We recently provided an overview of causation—the second of the three elements of a medical malpractice case. We explained that causation is the essential link between a healthcare provider’s negligence and the patient’s damages. But how do you go about proving causation?

You may be wondering why causation is an issue in the first place. After all, if the provider was negligent and the patient was harmed, that seems enough to make the case. Not necessarily. There are two typical cases in which a patient may be unable to prove causation, even if able to prove negligence and damages.

First, it could be that something else was the real cause of the patient’s harm. Let’s say a person has a documented allergy to a medication. Let’s say that his doctor negligently prescribes him the medication anyway. And let’s finally say that after he starts taking the drug, the patient develops lung problems.

Yes, the patient will likely prove that the doctor was negligent in prescribing the drug. But what if a doctor presents convincing evidence that something else—fumes, smoking, another medication—caused the problems? In that case, the patient may be unable to prove that negligence was the cause of his injury. The patient may be unable to prove causation.

Second, the negligence may be inconsequential because it happened after the patient was already doomed. Let’s say a patient starts having a stroke while camping in the woods. It then takes the patient many hours to get to a hospital. The hospital then commits negligence by failing to diagnose the stroke for additional hours. Even though the negligence certainly did not help, the hospital may be able to prove that, by the time the patient arrived, it was too late to do anything about the stroke. The negligence did not change the outcome.

To read more about causation, click here.

To read more about negligence, click here.

To read more about the three elements of a medical malpractice case, click here.

The Bell Law Firm represents clients who have suffered death or catastrophic injury in medical malpractice and other personal injury cases.