The 4 “Ds” of Medical Malpractice

There are, without a doubt, few guarantees when it comes to medicine. A doctor or hospital can do everything right and the patient can still have a bad outcome.

But doctors and hospitals don’t always do everything right. Far too often, mistakes are made — and that leads to negative consequences for their patients.

How do you tell the difference between an outcome that was just bad luck versus one that was the result of actual malpractice? It comes down to the four “Ds.”

What Are the Basic Elements of a Malpractice Case?

Essentially, every malpractice case — whether simple or complex — must establish that there were four elements present: duty, deviation, damages and direct cause. Here’s what those mean:

  1. Duty: The doctor, clinic, hospital or other medical provider had a duty to provide care to the patient.
  2. Deviation: The medical provider deviated from the acceptable standard of care or acceptable practices for the given situation for some reason.
  3. Damages: The patient was actually harmed in some way.
  4. Direct cause: The harm the patient suffered was directly related to the medical provider’s actions.

If any of these four are missing, a malpractice claim will fall apart.

Which Is Usually the Most Contested Issue?

Whether or not the provider’s mistake was actually a deviation from the standard of care can be a hotly contested issue in most cases simply because the “standard of care” is a variable that changes with the situation.

A patient cannot, for example, expect a general practitioner to have the experience and skills of a specialist. A patient in a rural hospital can’t expect the same high-quality treatment that they might get at Johns Hopkins or Cleveland Clinic.

Every medical malpractice claim is unique, because every patient is unique. If you have doubts about whether your own bad outcome or a loved one’s experience could be the result of medical malpractice, it’s wise to seek experienced legal assistance.

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