Establishing causation in medical malpractice lawsuits

On Behalf of | Jun 10, 2019 | Medical Malpractice |

When Iowa residents take legal action after suffering injury, loss or damage due to the negligent actions of doctors or hospitals, they must convince the jury of two things to be successful. They must first establish that the medical care they received was not up to the generally accepted standards of the health care industry. Once this has been done, they must prove that the harm they suffered was directly caused by the substandard treatment they received.

Convincing a jury that doctors or hospitals provided treatment that deviated from acceptable medical standards is sometimes reasonably straightforward in medical malpractice cases. Juries could be shown MRI scans or X-rays that reveal foreign objects were left inside patients who underwent surgery, and medical specialists could testify that a serious disease missed by doctors would have been detected if the correct tests had been ordered. Proving that these mistakes were the factual cause of harm is often a far more nebulous process.

The challenge facing plaintiffs and their attorneys when they address causation is that medical treatment is frequently based on opinion, and no patient is guaranteed a successful outcome. Patients at the finest hospitals suffer setbacks or encounter complications after undergoing surgery despite receiving around-the-clock care from highly qualified doctors and nurses. Another problem for plaintiffs is that doctors who fail to diagnose a deadly disease did not cause the disease, and juries may conclude that the plaintiff’s prognosis would have been grim even if mistakes were not made.

Personal injury attorneys with experience in these cases may explain these challenges when assessing the merits of a medical malpractice lawsuit. Attorneys may also gather evidence of causation by studying the case histories of patients who had similar medical conditions to their clients but received medical treatment that met generally accepted health care standards.