What Are the Four Elements of Medical Malpractice?

To better understand medical malpractice and the four elements associated with it, it’s important to get a basic definition of what medical malpractice is.

USLegal defines medical malpractice as “the failure of a medical professional to follow the accepted standards of practice of his or her profession, resulting in harm to the patient.”

Similar to that definition, the American Board of Professional Liability Attorneys states that “Medical malpractice occurs when a hospital, doctor or other health care professional, through a negligent act or omission, causes an injury to a patient. The negligence might be the result of errors in diagnosis, treatment, aftercare or health management.”

If you feel like you’re a victim of medical malpractice, then we encourage you to speak to a legal professional today. Howard Fensterman is a prominent lawyer located in the New York area. He specializes in healthcare and financial malpractice law.

Now that you have a better understanding of what medical malpractice is, it’s time to identify the four elements: Duty, breach of duty, injury caused, and damages.


Doctors, nurses, and medical professionals have a legal duty to provide care or treatment to a patient, and this duty is assumed every time a patient receives medical attention. A relationship is established upon meeting and this relationship is when the duty is also established.

Breach of duty

A breach of duty is a failure of care or treatment by the medical professional. The medical professional doesn’t adhere to the standards of treating a patient, from an error in diagnosis to poor health management.

Injury caused

To prove medical malpractice, the patient has to be able to prove that injuries were caused by the medical professional, whether emotionally or physically. The injury can be new or previous conditions worsening or even being reaggravated. Just because there was an injury or conditions worsen, that doesn’t mean there was medical malpractice—a victim has to be able to prove that the medical professional’s mistake directly led to injury. If no direct injuries resulted from the professional’s mistake, then there’s no causation.


The final element of medical malpractice is damages. Damages might sound like it should be interchangeable with injuries, but it’s a separate element as damages refers to the financial aspect of the injury—damages aren’t the injury itself. Therefore, the injury has to be able to be compensated by money. While emotional damages can certainly be taken into consideration when it comes to this element, damages refers to direct financial loss from the injury. For example, extra doctor bills or visits or loss of income from missed work.

It’s important to understand these elements to assess if you’re a victim of medical malpractice. If all of these elements relate to your circumstances, then you can likely make a good case for medical malpractice and be compensated. Either way, you should contact a legal professional to go over your options.

While medical malpractice claims are declining—and that’s good news because it hopefully means patients are being properly treated and professionals are meeting their duties and medical standards—according to Forbes, “The average malpractice payment has risen by almost 25%, in inflation adjusted dollars, since the early 90s.” That’s good news because, when medical malpractice occurs, medical professionals should be held responsible and patients should be fairly compensated.

We put our trust and faith in doctors, nurses, and medical professionals. While they meet (and exceed) our expectations most of the time, there are cases in which medical professionals fall short of their legal responsibilities. If you believe you’re a victim of medical malpractice, then contact a legal professional ASAP.