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What Is Causation in Medical Malpractice Case?

Patients are often shocked to discover that medical errors are the third-leading cause of American deaths. However, that doesn’t mean that each death is considered medical malpractice.

This is, in part, due to something called causation. Causation is one of four factors plaintiffs must establish when opening medical malpractice cases.

What is causation and how can you prove it? What is the difference between factual causation and legal causation and why are both significant to your case?

Your Tampa medical malpractice lawyer is here to explain it all. Read on to learn more about causation in medical malpractice cases.

The Four Elements of Negligence in Medical Malpractice

To the victim of medical malpractice, the facts of the case may seem pretty cut and dry. You know what happened to you and you know that you were harmed by a medical professional’s action or inaction. That said, your case will have to satisfy the four legal standards of medical malpractice in order to succeed.

Duty of Care

First, you will need to demonstrate that the defendant owed you the duty of care. Typically, as long as you had a scheduled appointment with the defendant when the negligence occurred, this is simple to do. However, if a medical professional offered you bad advice in passing or “off the clock,” they did not owe you the legal duty of care.

Breach of Duty of Care

Next, you will need to demonstrate that the defendant breached the applicable standard of care when treating or diagnosing you. This means that another medical professional, under similar circumstances, would reasonably have acted to prevent the injury or illness you are now experiencing.

Damage Sustained

Medical professionals make inconsequential mistakes on a regular basis. Making a mistake is not enough to produce significant medical malpractice case results. You must demonstrate that due to the breach of duty of care, you are now suffering from a serious illness or injury.


Finally, you must demonstrate causation. In the simplest terms, causation shows that the defendant’s negligence caused the damages you’ve sustained.

What Is Causation?

In some cases, causation seems quite clear. If a surgeon amputated the wrong leg, it’s self-evident that their negligence caused you to lose that leg. However, causation in medical malpractice cases is rarely that simple to prove, in part because you must demonstrate both actual and legal causation.

Factual Causation

They often refer to factual causation as cause in fact. This means the defendant’s actions or inactions caused factually the damages sustained by the plaintiff. For example, if a doctor failed to screen you for cancer at an early stage. Then the cancer advanced without any treatment. Now there is factual causation due to the lack of treatment because the doctor did not catch it earlier.

Legal Causation

Legal causation is also referred to as proximate causation. This means that the damages sustained by the plaintiff were caused by the defendant and were a foreseeable result of the defendant’s actions or inactions. Continuing the above example, if you were exhibiting symptoms of cancer and have a family history of cancer and your doctor failed to screen you for cancer, your current state was a foreseeable result of that failure.

How Is Causation Proved in Medical Malpractice Cases?

The best thing that you can do before filing a medical malpractice claim is to hire an experienced medical malpractice attorney. With their help, you can begin to compile the evidence needed to build a strong case. Let’s take a look at some potential sources of evidence your attorney will use to represent your claim.

Medical Records

Your attorney will need to compile an extensive record of your experiences with the defendant. This includes records of every appointment you had with that doctor that contributed to your current damages. It will also include any records demonstrating your current state of health, whether or not they were with the defendant.

Witness Testimony

Witness testimony is a useful piece of evidence to have in a medical malpractice case. However, witness testimony can be hard to come by, as any other medical professional who witnessed the medical malpractice (i.e. nurses or lab technicians) may not be willing to testify against a colleague.

Expert Testimony

An experienced medical malpractice attorney will know the appropriate expert witnesses to call upon in your medical malpractice case. Expert witnesses are often medical professionals from a relevant field who can testify that your damages were reasonably foreseeable. This testimony is one of the building blocks of establishing the breach of duty of care and legal causation.

How Clear Does Causation Need to Be to Win?

People are often familiar with the phrase, “beyond a reasonable doubt,” which is applicable to criminal cases. Medical malpractice falls into the territory of civil court, where you must satisfy the standard of the preponderance of the evidence.

In order to do so in cases of medical malpractice, you will need to demonstrate that your claims are more than 51% likely to be true. Keep in mind that Florida recently adjusted their medical malpractice statute of limitations from four years to two.


In short, if you believe you’re a victim of medical malpractice, you may not know your rights. Above all, don’t struggle through the process alone. Actually, our personal injury team is here to help you with any legal needs you might have regarding your case.

Lastly, let RHINO Lawyers answer your questions and review the facts of your case with a Free Consultation. So, get started by completing the “Free Instant Case Evaluation” or by calling us any time, day or night, at 844.RHINO.77.