What is causation in the context of a medical malpractice claim?

On Behalf of | Feb 1, 2024 | Medical Malpractice

Causation is a critical component that an injured party must prove if they want to pursue a medical malpractice claim. Causation, in legal terms, refers to the link between the negligent act of a health care provider and the injury suffered by the patient.

In a medical malpractice claim, it is not enough to show that a health care provider made a mistake. You must also prove that this mistake directly caused you harm. This connection is what justifies holding the provider legally responsible for the patient’s injuries. The aim is to hold providers accountable solely for the damage they have caused rather than for unfortunate outcomes outside of their control.

The challenges of proving causation in medical malpractice

In Missouri, as in other states, the burden of proof lies with the plaintiff or the patient who is bringing the claim. To meet this burden, the patient must typically provide expert medical testimony. The expert will need to articulate how the provider’s actions deviated from the standard of care and directly caused the patient’s injuries. However, proving causation can be challenging for several reasons:

  • Complex medical conditions: Patients often have pre-existing conditions or multiple health issues that can complicate the link between a provider’s negligence and the injury.
  • Concurrent treatment: If a patient is receiving treatment from multiple doctors and health care providers, it can be difficult to pinpoint which provider’s actions caused the harm.
  • Standard of care: The standard of care can vary by specialty and situation, making it harder to prove that a breach directly resulted in injury.
  • Time constraint issues: The time between the alleged act of negligence and the manifestation of the injury can affect causation. A long gap can make it harder to prove that the injury was a direct result of the negligence.
  • Defendant’s counterarguments: Health care providers and their insurers often have strong legal teams that will present counterarguments, such as suggesting that the injury was inevitable or that the patient’s own actions contributed to their harm.

Overcoming these challenges will take work, but it is possible. It is essential to conduct a thorough review of medical records and investigation of the events.

Proving causation will take the patient one step closer to securing fair compensation for the injuries they suffered from the people who were supposed to help them get better.


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