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What are the 4 D’s of Medical Negligence?

February 19, 2021

Medical malpractice is the result of physician, surgeon, or other medical professional’s failure to competently carry out his or her medical duties.

An injured patient must show that the physician acted negligently in providing treatment and care, and that this negligence resulted in injury to get compensation. There are four legal elements that must be proven:

  • a professional duty owed to the patient;
  • breach of that duty;
  • injury caused by the breach; and
  • resulting damages.

It may be easier to remember these as the “Four D’s” when considering whether you may have a medical malpractice claim.

What are the Four Ds?

The 4 D’s of medical negligence are

  • Duty;
  • Deviation from the accepted standard of care (or Dereliction);
  • Direct causation; and

Let’s look at each of the Four D’s in more detail:

1. Duty: The Medical Professional Duty of Care

All doctors and healthcare providers have a duty to provide proper care to their patients. There must be a doctor-patient relationship, or a duty doesn’t exist. For example, a physician watching a Red Wings game with his or her family doesn’t have a duty to provide medical care to another person in the stands at Little Caesars Arena who’s having a stroke. However, if the doctor volunteers to provide medical assistance, he or she then has a duty to provide appropriate medical treatment.

2. Deviation from the Standard of Care

The second “D” is for deviation or dereliction. Again, when a healthcare provider agrees to provide medical treatment, he or she has a duty to provide treatment according to a medical professional standard of care. The standard of care is the care and treatment that healthcare professionals are expected to provide to patients with the same skill, care, and diligence that another similarly qualified medical professional would provide under the circumstances or in the community. This is also known as a breach of duty.

A plaintiff must show that the healthcare professional deviated from or failed to meet those standards. Some examples of deviations include:

  • Misdiagnosing or failing to diagnose a patient;
  • Misreading a laboratory test or report;
  • Failing to order the proper lab test;
  • Prescribing a medication that has a known dangerous interaction;
  • Prescribing the wrong dose of medicine;
  • Performing unnecessary procedures;
  • Inadequate monitoring; and
  • Performing improper surgical techniques.

To prove deviation, a plaintiff must present expert witness testimony. A medical malpractice expert is another healthcare professional in the same specialty who can opine on the accepted medical standard.

3. Direct Cause of the Injury

The next “D” that a plaintiff must prove is a direct cause of injury. That is, the healthcare professional’s deviation directly caused the plaintiff’s injuries. So, a medical malpractice plaintiff must show that the healthcare professional’s deviation—rather than some other, intervening event—caused the plaintiff’s injuries.

This can be a difficult “D” to prove. While in some cases, proving this direct causation is pretty straightforward, like when a surgeon leaves a sponge inside a patient and this mistake causes an infection or other complications. Here, proving causation should be an easier task.

However, in some medical malpractice actions, proving direct causation can be extremely difficult and may require expert witness testimony and other types of evidence. A Michigan medical negligence attorney will need to prepare a more extensive argument to prove that the physician’s actions or inactions were the direct cause of the plaintiff’s injuries. For example, establishing that a doctor’s choice of medical treatment or lab testing caused an injury may require substantial expert testimony explaining what another similarly qualified medical professional would do in this situation.

4. Damages

The last “D” is damages, and a plaintiff must present compelling evidence that the doctor or other medical professional’s negligence caused compensable damages. A Michigan medical negligence attorney will ask the court or jury for damages for any injury or damage caused by the healthcare professional’s negligence. This includes compensation for additional medical treatment, medical bills incurred, physical therapy, and any lost wages because of an absence from work.

In addition, a claim for medical malpractice can also cause a patient extreme mental and emotional trauma and pain. A Michigan medical negligence attorney will also ask for these types of damages – called non-economic damages for pain and suffering.

Nearly 200,000 patients die in hospitals every because of preventable mistakes. Holding healthcare professionals accountable for their mistakes and getting just compensation is best accomplished with a seasoned attorney who practices successfully in this complex area of law.

Contact a Michigan Medical Negligence Attorney

If you or someone you know has recently suffered an injury that may be medical negligence resulting in injury or death, speak with an experienced and knowledgeable medical negligence attorney immediately to protect your interests or those of your loved one.

Buchanan Firm retains medical professionals who are available to immediately investigate your claim to determine if the deviation was caused by medical negligence. Buchanan Firm’s team has Michigan malpractice attorneys, paralegals, and consultant doctors and nurses to assist you in this difficult time.

Our firm proudly serves people all across Michigan, including major cities like Grand Rapids, Muskegon, Detroit, Lansing, Holland, St. Joe, and Ann Arbor, and rural towns such as Lowell, Ada, Fremont, Newaygo, Grand Haven, Rockford, and Cedar Springs. We will meet you after-hours, at home or in the hospital to accommodate you.