What are the Four Elements of a Medical Malpractice Case?


When you go to the doctor for 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 and possibly their family may be compensated.

In order to prove your medical malpractice claim, your medical malpractice lawyer in Philadelphia 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 attorney 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 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 Philadelphia medical malpractice attorney must prove is causation. If you can establish that your injury would not have occurred if it weren’t for the defendants’ actions or inactions, then you have proved causation. In other words, in order for the medical malpractice claim to be successful, your attorney must prove that the healthcare provider’s mistake – their negligence – led to your injuries and/or increased your risk of harm of sustaining your injuries. It’s not necessary to prove that the healthcare provider’s negligent actions were the only cause of your injuries. It’s only necessary to prove that due the medical provider’s negligence increased the risk of harm to you.


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.

If you believe you or a loved one has suffered an injury as the result of a healthcare professional’s mistake, contact the Scranton medical malpractice lawyers and Philadelphia medical malpractice lawyers at VSCP LAW at vscplaw.com.

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