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What are the requirements to prove a medical malpractice claim?

Author / Coordinator:  
Scwebel, Goetz & Sieben
March 2007

ANSWER:

Medical malpractice occurs when a physician, nurse, or other medical provider does something that violates the practice of other medical providers treating the same condition or fails to do something that other medical providers would have done. The correct method of practice is called the "standard of care," but not every bad outcome from treatment involves a violation of the standard of care. To the contrary, while all physicians may make their very best efforts to treat a disease or condition, they do not guarantee the outcome of treatment. There is only a medical malpractice claim if they violated the "standard of care."

In addition to proving a violation of the standard of care, a victim of medical malpractice must also establish that the failure of the doctor, nurse or other medical provider to comply with the standard of care caused them injuries. Medical malpractice cases are invariably complex and involve substantial expenses. Before a medical malpractice lawsuit may be begun in the State of Minnesota, the attorney for the malpractice victim must certify that the case has been reviewed by an expert who would be qualified to testify in court, and that the case has been determined by that expert to be one of merit, that is, one in which the standard of care was violated and the plaintiff was injured as a result. There is an exception to this requirement where sufficient time to develop information does not exist before the statute of limitations expires or if sufficient information can't be obtained without a lawsuit to make a determination as to medical negligence. However, in any event, once a lawsuit is started, very shortly thereafter the law requires that very specific statements outlining what the medical provider did that was in violation of the standard of care, and the injuries that resulted, must be obtained and provided to the other side, or the case may be dismissed.