The practice of medicine is not an exact science. Not all medical conditions are treatable, and not all surgical or other procedures are successful in getting a patient the result they and their doctors were hoping for. The complexities of medicine and of human illness make a medical malpractice case a tricky thing to win. Not all medical mistakes will be seen as negligence, and not all mistakes will be the reason someone has a poor outcome. A quick outline of what is needed to have a successful medical malpractice claim can help distinguish claims that may be viable, from ones that are unlikely to succeed.

1) Every medical malpractice claim has a healthcare practitioner or facility that has made a mistake or omission. It can’t just be any mistake or omission though – the mistake or omission needs to be one that a prudent and careful healthcare practitioner or facility in the same situation wouldn’t have made. Everyone makes mistakes sometimes, but not all mistakes are negligence. In order to be successful in a medical malpractice case, the mistake or omission needs to be beyond what you would expect from a reasonably prudent person in the same situation.

2) Even if a healthcare practitioner has made a mistake or omission, and even if that mistake or omission is beyond what you would expect from a reasonably careful practitioner or facility, a lawsuit will only be successful if the mistake or omission has caused the harm a person is complaining of. Thankfully, some mistakes cause no harm at all or cause delays or issues that can be quickly fixed without any harm to the patient. Only mistakes that lead to harm to someone can be pursued in the Courts.

Even after these criteria have been met, it can take time and expertise to sort out the details of whether or not a medical malpractice claim will be successful and to find out if all of the parts of a potential lawsuit support going forward. A thorough review of all of the medical and legal issues should be conducted before any decisions about a lawsuit are made.

Greg Neinstein