When Pennsylvania residents take legal action against negligent hospitals or doctors that have caused them harm, the success of their medical malpractice lawsuits hinge on their ability to establish two key elements. The first is proving that the doctors who treated them or the medical facilities where they were treated acted in ways that did not meet generally accepted industry standards. Patients then have to show that their injury, loss or damage was caused directly by this substandard care.
Proving that the treatment they received failed to meet commonly accepted health care standards is often a straightforward process for medical malpractice plaintiffs. Specialists could testify that an undiagnosed serious disease would have likely been detected if doctors had ordered the proper tests, or convincing a jury that a surgeon made an error may be done by showing X-rays or MRI images that depict foreign objects left in a patient's body.
Establishing that such errors were the direct cause of injury, loss or damage is usually far more challenging. This is because medical science is highly objective, and even experienced doctors may disagree on the best way to treat a patient. Proving causation can be especially difficult when malpractice cases are based on a missed diagnosis. In these situations, the jury may determine that the plaintiff's outlook would have been bleak even if the doctor involved had ordered the appropriate tests and interpreted the results correctly.
Experienced personal injury attorneys may seek to settle medical malpractice lawsuits at the negotiating table when causation could be difficult to prove. The checks in these cases are usually written by insurance companies, and damages are often high. This means that medical malpractice defendants may be eager to avoid the risks of a jury decision even when their arguments seem compelling.