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Medical Malpractice Lawyers: Proving the Existence of Doctor-Patient Relationship Is Essential

When attending to patients, medical professionals have to abide by a “Standard of Care”, which states that it is their general duty to prevent others from coming to harm. However, due to differing circumstances, doctors may make mistakes leading to misdiagnosis of a condition, prescription of wrong medication, or complications with medical procedures. It is your right, therefore, as a victim or as a surviving family member of the deceased to press charges.

The first thing medical malpractice lawyers establish to build a case is the existence of a doctor-patient relationship. This is a prerequisite to prove that the physician being sued is indeed the one accountable for the resulting injury or death of the patient.

Proof of Doctor-Patient Relationship Is Essential to Malpractice Cases

What Constitutes a Doctor-Patient Relationship

For there to be an existing doctor-patient relationship, several conditions must be met. Generally, the relationship should be voluntary – meaning that the patient hired the doctor, and the doctor agreed to be hired in turn. Medical records and related documents must support this and show three facts: 1) the patient chose to be treated by the physician in question, 2) the patient submitted to examinations and treatment for medical conditions under supervision by the doctor, and 3) the treatment was ongoing.

Lawyers will generally request for a complete copy of medical records. It should show the full course of the treatment to establish that the patient is owed a legal duty of care at the time when the malpractice occurred. A lawyer may further support the claim by finding witnesses to provide testimony that proves the existence of a doctor-patient relationship.

Ambiguity with Legal Duty of Care

Courts will traditionally accept contact between the two parties, bill for services, specific opinion rendered and if a history or physical examination was done as valid proof. In some cases where these elements may not be present, however, the relationship between patient and legal professional may be harder to prove.

For instance, some doctors can do consultations on telephones or through video call. The defendant can say that they never had a direct interaction with the patient. However, if the physician gave medical advice during a call or if the doctor called a patient to discuss their case, then it can be argued that a relationship exists.

No doctor-patient relationship is formed in situations where third-party doctors were hired to provide independent opinion about a patient – save for a few special circumstances. For example, if a doctor performed a pre-employment physical exam and did not report a life-threatening condition, he or she can be held liable. Failure to inform the patient of a potentially fatal illness is considered gross negligence by any court.

Factors that determine the existence of patient-doctor relationship can also differ from state to state. It’s best to hire a medical malpractice lawyer who is familiar with local regulations in your area.

Sources:

Medical Malpractice Basics, NOLO.com

A Doctor’s Duty of Care, AllLaw.com