Negligence is defined as the failure to act with the same amount of care that a reasonable medical professional would have acted within the same situation. This has to be the direct reason for your injury for it to be a medical malpractice case.
Here’s a clear example of negligence: You bring your son into the doctor’s office to look at a deep laceration he just got while playing outside with his friends. The doctor calls him into the examination room, but is distracted and rushed from having so many patients that day. Unfazed by the depth of the wound, he says it needs just a few stitches. In doing this, he instinctively takes tools near him from a table – but unbeknownst to him, these tools had just been used to treat an infection. In addition, this decision goes against the policy to only use tools that were sterilized and in drawers.
A few days after this doctor visit, your son feels pain, gets sicker, and has a clear discoloration around the cut. His laceration is now infected, requiring hospitalization and extensive treatment. The doctor denies any and all responsibility for this infection.
This is a clear case of negligence from the description, but it also relates to the four elements of negligence. These are duty, breach, injury, and damages.
Duty: With a doctor/patient relationship established, the doctor now has a responsibility to give that patient reasonable care in their treatment, which includes following basic, standard guidelines followed by the community. In this case, the doctor’s duty was to perform a thorough examination of the child’s laceration, and treat it the way other doctors would under similar conditions.
Breach: If reasonable care and standard medical guidelines are not followed, then the duty has been breached by the doctor. Here, the doctor’s decision to use tools on the table breached his medical office’s protocol, and breached his doctor/patient relationship by using unsanitized tools to place your son at risk of infection.
Injury: For the doctor’s breach of duty to lead to negligent medical malpractice, an injury must be sustained by the wronged party. In this case, your attorney will need to prove that your son’s infection was caused by the unsterilized tools.
Damages: The injury must cause the victim to have suffered damages, whether they are economic or non-economic. Your son required hospitalization, and the subsequent medical bills were substantial. You may have also had to miss time at work to tend to your son.