The “Four D’s” of Medical Malpractice

Searcy Denney Scarola Barnhart & Shipley

Searcy Denney Scarola Barnhart & Shipley

“Medical malpractice” occurs when patients are harmed by doctors or some other medical professionals who fail to competently perform their medical duties. Medical malpractice rules, such as those related to notifying the doctor ahead of time and the timing of your lawsuit, vary from state to state. However, there are some general principles and rules that apply to most medical malpractice cases. 

Medical malpractice can be thought of as a particular subset of negligence. If you feel like you or a loved one has been damaged by medical professionals’ negligence (meaning, their failure to adequately perform their duties), our Florida medical malpractice attorney can help.

The requirements for establishing medical malpractice are often referred to as the “four Ds:” Duty, Deviation, Direct Causation and Damages.

Duty of Care

First, it is important to note that not all doctors owe a duty of care to everyone. For the duty of care to arise, there must be some type of doctor-patient relationship. For example, a doctor does not have a duty of care if she is out eating at a restaurant and someone at a nearby table begins to choke, because there is no such relationship established.

In a doctor-patient relationship, a doctor owes a duty of “care and treatment with that degree of skill, care, and diligence as possessed by or expected of a reasonably competent physician under the same or similar circumstances.”

Dereliction or Failure to Fulfill the Duty

Dereliction refers to the failure of a medical professional to meet the duty of care discussed above. In other words, the medical professional did not provide the patient with the care and treatment needed and expected of a reasonably competent physician under the same or similar circumstances. 

This dereliction or failure is commonly referred to as a “breach of duty.” This is where the lion’s share of medical malpractice arguments occur and can be difficult for patients because medical professionals are often very reluctant to criticize their peer’s performance, let alone testify against them.

Direct Causation

The patient must establish that the medical professional’s breach of the duty of care was the direct cause of the patient’s damages. Although establishing this is often fairly straightforward, it can be another area where the arguments on both sides become heated.


Finally, the patient must show that they have actually suffered harm, either physically, mentally or both. This is often shown through medical records, prescriptions and/or testimony.

A Final Important Note

It has been estimated that medical errors cause the deaths of more than 200,000 people in the U.S. each year and that of those cases, only around 15% of claimants file lawsuits. Victims of medical malpractice are often distracted by their injuries and the enduring myth that doctors are incapable of making mistakes.

Florida law requires an injured party to file a medical malpractice claim within two years from the date of the incident or within two years after an injury caused by medical negligence could have “reasonably” been discovered.

Contact a Florida Medical Malpractice Attorney for Help  

Medical malpractice is one of the most difficult claims to prove that is far beyond a typical layperson’s capabilities. That’s why if you even suspect that your injuries were caused by a medical professional’s negligence or malpractice, you’ll need to work with a Florida medical malpractice attorney.

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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