The Evidence You Need to Prove Medical Malpractice In Oklahoma
Medical malpractice claims are complicated. Not only is there a significant burden of proof on the plaintiff, but these cases are sensitive by nature—health histories and records are very personal and heavily protected by law. But medical malpractice is something that’s important to fight against.
If you or a loved one has suffered an injury that might be due to medical malpractice, you have every right to pursue justice. In this article, we’ll give an overview of how you can prove your medical malpractice claim.
What is medical malpractice?
According to the American Board of Professional Liability Attorneys, “Medical malpractice occurs when a hospital, doctor or other health care professional, through a negligent act or omission, causes an injury to a patient. The negligence might be the result of errors in diagnosis, treatment, aftercare or health management.”
It's important to understand that not every patient injury or negative treatment outcome can be blamed on a healthcare professional’s negligence. If the doctor acted with reasonable care and skill when treating the patient, medical malpractice most likely has not occurred—even if the patient's condition worsens. That being said, negligence does happen and medical malpractice is a broad term that can apply to a variety of situations.
See Also: “5 Common Types of Medical Malpractice.”
How do you prove medical malpractice?
There is no Oklahoma statute that spells out exactly what plaintiffs must prove in their medical malpractice lawsuits. But your lawyer will know what the courts expect to see and will lead the entire process of getting the proper information and documentation in order.
The statute of limitations for medical malpractice lawsuits in Oklahoma is two years and the clock starts ticking the date the patient knew or should have known malpractice occurred or was discovered. Typically, the date of injury is the start date for calculating the 2-year deadline for filing suit. Using the injury date avoids the possibility of the court dismissing your case being filed too late.
In general, there are four essential elements that typically must be proven in a medical malpractice claim: duty of care, violation of that duty, causation, and damages.
Duty: The Provider-Patient Relationship
You must prove that you were a patient in a relationship with the doctor, hospital, or other health care provider to perform medical services. Doing this establishes that the physician or other health care provider owed you a “duty” to provide care that is consistent with the standard of care, meaning what other doctors or providers would have treated you in similar circumstances.
Breach of Duty: A Deviation From the Standard of Care
For this portion, you must establish the appropriate medical standard of care for the conditions you were being treated for. In other words, outline the treatment and skills that similar healthcare providers would have reasonably used in the situation. Then you must show how your doctor deviated from that medical standard of care and breached their duty by delivering sub-standard treatment.
Causation: The Link Between the Negligence and the Injury
You need to prove that the medical provider’s breach of duty—whether it was an action or failure to act—caused an injury, such as a worsened or new health condition.
Damages: The Harm You Suffered
For the final element, you need to prove that the injury caused you harm. Legally speaking, “harm” is usually defined and quantified as damages. The damages you seek in a civil suit can include both economic (e.g. lost wages, past and future medical expenses) and non-economic (e.g. pain and suffering) losses.
What evidence is needed to prove medical malpractice?
There is all sorts of evidence needed to prove your claim in a medical malpractice case. The most important evidence is the medical and hospital records of your care to know what actually happened. Other records include:
- Incident reports
- Test results
- Prescription records
- Healthcare regulations
- Video or audio recordings
- Photographs of injuries
- Witness statements
- Medical bills
- Pay stubs
- Medication and medical equipment receipts
Even if you’re not sure whether you have a medical malpractice claim, it’s important to keep any documents or records like those listed above in case you need that evidence later in court.
Take photos or videos of physical injuries; use a calendar or diary to record appointments and even daily pain reports or complications; and save all receipts for anything related to payment for your treatment or care. It’s better to have more documentation that you might need and your lawyer will guide you on what is admissible (and essential) for your claim, and what is not.
What damages can you recover?
Even if it's evident that a doctor has breached their duty and given a patient substandard care, the patient cannot file a medical malpractice if they didn't suffer harm. That is why proving the four elements we previously discussed with rock-solid evidence is so important. Evidence of the harm is also used to help the judge or jury calculate the proper amount of damages to award the plaintiff.
If you did suffer an injury and pursue a medical malpractice claim, you can ask for both economic and non-economic damages:
Specific and direct financial losses due to your injury or harm. Examples include:
- Medical bills to-date and those likely in the future due to the injury
- Physical therapy costs
- Lost wages, including future lost wages
- Harms caused to the spouse, such as loss of injured spouses services
Intangible losses that cannot be tied to a specific financial amount. Examples include:
- Mental anguish
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of consortium or companionship
- Reputational damage
In Oklahoma, there is no cap on the amount of damages you can seek in medical malpractice civil cases. You of course must be able to justify the amount you’re seeking, which is another reason why collecting evidence to prove medical malpractice is so important. Again, your lawyer will be your advocate and guide—you can rely on their experience to help you estimate the damages you should seek.
How We Can Help
It’s true that medical malpractice cases are notoriously complex, but when you have an experienced attorney in your corner who understands Oklahoma’s laws, it all becomes much simpler. GT Law Firm has handled medical negligence claims for over 30 years and our experience makes all the difference in the outcomes of our clients’ cases. What can we do to help you and your family? Contact us today for a free case evaluation.
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