The 4 Factors of Causation in a Medical Malpractice Claim

When you file a medical malpractice lawsuit against a healthcare provider, you must be able to establish causation. As an injured patient, you must prove that the at-fault medical professional’s actions caused you to suffer harm and losses, known as damages. There are four key elements that you will need to prove causation: duty of care, breach of duty, direct causation, and damages.

The 4 Factors of Causation in a Medical Malpractice Claim

Duty of Care

First, you will need to prove that the at-fault medical professional owed you a duty of care. All healthcare providers must uphold a certain duty of care while treating patients, meaning that their actions should not deviate from what a similarly trained and reasonable provider would do under the same circumstances.

You can file a lawsuit against any healthcare provider, including physicians, nurses, surgeons, and assistants—as long as the at-fault party was treating you in a professional capacity at the time of the incident.

If you sought treatment from the at-fault party at a clinic, the hospital, or another formal setting, you could establish duty of care. If you ask a doctor friend for advice at a party and suffer an injury later, you cannot establish duty of care

Breach of Duty

After establishing duty of care, you will need to prove that the at-fault party breached his or her duty in some way. A medical provider can deviate from the standard of care by committing a negligent action, or by failing to act in a situation where he or she should have. Common breaches of duty in medical malpractice cases include the following.

In Missouri, you must submit an Affidavit of Qualified Health Care Provider when filing a medical malpractice lawsuit. This document is written by another medical professional and states that the at-fault party’s actions deviated from the medical standard of care.

Direct Causation

Once you establish breach of duty, you will then need to prove direct causation. You will need to prove that the at-fault party’s actions directly caused the injuries and harm you suffered.

For example, say that you visit a doctor with obvious symptoms of lung cancer, but he or she diagnoses you with pneumonia. You see a second doctor a few months later, who orders the correct tests and accurately diagnoses your condition.

However, your cancer has advanced, and you require more intensive treatment than before. Had the first doctor upheld the standard of care, your condition would not have progressed, and you may have had a better prognosis.


Finally, you will need to prove that you sustained damages due to the at-fault party’s actions that you can collect in your lawsuit. Multiple pieces of evidence can help establish your right to damages, including medical bills, paystubs, and journal entries.

Common damages available in medical malpractice claims include the following.

If you plan on filing a medical malpractice lawsuit, speak to an attorney as soon as possible. Your lawyer can evaluate your claim and craft a compelling case for your right to compensation.