Establishing causation in medical malpractice lawsuits

On Behalf of | Aug 12, 2021 | Hospital Negligence

New Jersey residents may choose to pursue medical malpractice lawsuits when hospitals or physicians provide them with the care that does not meet the generally accepted standards of the medical profession and they are harmed as a result. Medical malpractice plaintiffs must establish causation in order to prevail, which means they must prove that the substandard care they received was the cause of their damages. This is often a difficult burden to meet.

Causation

Establishing causation can be challenging in medical malpractice lawsuits for several reasons. Patients who were very sick when their doctors made an error may find it difficult to prove causation because juries may conclude that they were already ill and the mistake did not alter the outcome. Other factors that could make juries less sympathetic to medical malpractice victims include:

• The unpredictable nature of a particular disease
• The complexity of the human body
• The existence of preexisting conditions
• The general understanding that seeking medical treatment does not guarantee a successful outcome

Meeting the burden

Experienced personal injury attorneys usually call on specialists and other experts to prove causation as they can explain complex matters in a way that juries are likely to understand. When the case is brought because a doctor failed to order the correct tests or made a diagnostic error, an expert could explain that the plaintiff would likely have recovered if their condition had been identified and treated in a timely manner. Specialists could also examine health records to identify the moments when mistakes were made and tell juries what might have happened if the errors had been avoided.

Direct and proximate cause

In most personal injury lawsuits, the plaintiffs are expected to prove a direct cause. This means that they must convince the court that they would have escaped injury entirely but for the defendant’s negligent actions. In medical malpractice cases, plaintiffs must establish proximate cause. This means they have to establish a strong relationship between the negligent act and their injuries. This is done based on the preponderance of the evidence, which means the plaintiff must convince the jury that their arguments are more likely true than not true.

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