Is it an Unfortunate Medical Event or a Breach of Duty of Care?

by | May 24, 2023 | Medical Malpractice

Suppose you experience unexpected problems after a medical procedure or doctor’s appointment. You may wonder if your issues stemmed from a series of unfortunate circumstances or were caused by a legal violation that could trigger a breach of duty of care claim. Here’s what you need to know about bringing this type of medical malpractice claim forward.

What is a Breach of Duty of Care?

In the context of a medical malpractice claim, a breach of duty of care means that a provider failed to follow accepted practices or made decisions contrary to what a reasonable professional in the same situation would make.

Some of the examples might include:

  • Misdiagnosis or failure to diagnose a condition: If a healthcare provider fails to identify or misdiagnoses a medical condition, it may result in the patient receiving inappropriate or delayed treatment.
  • Surgical errors can include performing the wrong procedure, operating on the wrong body part, or leaving surgical instruments inside a patient.
  • Medication errors can include prescribing the wrong medication, administering the wrong dosage, or failing to recognize adverse drug interactions.
  • Birth injuries: This can include injuries to the mother or child during childbirth, such as brain damage, cerebral palsy, or Erb’s palsy.
  • Anesthesia errors can include administering too much anesthesia, failing to monitor the patient during the procedure, or failing to recognize adverse reactions to the anesthesia.
  • Failure to obtain informed consent occurs when a healthcare provider does not adequately inform a patient about the risks and benefits of a procedure or treatment before obtaining their consent.
  • Failure to follow up or provide appropriate aftercare can include failing to schedule a follow-up appointment.

On the other hand, here are some examples of what potentially may not be considered a breach of duty of care:

  • Unavoidable complications: Sometimes, unexpected complications can occur despite providing appropriate medical care. For example, a patient may experience an allergic reaction to a medication despite being correctly prescribed and administered.
  • Patient noncompliance: If a patient does not follow the prescribed treatment plan or fails to disclose important medical information, the healthcare provider may not be liable for any adverse outcomes.
  • A mistake that did not cause harm: If a healthcare provider makes an error, but it does not result in any harm to the patient, it may not be considered medical malpractice.

Unfortunately, there are few guarantees when treating complicated medical conditions. The practice of medicine is highly complex, and it changes constantly. Therefore, a provider in one situation may make a decision that another provider may not have made without it rising to the level of negligence.

Because of this, legal claims often require intensive investigation and the input of medical experts who can testify as to what should or should not have happened in a particular scenario.

Other Elements of Breach of Duty of Care Claims

A medical malpractice claim could be viable if a person experiences an adverse medical event and has reason to believe a healthcare professional was responsible. However, other factors must also be in place to take legal action.

Owing a Duty

To establish that a healthcare provider owes a duty in a medical malpractice claim, the plaintiff must demonstrate that there was a patient relationship with the medical provider, to begin with. Questions to answer regarding this element include:

  • What was the relationship between a patient and a provider?
  • Was the person a regular patient, or was the doctor responding to an emergency?
  • What was the procedure involved?
  • Was the patient aware of the risks and alternatives?

The answers to these questions can help determine whether the provider owed a duty to a patient.


If someone does make a mistake or poor decision in a patient’s care, it must have caused damages or losses. A medical malpractice claim may seek several types of damages for a breach of duty of care. Some examples include:

  1. Economic damages: These are intended to compensate the victim for financial losses resulting from the breach of duty of care. This may include medical bills, lost wages, and other related expenses.
  2. Non-economic damages: These are intended to compensate the victim for intangible losses, such as pain and suffering, emotional distress, and loss of enjoyment of life.
  3. Punitive damages: In some cases, punitive damages may be sought if the breach of duty of care was particularly egregious or intentional. Punitive damages are intended to punish the defendant and deter similar behavior in the future.
  4. Wrongful death damages: If a patient dies because of a breach of duty of care, their surviving family members may be able to seek damages for wrongful death, including economic and non-economic losses.

Economic and non-economic losses can be immense. Identifying how much medical negligence has affected a patient can bolster legal claims and increase potential compensation awards.

Menzer Law Can Help

It is important to note that every patient’s situation is unique, and whether an action is considered medical malpractice depends on the specific facts of the case. If you suspect that you or a loved one has been a victim of medical malpractice, you should consult with an experienced medical malpractice attorney to discuss your legal options.

Attorney Matt Menzer is a highly-skilled, respected, and compassionate lawyer who has provided dedicated legal representation to those who have suffered from medical malpractice or serious personal injury for over 30 years. You can count on Matt to protect your rights and help you achieve your deserved compensation. Contact Menzer Law at 206.903.1818 or fill out this online form, and our team will review your claim at no cost.

Disclaimer: This content is written for educational purposes and to provide general information and understanding of the law. You should not use this information as a substitute for legal advice from a licensed attorney in your state.