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Proving medical malpractice in court

Montana residents place a lot of trust in their doctors. But sometimes doctors make mistakes, and when a mistake leads to injury or a worsened medical condition, a patient may have a claim for medical malpractice.

In most medical malpractice cases the plaintiff seeks to prove negligence on the part of the physician, the hospital or other medical professionals. To prove medical professional negligence, the patient must show the doctor in question failed to meet the accepted standard of care in his or her specialty. The patient must first show what level of care is generally adhered to by physicians in that area of practice. Montana law requires that another doctor who practices in the same specialty must give expert testimony as to the applicable standard of care. The patient must also present expert testimony showing the doctor in question failed to meet that standard of care.

A plaintiff can also recover for medical malpractice if they prove a lack of informed consent led to their injury or worsened condition. Informed consent means the doctor discussed with the patient the risks and potential benefits of the proposed surgery, procedure or course of treatment and obtained the consent of the patient to go forward.

The doctor is also required to discuss with the patient the risks and benefits of alternate procedures and the risks and benefits of taking no action. If the patient can show the doctor did not fully inform them of all the risks and alternatives, and injury resulted from the lack of informed consent, the patient may be able to recover compensation.

Source: Findlaw, "Proving Fault in Medical Malpractice Cases," accessed on March 9, 2015

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