Mesa AZ | Elements of a medical negligence claim

Imagine you are about to go in for a serious medical procedure. You are nervous, but you are confident that your doctor can do a good job. After the procedure, you find out that something went wrong. The doctor made a mistake, and there are going to be lasting consequences for your health. Your medical bills begin to stack up, and your overall quality of life begins to drop. You begin preparation for a lawsuit against the doctor for his improper performance of the procedure and the damage it has done to you.

None of us would want to be in this difficult situation. However, if you do find yourself preparing to file a medical malpractice claim against a healthcare provider, you should know the basic requirements of a successful case.

In the law, we refer to such requirements as elements. To win a medical malpractice claim, you will need to satisfy each and every element of such a claim. The laws found in Chapter 5.1 of Title 12 of the Arizona Revised Statutes set out these elements. You can view Title 12 here.

Barring an out-of-court settlement, a jury will likely decide your claim. After, you (the plaintiff) and the healthcare provider (the defendant) have presented your respective cases to the jury, the judge will give the jury certain instructions before they retire to deliberate. The judge will instruct the jury that they must find each element of a medical malpractice claim to be satisfied, or they cannot decide in your favor. The judge will then instruct the jury on the elements found in Chapter 5.1 of Title 12. In other words, the judge will basically give the jury a checklist, and tell them that each item of the list must be checked off or your claim cannot be successful. In Arizona, the judge’s instructions to the jury are going to look something like this (per Arizona’s Revised Medical Negligence Instructions):

The Plaintiff claims that the Defendant (a healthcare provider) was at fault for medical negligence. Medical negligence is the failure to comply with the applicable standard of care. To comply with the applicable standard of care, a healthcare provider must exercise that degree of care, skill, and learning that would be expected under similar circumstances of a reasonably prudent healthcare provider within this state.

 Fault is medical negligence that was a cause of injury to the Plaintiff. Before you can find the Defendant at fault, you must find that the Defendant’s negligence was a cause of injury to the Plaintiff. Negligence causes an injury if it helps produce the injury, and if the injury would not have happened without the negligence.

On the claim of fault for medical negligence, the Plaintiff has the burden of proving:

  • The Defendant was negligent;
  • The Defendant’s negligence was a cause of injury to the plaintiff; and
  • The Plaintiff’s damages.

So, as you can see, you must prove the defendant’s negligence (“the failure to comply with the applicable standard of care”), that the negligence caused you injury (it helped to produce the injury, and the injury would not have happened without the negligence) and damages (quantifiable loss that the court can remedy). Sounds like a fairly simple task, right? In some cases, it may be. In others, it can get very difficult.

As you think about the elements of a medical malpractice claim, you should understand how they fit into the overall context of a case. They are no more than the minimum requirements – the thresholds. As you try to prove that your case meets these thresholds, the defendant will be doing everything possible to prove you wrong. For this reason, you must prepare meticulously and ensure that you have the best evidence and the best arguments possible. In a typical medical malpractice case, this will require significant research into medical policies and procedures, extensive medical records, and opinions and testimony from witnesses who are experts in the relevant field.

Preparing and then presenting the best possible case takes time, resources, and knowledge – knowledge of how these cases work, of how to obtain the information you need, and of how to piece it all together and present it to the jury in a convincing manner. If you are preparing for a medical malpractice claim, please seek the assistance of an experienced medical malpractice attorney, one who possesses the knowledge and skill required to help you prove all the elements and win your claim.


This blog should be used for informational purposes only. It does not create an attorney-client relationship with any reader and should not be construed as legal advice. If you or someone you know wishes to seek the help of an experienced personal injury attorney regarding Mesa AZ|Elements of a Medical Malpractice Claim or other personal injury matters, call 480.461.5300.