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Medical Malpractice is Harder to Prove Than You May Expect

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Even though the US healthcare system boasts some of the world’s most esteemed treating physicians, the sad reality is that more Americans die each year from medical negligence than they do, automobile accidents. 

Medical malpractice can implicate various professionals and corporations who fail to meet an industry-specific consensus known as a “Standard of Care.” Culprits range from surgeons, nurses, and physician assistants at major regional hospitals and local medical clinics.

Attorney Bob Cheeley has handled hundreds of cases throughout his legal career. He warns potential plaintiffs about the arduous task of proving medical malpractice, even when negligence seems obvious from devastating injuries. 

“I get a lot of satisfaction out of the cases I do take. When I get justice for a client, it is a very gratifying feeling,” Cheeley said. “Many times, these people have just been run over by the system.” 

For a jury to be convinced that a plaintiff suffered medical malpractice, one must prove several facts.

  • A breach of the standard of care
  • Causation
  • Personal injury
  • Damages

Due to some of the subjective criteria involved with assessing the quality of care, Cheeley rarely takes a malpractice case to simply run with it.

“Lawyers for the medical side will contend there was no breach of the standard of care, and they’ll call in experts to say as much,” Cheeley said. “They’ll also fight you on causation. It’s a big boy game. If you’re going to compete in this field, you had better buckle your chin strap, and prepare to spend a lot of time and money getting your client’s case to a point where it can be either settled or tried.” 

Cheeley estimates that 98% of the potential cases he reviews do not have sufficient evidence to persuade a jury. With such a low success rate, a medical professional who examined or treated the plaintiff may have breached the standard of care. However, a second opinion from a physician with similar expertise may offer a better opportunity for personal healing, as well as information about what may have occurred.

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