The Doctor-Patient Relationship in a Medical Malpractice Case

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The Doctor-Patient Relationship in a Medical Malpractice Case

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When a person gets injured as a result of an act or omission by a doctor in the course of receiving treatment, he or she may file a medical malpractice lawsuit. One of the elements that the person has to prove in order to succeed in this kind of lawsuit is that there was a doctor-patient relationship between the injured person and the doctor being sued.

Determining whether there is enough evidence to find that there was a doctor-patient relationship is left to the trier of fact, usually a jury, which must make this determination before they can award compensation for the injuries suffered. Showing the existence of a doctor-patient relationship is easier when the patient has been seeing the doctor for a long period of time.

A doctor-patient relationship may be formed when a doctor provides medical care to a person, no matter how brief the care. All that is required under Georgia law is a consensual relationship between the doctor and the patient. This generally covers situations in which a patient seeks medical care from a physician who agrees to provide treatment. A doctor can also form a doctor-patient relationship by working with another doctor who has a more direct relationship with the patient, as may sometimes happen when a doctor is on call in an emergency room. The liability of the on-call doctor varies and has to be determined by the trier of fact, as well.

A short consultation with a doctor can establish the relationship and the duty by the doctor to provide the care a reasonable doctor in his place would provide. Doctors do not always have to provide treatment to a patient, and if the doctor refuses a consultation or is unable to give one, and there is no prior relationship between the patient and the doctor, it gets more difficult to establish the required relationship. However, if a doctor only treats a person once, and then subsequently refuses to provide ongoing care on the same issue, it is possible to show that a doctor-patient relationship was created and the doctor breached a duty by refusing to provide follow up care.  

It should be noted that in a Georgia malpractice suit against an emergency medical provider, the injured person has a higher burden of proof and can only recover damages if he or she proves that the medical provider’s actions or inactions amounted to gross negligence.

If there is a chance that establishing a doctor patient relationship will be difficult or impossible, the injured person may still be able to file a claim for compensation under a theory of negligence. If suing under a theory of negligence, the injured patient must still prove that the doctor who injured him or her owed that person a duty of care and breached that duty of care.

Contact an Experienced Medical Malpractice Attorney

If you suffered injuries after being treated by a doctor or another medical practitioner, you may have a claim to seek compensation for your injuries. To seek more information about how to bring your case and seek this compensation, contact an experienced medical malpractice attorney in Atlanta, Georgia, at Jonathan R. Brockman, P.C., to speak to an attorney today.

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