Elements of a Medical Malpractice Claim

By David Hammond

If you have been injured, harmed, or suffered due to receiving negligent medical care, you may be entitled to compensation through a medical malpractice claim. You see, medical professionals, owe patients a duty of care commensurate with that expected of similarly situated medical professionals of the same field and of comparable geographical locations, among other relevant factors. Those doctors, nurses, and other health care workers who fail to uphold such a duty can cause serious and lifelong harm to patients who trusted them with their well-being. In order to bring a successful medical malpractice claim, however, certain elements must be met with legally sound evidence.

Elements of a Medical Malpractice Claim

Medical malpractice refers to a legal claim based on the action or omission of a medical professional that deviates from the accepted medical standard of practice that results in harm to a patient. In order to bring a successful medical malpractice claim, a plaintiff must be able to establish four elements:

  • Duty:  The medical professional, oftentimes a doctor, must have owed the plaintiff a duty of care. This is commonly established easily just by demonstrating that the doctor-patient relationship existed. When a medical professional is responsible for providing some type of evaluation, treatment, or care for a person, the duty element is usually established. The duty itself refers to a duty to act within an applicable standard of care which will be discussed in more detail in the next element.


  • Breach: The plaintiff must be able to demonstrate that the health care professional breached the relevant standard of care. In medical malpractice claims, the applicable standard of care is the level of care that a similarly situated medical professional would have provided under comparable circumstances. The standard of care takes into account things such as the specialized knowledge the doctor should have had, among other relevant factors. In medical malpractice cases, expert testimony is typically needed from other medical professionals in order to establish the standard of care that should have been exercised and to support a claim that the relevant standard was breached.


  • Causation: The breach of the duty of care owed by the health care professional to the patient must have been the direct cause or a contributing factor to some harm suffered by the patient. This may have been an exacerbation of a preexisting condition or the development of a new medical issue in the patient, among other things.


  • Damages: The plaintiff must also be able to prove that he or she suffered damages as a result of the health care professional’s breach of duty. In medical malpractice cases, compensable damages may include things like medical expenses, the cost of future medical care, lost wages, pain, and suffering, and other losses sustained as a result of the medical malpractice.

Medical malpractice can take many forms including:

  • Surgical mistakes
  • Misdiagnosis
  • Delayed diagnosis or missed diagnosis
  • Birth errors
  • Prescription errors 

In any of these forms, the same four elements must be established.

Syracuse Medical Malpractice Attorneys

If you have been hurt due to negligent medical care, the dedicated team of medical malpractice attorneys at CDH Law is here for you. Contact us today.

About the Author
David is a former military prosecutor and defense lawyer with over a decade of experience fighting for service members and their families. He served nine years and two combat tours as an active duty US Army officer, then joined the Reserves and settled down in Syracuse to be near family. Now representing people across Central New York charged with serious felonies, misdemeanors, DWIs, and traffic offenses, he puts the same level of commitment into his civilian law practice. If you have any questions regarding this article, you can contact David here.