All medical procedures, especially surgical procedures, come with certain health and injury risks. However, those risks should never be caused by a medical professional’s negligence. When this happens, injured patients can file a medical malpractice lawsuit and recover compensation for their injuries by proving causation.

What Are the Four Elements of a Medical Malpractice Claim?

If you suffer injuries due to your medical provider’s negligent actions, the law permits you to file a medical malpractice lawsuit against the guilty party, but proving causation is necessary to win your case. You must show that your injury would not have happened if your medical provider met the medical standard of care. In a medical malpractice lawsuit, you must prove these four elements:

  • The medical provider owed a duty of care
  • The medical provider breached that duty
  • The breach was the cause of harm to the patient
  • The patient’s harm resulted in damages

Understanding Causation in Medical Malpractice

Medical malpractice lawsuits are tried in civil court, so proof beyond a reasonable doubt is not required. The patient must only prove causation by a preponderance of evidence, meaning that there is greater than a 50% chance that damages were caused by the medical provider’s failure to meet the required standard of health care, or by negligent actions.

How to Prove Causation in a Chicago Medical Malpractice Claim

To prove causation in a medical negligence action, you must prove two things: 1- the negligent act was the actual cause of the patient’s harm, and 2- the negligent act was the proximate cause of the patient’s harm.

  • Actual Harm – If a patient has a surgical procedure and the surgeon leaves surgical sponges or a scalpel inside the patient, the patient will suffer harm due to this never event caused by the surgeon’s negligent actions.
  • Foreseeable Harm – If a cancer patient receives a delayed or inaccurate diagnosis due to misread ex-rays or staff fatigue, it is foreseeable that the patient’s condition may worsen without treatment over time due to the physician’s negligent actions.

To prove causation, you don’t always need to prove the actual cause of patient harm. In some medical malpractice cases, a medical malpractice lawyer can win a case with proximate cause by establishing a direct link between the provider’s actions and the patient’s foreseeable harm.