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In a Medical Malpractice Case What Does Causation Mean?

Fairfax Injury Lawyer Brien Roche Addresses In A Medical Malpractice Case What Does Causation Mean

Brien Roche

.In a medical malpractice case what does causation mean is an important question to have answered.  In “legal lingo” causation means proximate cause.  The word proximate technically is the opposite of approximate.  In common usage approximate means “almost”.  The technical definition of approximate means “not near”.  The word proximate means literally “near”.  As such the way to think of proximate cause is that it is the near cause as opposed to the remote cause.  This concept is explained in a bit more detail in my book entitled Law 101.   The example that I gave in that book of proximate cause is an instance where a father is playing a game of catch with a child and the father throws the ball a bit too hard and as a result it goes through the neighbor’s window, out through the window into the back of the house onto the back porch knocking over the metal grill which then rolls down the hill and strikes another neighbor in that downhill yard.  That other neighbor dies from the impact.  The question then arises as to whether or not the father’s negligence is a proximate cause of the neighbor’s death.  That ultimate question probably would be submitted to a jury for determination.  However from an objective point of view it’s difficult to imagine that the father’s negligence is the proximate or near cause of the neighbor’s death since the father had no real reason to expect that the ball he was throwing would necessarily go through the neighbor’s house from front to back, out the back window, hit a grill, knock the grill down the hill and kill a neighbor at the bottom of the hill.  That is not something that is reasonably foreseeable and therefore probably there is no proximate cause there.  If on the other hand the ball had hit the homeowner who was standing in the front window looking at the father and child having a game of catch then it is more likely in that instance that there might be a finding of proximate cause i.e., that the father’s negligence was a proximate cause of the neighbor being struck.

In a Medical Malpractice Case What Does Causation Mean Is Best Answered by Looking at Forseeability

In the context of a medical malpractice case that type of analysis may have some application although the analysis tends to be more complicated.  That is, a frequent defense in a medical malpractice case is that even if the doctor was negligent the patient would have died anyhow.  If that is the case then the doctor’s negligence is not a proximate cause of the death of the patient.  I call this defense the “shit happens” defense.  That type of defense is especially pertinent in misdiagnosis cases where the doctor has not made the proper diagnosis and as a result the patient dies.  The defense that is frequently asserted is that even if the diagnosis had been made at that time the outcome would have been the same i.e., death.

The point to be made in regards to causation is that this frequently is a sticky point in regards to a medical malpractice case.  Many medical malpractice cases are tried on that issue.  In many cases there is no significant issue as to the doctor’s fault but rather it becomes a question of whether or not that fault was in fact a proximate cause of damage to the patient.

As such it is important for the patient or the client to understand this concept of causation.

For more information on medical malpractice see the other pages on this site dealing with causation and see the pages on Wikipedia

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In a Medical Malpractice Case What Does Causation Mean?

Fairfax Injury Lawyer Brien Roche Addresses In A Medical Malpractice Case What Does Causation Mean

Brien Roche

.In a medical malpractice case what does causation mean is an important question to have answered.  In “legal lingo” causation means proximate cause.  The word proximate technically is the opposite of approximate.  In common usage approximate means “almost”.  The technical definition of approximate means “not near”.  The word proximate means literally “near”.  As such the way to think of proximate cause is that it is the near cause as opposed to the remote cause.  This concept is explained in a bit more detail in my book entitled Law 101.   The example that I gave in that book of proximate cause is an instance where a father is playing a game of catch with a child and the father throws the ball a bit too hard and as a result it goes through the neighbor’s window, out through the window into the back of the house onto the back porch knocking over the metal grill which then rolls down the hill and strikes another neighbor in that downhill yard.  That other neighbor dies from the impact.  The question then arises as to whether or not the father’s negligence is a proximate cause of the neighbor’s death.  That ultimate question probably would be submitted to a jury for determination.  However from an objective point of view it’s difficult to imagine that the father’s negligence is the proximate or near cause of the neighbor’s death since the father had no real reason to expect that the ball he was throwing would necessarily go through the neighbor’s house from front to back, out the back window, hit a grill, knock the grill down the hill and kill a neighbor at the bottom of the hill.  That is not something that is reasonably foreseeable and therefore probably there is no proximate cause there.  If on the other hand the ball had hit the homeowner who was standing in the front window looking at the father and child having a game of catch then it is more likely in that instance that there might be a finding of proximate cause i.e., that the father’s negligence was a proximate cause of the neighbor being struck.

In a Medical Malpractice Case What Does Causation Mean Is Best Answered by Looking at Forseeability

In the context of a medical malpractice case that type of analysis may have some application although the analysis tends to be more complicated.  That is, a frequent defense in a medical malpractice case is that even if the doctor was negligent the patient would have died anyhow.  If that is the case then the doctor’s negligence is not a proximate cause of the death of the patient.  I call this defense the “shit happens” defense.  That type of defense is especially pertinent in misdiagnosis cases where the doctor has not made the proper diagnosis and as a result the patient dies.  The defense that is frequently asserted is that even if the diagnosis had been made at that time the outcome would have been the same i.e., death.

The point to be made in regards to causation is that this frequently is a sticky point in regards to a medical malpractice case.  Many medical malpractice cases are tried on that issue.  In many cases there is no significant issue as to the doctor’s fault but rather it becomes a question of whether or not that fault was in fact a proximate cause of damage to the patient.

As such it is important for the patient or the client to understand this concept of causation.

For more information on medical malpractice see the other pages on this site dealing with causation and see the pages on Wikipedia

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Contact Us For A Free Consultation