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Four Fundamental Legal Medical Malpractice Concepts

Feb 15, 2016 | Medical Malpractice

During the 2014 fiscal year, the number of medical malpractice claims in New York was 876 and in the fiscal year of 2015, that number went up to more than 900. In 2012, the total number of medical malpractice payouts in the United States was 12,142.

When it comes to the basic requirements of a medical malpractice claim, they are the same as any personal injury or negligence case. Basically, one person has been harmed due to the negligence of another. Whether you have been injured in a car accident, slip and fall or by a physician, proving duty, breach, damages, and causation are required to make sure that the verdict goes in your favor. However, medical malpractice cases vary as it can be slightly more challenging to prove each element than in other personal injury cases. Here is a closer look at the four elements:

Legal Duty of Care

In any negligence case, the most basic element you need to prove is that you were owed a legal duty of care by the defendant. In a medical malpractice case, doctors are charged with a duty that requires them to abide by a certain level of care because of the doctor-patient relationship.

Because the nature of medical practice is so technical, it is often required for plaintiffs in a medical malpractice case to obtain another physician to provide a sworn statement that attests that in their expert opinion, there was a breach of the standard of care in your case.

Breach of Legal Duty

In a medical malpractice case, the concept of breach of duty is fairly simple – if your doctor did not abide by the standard of care, there was a breach of duty to you as a patient. As stated above, when the standard of care is breached, some type of sworn statement is often required so that a court or jury can consider it.

There is an evolution in jurisprudence to the point where basically every malpractice case required expert support – testimony that will reinforce the arguments of the injured patient regarding duty, causation, breach, and damages. The theory is that only a medical professional can determine whether malpractice actually occurred, as opposed to a bad medical consequence resulting from correct and proper treatment.


The third element that is required to prove medical malpractice is causation. For proof of causation, you need to prove that the breach of duty by your doctor caused you harm. The easiest way to analyze causation is to ask yourself – if it had not been for my doctor’s actions, would I suffer this injury? If "no" is the answer, it is likely that you can prove causation. However, if the answer is "yes", there are problems in your case from the very start.

For example, if your doctor amputates your right foot instead of the left, you have been clearly harmed because of his breach of duty. There is also a direct causal connection between your injury and your doctor’s breach of duty. In this situation, it will be easy to establish proximate cause.


When it comes to proving the damage element, you need to prove that as a result of all the elements, the breach of the standard of care by your doctor actually caused some type of harm – whether it physical, psychological, financial or otherwise.

In medical malpractice cases, there can be both economic and noneconomic damages. Many states allow for punitive damages as well. However, over the last few years, the trend in medical malpractice cases is for state legislatures to place caps on damages that are non-economic. The laws vary depending on the state you live in.

If you or a loved one has been harmed due to the negligence of a New York doctor, you need to seek the expertise of medical malpractice lawyers at Rosenberg, Minc, Falkoff, & Wolff of RMFW Law at 212 697 9280.

The first meeting is free. We have won millions of dollars for past clients, you can be on this monumental list. Give us a call. We know what a winning case appears like.