement is that there was a violation of the standard of care. Within the medical field, there are certain practices and standards, which are acknowledged as the proper course of treatment or diagnosis. These standards are based on what a reasonably prudent and competent medical professional would do in a similar situation. If a doctor, nurse or other healthcare provider deviates from this established standard of care, the first requirement is likely to be met.

The second requirement is that an injury resulted from the violation of that standard of care. If a healthcare professional did not follow accepted practices but no harm was done, a medical malpractice claim will fail. In addition to proving that an injury occurred, the plaintiff must also prove a cause-and-effect relationship between the violation of the standard of care and the injury. If the harm would have occurred regardless of whether the medical professional violated the standard of care, the claim will again fail.

Finally, the injury must result in damages. These types of damages may include loss of income, unusual pain, suffering or hardship, disability, or medical bills. If a wrongful death lawsuit is based on claims of medical malpractice, the violation of the standard of care must have resulted in the patient's death.

Medical malpractice claims are complex and often require a great deal of research and testimony from medical experts. For this reason, this article is not intended to provide specific legal advice but serves only as a guide to explain the key elements of a medical malpractice claim.

Source: American Board of Professional Liability Attorneys, "What is Medical Malpractice," last accessed Aug. 18, 2014

Source: American Board of Professional Liability Attorneys, "What is Medical Malpractice," last accessed Aug. 18, 2014

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