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The Elements of a Medical Malpractice Claim

Written by Berkowitz

Medical MalpracticeClaims of medical malpractice not only highlight preventable errors, but are a critical component to improving healthcare overall. Patients file claims due to a variety of factors, from poor relationships to unnecessary illnesses to delayed diagnosis. To file a successful claim, there are four basic elements that must be present to have a valid medical malpractice claim – duty, breach, causation, and damages.


A duty must be owed to the patient by a healthcare provider – whether that is a therapist, physician, surgeon, nurse, or other healthcare professional. This means that the healthcare provider has been charged with the patient’s care, and there is an established relationship between that provider and the patient. When there is a required duty of care, the physician must act within a standard of care, meaning they must supply reasonable and appropriate care to that patient as part of their obligations in the relationship.


The healthcare provider who owed a duty of care to the patient must have failed to provide that duty. In other words, they did not exercise the proper degree of care or skill that other medical professionals in a similar situation would have supplied. Often, an expert is required to prove that the physician or healthcare professional did not meet the standard of care that other healthcare professionals would have met in a similar situation.


Causation involves proving that the health care provider’s breach of care contributed to or caused harm to the patient. This is proven by showing that the physician’s action or lack of action led to the injury. For example, a patient arrives at the hospital complaining of chest pain. Instead of ordering diagnostic tests to rule out any heart-related issues, the physician prescribes antacids and sends the patient home. The patient later suffers from a major heart attack and heart failure. Had the physician tested the patient, the patient would have received treatment instead of suffering from a deadly heart attack. Therefore, the physician’s negligence caused the patient’s injury and death.


A patient must sustain harm due to the healthcare provider’s error. If a patient does not suffer from any injury – or any aggravation of an existing injury – because of the healthcare provider’s negligence, there is no valid claim.

Assessing Malpractice Requires the Assistance of an Attorney

To ensure a case contains the four necessary elements of malpractice, a case should be evaluated by a malpractice attorney. If you or a loved one is the victim of a healthcare provider’s negligence, contact Berkowitz and Hanna LLC for a consultation. We will review the facts of your case and look for the four key elements. Once these are identified, we can aggressively pursue your malpractice claim. Call or contact us online to schedule your consultation.