How Your Medical Malpractice Lawyer Can Establish Causation in a Medical Malpractice Claim

By VSCP LAW

In Pennsylvania, your medical malpractice attorney must prove four elements: duty, breach of duty, causation, and damages. Each one of these elements is explained in this blog post. This article will examine that third element, causation, in depth. The reason this particular element should be highlighted is that many attorneys get it wrong. The difference between an experienced medical malpractice attorney and an unexperienced medical malpractice attorney is often how well they have proved causation. Not surprisingly, this is also often the difference between a win or a loss in your medical malpractice claim. 

FACTUAL CAUSE

In order to win your case, your medical malpractice lawyer should prove that the medical malpractice injury would not have occurred without the defendants’ negligence. In other words, the defendants’ actions or inactions led to the medical malpractice damage. This is true even when the medical malpractice injury was unusual or unexpected. The courts call this “factual cause.”

What’s important about “factual cause” is that your medical malpractice attorney is not expected to prove that the defendants’ actions or omissions were the only cause of your injuries. Sometimes there are multiple causes of an injury that occur around the same time as the defendants’ negligence. That’s okay as long as the defendants’ own negligence is a factual cause of your injuries.

For instance, let’s say Dr. Negligence failed to read your chest x-rays properly and didn’t notice a cancerous tumor in your lungs. You continue to smoke cigarettes not knowing that by doing so, you’re worsening your condition. Months later, Dr. Proper reviews those x-rays, sees the cancerous tumor, and starts you on cancer treatment. Your cancer would have been much easier to fight and your chances of survival would have been much higher had Dr. Negligence read your x-rays properly. Both Dr. Negligence’s failure to read the x-rays and your continued smoking may have caused your cancer to worsen. And even though your cigarette smoking was a harmful cause of your worsening condition, Dr. Negligence’s failure to read the x-rays was a factual cause in your injuries as well. In other words, Dr. Negligence isn’t off the hook simply because there were other reasons for your injuries.

INCREASED RISK OF HARM

Your medical malpractice attorney, with the help of medical experts, will prove that the defendants’ actions or omissions increased the risk of harm to you. In the example above, your medical malpractice lawyer will have their experts testify that Dr. Negligence’s failure to properly read your x-rays has increased your risk of injury. Had Dr. Negligence read that chest x-ray correctly, your damages could have been avoided and/or your risk could have been minimized.

Of course, it’s rarely possible to demonstrate to an absolute certainty – no doubt whatsoever – what would have happened if Dr. Negligence wasn’t negligent. Your attorney just has to prove that if there was any significant possibility of avoiding your harm, Dr. Negligence destroyed that possibility by failing to read those chest x-rays properly.

If you find any of this confusing, you are not alone. This complex Pennsylvania rule is mastered only by the most experienced medical malpractice attorneys.

Experienced medical malpractice attorneys, with the help of their topnotch medical experts, understand Pennsylvania’s complex requirements for proving medical malpractice. To speak with an experienced medical malpractice attorney and ensure the greatest likelihood of success in your complex medical malpractice claim, contact the attorneys at VSCP LAW (www.vscplaw.com).

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