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What Are The Four D's Of Medical Malpractice Claims (And Why Are They So Important)?

Whenever someone thinks about initiating a lawsuit over an injury caused by a physician or other medical provider, there are four important issues that a personal injury attorney needs to assess.

Collectively, they're sometimes called the "Four D's" of medical malpractice, and they're what it takes to make a successful case. Learn more about what they are and why they're important.

Number One: Duty

Before you can file a claim, you have to reasonably establish that the physician or medical provider owed you a duty of some sort to provide care.

In other words, was there a medical provider-patient relationship at the time you were injured? When did it start? This isn't always a clear-cut issue.

For example, if someone is having a heart attack and goes to the emergency room, does the hospital-patient relationship start as soon as the symptoms are described to the nurse at the check-in window? Does it start as soon as the patient is actually seen by someone? There are arguments for both sides.

Number Two: Deviation 

Was there a deviation from the normal standard of care that a patient has a right to expect? What was it, and when did it occur? What is "standard" for the area?

Again, these can be difficult questions. A patient seeing a general physician in a rural area, for example, cannot reasonably expect the same standard of care that he or she would receive from a specialist in a particular area of medicine at a big hospital with tons of diagnostic equipment at hand.

Number Three: Direct Causation

You have to show that the medical provider's actions or inactions directly led to some sort of injury. 

For example, if a doctor misdiagnosed you and that misdiagnosis caused you to miss a critical window of time in which treatment would have prevented your condition from getting worse, there's a clear line between the doctor's actions and your worsened condition. Causation isn't always easy to establish, however, since medical issues can often involve a lot of "maybes" when it comes to the outcome of any type of care.

Number Four: Damages

In order to sue, you have to show that you suffered some sort of injury, or "damages." Your injury could include the negative effects an action or inaction had on your health, unnecessary medical bills, lost wages, your emotional distress, the loss of enjoyment in your life, and your pain and suffering.

Often, the damages from medical malpractice are severe. Sometimes, however, they're very slight -- which makes it unreasonable to pursue a costly lawsuit. 

It helps to give these four issues some thought before you head into a personal injury attorney's office. They're likely to be the focus of your very first conversation about any potential case. For more information, contact a local firm like Wegner C Dennis & Assoc.