Pre-existing Conditions & Medical Malpractice
How Cause Impacts Your Negligence Claim
A medical malpractice case in Cleveland must establish the basic elements of negligence as follows
- The doctor or provider owed you a duty of care (you must prove the physician was treating you);
- The doctor failed to provide a reasonable standard of care;
- The doctor’s mistake caused your injury; and
- You suffered damages (a new injury or aggravation/worsening of an existing injury).
A pre-existing condition presents a challenge when establishing the third component: causation. You must be able to prove the doctor’s actions, or lack thereof, was the actual or proximate cause of your injuries.
The defense likely will try to argue that your injuries are tied entirely to a pre-existing condition. For instance, say you had a knee injury that required surgery and the orthopedic surgeon made an error during the procedure, resulting in chronic pain and reduced mobility. The defense may argue that these complications were due to the underlying condition – such as arthritis – instead of the surgeon’s error. This may greatly reduce or nullify the final settlement if the defense is successful in presenting such an argument.
What You Can Do to Protect Your Medical Malpractice Claim
A pre-existing condition does not automatically disqualify your medical malpractice claim. Below are three steps you can take to protect and strengthen your case:
1. Work with a medical malpractice attorney
– Hire a lawyer who has handled cases that are similar to your own. An attorney can draw on past case experience and legal precedent to establish a compelling case on your behalf. Ask the lawyer how your pre-existing injuries could impact your settlement.
2. Do not disclose any details about your medical history
– Naturally, your doctor and health care providers will already have had access to some – if not all – of your medical records. This does not mean you should disclose additional details if asked by the doctor’s insurance company. Instead, refer these requests to your attorney. The more information the defense has about your condition, the more they can use against you.
3. Present compelling evidence
– You must be able to present a compelling body of evidence to establish causation. This may include:
- A second opinion by a specialist or physician who can attest to the nature of your pre- and post-injury condition;
- X-rays, MRIs, CT scans and other diagnostic tools;
- Witness testimony (including medical experts);
- Hospital and medical records;
- Medical bills accrued in having to treat the malpractice injuries.
Your opinions and subjective statements will not be enough to establish causation – you must have objective evidence to verify your claim. A medical malpractice attorney can help you to pursue a challenging personal injury case in Cleveland. Schedule a free consultation with Ryan, LLP – call 877-864-9495 or contact us online
About the author of this article: Thomas Ryan