How Does A Jury Determine If A Doctors Actions Were Negligent

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Medical malpractice law suits can be very complicated, time-consuming and expensive. Deciding if a a health care provider was negligent under the law can be challenging to prove. As with all medical procedures, a certain level of risk is involved, however there is a difference between a risk and a mistake. When risks are exchanged with a misdiagnosis or failure to appropriately treat a patient, it becomes medical malpractice. According to the World Health Organization (WHO) one in 10 patients worldwide are affected by preventable medical errors. These errors are often referred to as human medical errors, whatever the name, no one wants to be on the receiving end of a scary mistake such as these. Therefore, it is important to understand exactly what has occurred and determine if in fact you, or a loved one, has become a victim of medical negligence. If your case were to reach a trial, contemplate a few of the following characteristics that a jury would consider to find the case in your favor.

A health provider or doctor is not negligent just because a patient is injured or has suffered some loss while under their care. The plaintiff, the patient or injured party, must prove several elements of his or her case before a jury will determine a doctor's negligence.

1) The first element is deciding if the doctor was responsible for the treatment of this patient? If so, the doctor had a duty of care for the plaintiff and the first element in determining negligence is met.

2) The second element requires the help of expert witnesses, who are often uninvolved accredited doctors who practice in similar medical fields. Oftentimes, they are testifying on the accepted standard of care a reasonable doctor would perform in a similar situation. This testimony helps the jury to determine what a patient should expect from a doctor in the given circumstances of the plaintiff. Based on this information, which is often conflicting with each side bringing their own expert witnesses, the jury determines whether or not the doctor followed the generally accepted standard of care. If the doctor did not, then he or she may be negligent. However, there are other elements to consider before a jury would render a verdict.

3) The third element makes the link between the doctor's actions, or inactions in some cases, with the injury or loss to the patient. Were the injuries to the patient caused by the doctor's failure to provide the generally accepted standard of care? Typically in medical malpractice suits, the plaintiff is obviously not a healthy person. They are suffering, or they may have already lost their battle with life. However, was the suffering directly due to the doctor's failure or due to the failure of the patient's health? There must be a solid and undeniable relationship between the injury to the patient and the doctor's failure to provide commonly accepted medical care. If this can be proven, again through expert witness testimony, the doctor is likely negligent.

4) The final element is the determination of damages. This can be medical expenses, lost wages, and even compensation for pain and suffering. As a direct result to the health care providers negligence, proof must be shown that the patient has suffered any incurred damages during that time period.

The plaintiff must prove each of the previous elements by a preponderance of the evidence, the generally accepted standard of proof in civil law cases. Commonsense causation is when jurors try to identify links between the conduct and the outcome. Understanding that jurors will be examining observed mistakes and whether or not they played a role in the outcome, can aid in building a case. Typically, jurors are not considering the extensive medical evidence displayed to them, rather they are contemplating the plausibility of the patients accusations. They may ask themselves if the mistakes were serious, or reprehensible. In addition, they may consider if the outcome could have potentially been different if the medical staff had acted differently. Also, most jurors will want to know the time frame between the medical error and the injury. Basically, when the plaintiff's side has conclusively linked the error to the unfortunate outcome, the jury is better prepared to determine if the doctor was negligent. Using commonsense to determine is a case may seem simple, considering the expansive medical explanations that have been produced. However, when both sides are filling jury's minds with conflicting medical jargon, it is only natural that they would rely on basic commonsense to determine the verdict.

Determining medical negligence is challenging for patients as well as a jury. The proof must be evident that a standard of care was not given when reasonable physicians would otherwise provide. Keep in mind that although medical errors do occur, that the proof must be clear and evident to a jury. Fortunately, jury members are just like patients they are regular people using their best commonsense to determine what is right and wrong. No one should be a victim to medical negligence, especially during the trying times of a serious illness.


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