The 4 Elements Needed to Prove Negligence in a Medical Malpractice Claim


When you go to the doctor to treat a medical issue, you don’t expect to feel worse after. And you certainly don’t expect to suffer an injury from the doctor’s care. When a doctor – or any healthcare professional – fails to treat their patient with competent care, that failure is called medical negligence or medical malpractice. And if that incompetent treatment causes the patient to suffer an injury, the patient likely has a viable medical malpractice claim, for which the patient may be able to compensated.

In order to prove your medical malpractice claim in Philadelphia or anywhere in Pennsylvania, for instance, your medical malpractice attorney in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania will have to prove the following four essential elements:


A professional duty is the first element in a medical malpractice claim in Philadelphia. This means that the medical malpractice lawyer has to establish that there was a doctor/patient (or healthcare staff/patient) relationship. You can ask: was this healthcare provider charged with taking care of the patient? If the answer is yes, then duty has been established.


The next element in your medical malpractice claim is breach of duty. Once you’ve proven that the healthcare professional had a duty to care for the patient, your medical malpractice attorney must next prove that the healthcare professional breached that duty. In other words, you have to prove that they failed to provide the standard of care expected of them. An example of breach of duty is when a surgeon leaves a surgical tool inside your body during surgery. Surgeons are expected to remove all surgical tools used during surgery from the body cavity. If they fail to do so, they have breached the duty they owed to their patient.

Other examples of breach of duty include:

  • Failure to diagnose cancer
  • Not recognizing signs of stroke
  • Incorrectly diagnosing a heart condition
  • Prescribing the wrong medicine or dosage of medicine
  • Discharging a patient too early from the hospital
  • Failure to prevent infection

In all of the above instances, the healthcare professional had a duty to protect the patient and failed to meet that duty — or breached that duty.


The next element your medical malpractice attorney must prove is causation. Sometimes this is referred to as “legal causation” in Pennsylvania. The question that needs to be asked is, “Did the healthcare provider’s breach of duty increase the risk of harm to the patient?” If the answer is “yes,” you have met this essential element of causation. It is possible for a doctor to make a mistake and a patient suffers an injury, but there’s no legal causal link between the doctor’s mistake and the patient’s injuries. In order for the medical malpractice claim to be successful, your medical malpractice attorney must prove that the doctor’s mistake increased the risk of – or legally caused – your injuries


The last element your medical malpractice attorney must prove is damages. Your attorney will need to establish that as the result of your healthcare professional’s medical negligence, you suffered injuries. These injuries may be new injuries or they may be an old injury that has been aggravated or worsened due to the healthcare professional’s mistake.

If your medical malpractice attorney can prove the above four elements, your medical malpractice claim will have all the essential elements to move forward in a court of law in Philadelphia or elsewhere in Pennsylvania.

If you believe you or a loved one has suffered an injury as the result of a healthcare professional’s mistake, contact VSCP LAW at

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