At the end of a doctor’s appointment, we expect to feel better and be on the road to recovery. Sadly, this does not always happen when a medical professional makes a mistake or provides substandard care.
In these devastating situations, it can be crucial for patients to understand the difference between an adverse medical event and medical malpractice.
Elements of a medical malpractice claim
Medicine is not perfect. People respond differently to medication and have unique biological responses to illness. Thus, it is entirely possible for a person to experience medical events like infection, illness or worsening conditions, despite being treated by a physician.
But just because these outcomes are undesirable does not mean a patient is the victim of malpractice.
In order for someone to pursue a medical malpractice claim in Ontario, they must be able to show the following elements:
- The medical worker owed a duty of care to the victim;
- The medical professional failed to provide a standard level of care;
- The patient suffered harm as a result of that breach; and
- The medical practitioner’s action or inaction was a direct cause or contributing factor to the injury
In other words, if a medical physician acted improperly or failed to comply with reasonable medical standards while treating a patient, they could be responsible for any economic and non-economic damages that person experiences.
Challenges of building a claim
Some situations seem quite obvious when it comes to making a malpractice claim. Wrong-site surgeries or retained objects are some examples of egregious, avoidable mistakes doctors make that endanger patients.
Similarly, if there is evidence that a doctor was impaired, untrained or careless in their actions when treating a patient, negligence can be easier to prove.
However, medicine is highly technical and complicated. Test interpretations vary, and certain symptoms can suggest multiple conditions. Further, surprising events can arise during a procedure, requiring doctors and nurses to make swift decisions without the benefit of more information.
Thus, it can be challenging to build a malpractice claim without the help of a lawyer experienced in this area. Generally, they will know what to look for and how to determine whether the necessary elements are in place to pursue damages from negligent parties.