Tennessee Medical Malpractice Cases: What is Causation?
One thing that people don't understand about medical malpractice cases is that you not only have to prove that the healthcare provider made a mistake, you have to be able to prove that that mistake made some sort of difference -- caused some sort of injury or caused a death.
Let me give you an example. People run red lights all the time but you can't sue someone for running a red light. You can only sue somebody for running a red light if they actually strike your car or strike you.
The same thing is true with medical malpractice cases. Doctors and nurses are human, they make mistakes every single day. But unless they cause an injury because of that mistake, they can't be sued for it.
Almost every week we get a call from a woman who is concerned that her breast cancer diagnosis has been delayed. Those can be valid medical malpractice cases. But there has to be a sufficient period of time between when the breast cancer should've been diagnosed and it was actually diagnosed to make a difference in the outcome.
Many people who have breast cancer are going to end up with lobectomy or a mastectomy or radiation or chemotherapy or some combination thereof whenever it is diagnosed.
And the fact of the matter is, a small delay doesn't make that much difference in the ultimate treatment given to the patient. It is only a long delay that materially affects that patient's life or life expectancy where you can actually prove a lawsuit.
So it is what we call the causation question or callously perhaps sometimes, the 'so what' question. A mistake was made -- But what difference does that make to the patient's health and their life?
So what a careful malpractice lawyer does -- not only do I look to see if a healthcare provider has made a mistake but also whether that mistake actually made a difference in the care and treatment of the patient.
At the Law Offices of John Day, we've been examining these issues for over 32 years and we would be happy to look at your case and see if we can help you.