The 4 Ds of Negligence in Medical Malpractice Claims

Medical malpractice occurs when a doctor or healthcare provider fails to provide reasonable care to their patient in some way, whether they fail to take action when necessary or fail to provide proper treatment, and because of this action, brings harm or injury to the patient. However, because the study of medicine is complex and always evolving, it can be difficult to prove fault in a medical malpractice case.

Duty, Deviation, Damages and Direct Cause in Medical Malpractice Claims in Atlanta, GA

There are 4 Ds that are vital to building a strong medical malpractice case. These 4 Ds are Duty, Deviation, Damages, and Direct Cause.

We’ll break down each of these four medical malpractice components below. If you or someone you know has experienced harm or injury at the hands of a medical professional, contact the experienced Atlanta medical malpractice attorneys at Pope & Howard.

A Medical Professional’s Duty of Care

Duty of Care is what a doctor, nurse or medical professional owes to their patient. It is their duty to provide a certain standard of care for their patient. This duty includes taking a full medical history, thoroughly assessing the symptoms and complaints of the patient, providing a reasonable diagnosis and in turn, the proper course of treatment, which can include referral to specialists or following up.

To establish duty of care, the plaintiff (person filing the lawsuit) must have been a patient of the medical doctor or professional and must prove that the doctor or professional owed a duty of care to that patient.

Deviation of Duty in Medical Malpractice Cases

Once you’ve established that the doctor or healthcare provider owed the patient duty of care, you must next prove that the diagnosis, course of treatment, or follow-up deviated from the established standard of care for that specific medical provider’s field. For example, if a doctor has to give emergency CPR and injures a patient’s rib while doing chest compressions, other doctors might consider that an unfortunate outcome of appropriate treatment. However, if a doctor fails to follow up with a patient after having tests done that would provide early diagnosis for cancer, that action may be considered deviation of duty.

What Does It Mean to Claim Damages?

A plaintiff must prove that they, or their loved one, indeed experienced damages due to medical malpractice in the form of pain, injury, suffering, emotional distress, or death. From a practical standpoint, medical malpractice cases are very expensive and difficult, so the damages generally need to be life-altering in order to justify bringing a case. Damages include economic damages such as past and future medical bills as well as past and future lost income. Damages also include non-economic damages, sometimes called human damages, which can include pain, the loss of enjoyment of life (say, due to being confined to a wheelchair), the lost capacity to work (meaning losing the satisfaction one feels from performing a job). One shorthand way to view damages is to think of them as an amount of money needed to make the injured person whole for all losses, both economic and non-economic.

Direct Cause: Link Between Duty of Care and Damages

The final D toward creating a strong medical malpractice case is Direct Cause. Now that you’ve proven duty of care, deviation of that duty, and damages, you must then prove that the damages were a direct cause of that doctor’s deviation of duty, usually meaning that had the doctor never taken that action (or lack of action), the damages or harm wouldn’t have occurred.

If you cannot establish direct cause, then the doctor or medical professional cannot be held liable for the damages. Injuries sometimes occur in the normal course of medical treatment, so it’s critical to establish that the injuries occurred due to some deviation of proper care.

Talk to the Medical Malpractice Lawyers at Pope & Howard in Atlanta

If you or a loved one have experienced harm or suffering at the hands of a medical professional or physician, contact the medical malpractice lawyers at Pope & Howard. Our experienced legal team will help you build a case and seek compensation.

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