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Common successful defenses to a medical malpractice claim

A doctor who provided good-quality care for a patient who nevertheless suffered a negative outcome has several possible defenses, if that patient later accuses him or her of medical malpractice. These defenses give the doctor the chance to avoid an unjust verdict at trial.

To prevail in a malpractice suit, a plaintiff must show that the doctor committed negligence and that the plaintiff was harmed as a result. Thus, one common defense for the doctor is that he or she did not act negligently, or that the patient’s injuries were not caused by negligence. For example, the doctor can show that the care he or she provided met the standards of the medical profession.

Another defense encourages doctors to try relatively new forms of treatment, without worrying about malpractice litigation. In many cases, the fact that a “respectable minority” of medical professionals approve of the treatment is a valid defense, even if the majority of the community does not use the treatment.

In other cases, the patient contributed to his or her injuries. He or she may have failed to mention key parts of his or her medical history, or gone against doctor’s advice somehow. Depending on the state’s laws against contributory negligence, the doctor may not be held liable.

Finally, technical reasons may protect the doctor from litigation. As with most other civil actions, there is a statute of limitations on medical malpractice claims. If the court rules that the plaintiff filed the lawsuit too late, it will dismiss the claim.

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