Offices in Ottawa and Perth
(613) 722-1500

CONTACT US (613) 722-1500

The Basics of a Medical Malpractice Case

The Basics of a Medical Malpractice Case


Posted June 4, 2018

In order to be successful in a medical malpractice lawsuit you must establish each of the following things:

A doctor-patient relationship existed

You must show that you had a physician-patient relationship with the doctor or other medical practitioner you are making a claim against.

This means you requested treatment from the doctor and the doctor agreed to provide treatment. This means that you cannot sue a doctor you overheard giving advice at a social event. If a doctor saw you and began treating you, it is easy to establish that a doctor-patient relationship existed. Questions of whether or not the necessary relationship exists arise most frequently when a consulting physician did not treat you directly.

The doctor was negligent

Just because you are unhappy with your treatment, or the results, this does not mean that the doctor is automatically liable for medical malpractice. The doctor must have been negligent in your diagnosis or treatment. You must be able to show that the doctor caused you harm in a way that a competent doctor, under the same circumstances, would not have. Your doctor’s care is not required to be the “best possible”, but simply provided with “reasonable skill and care.” Whether the doctor was reasonably skillful and careful is often at the heart of a medical malpractice claim. The patient must have a medical expert who will establish the appropriate medical standard of care and show how the defendant doctor failed to meet that standard.

The doctor’s negligence caused the injury

Many malpractice cases involve patients who were already sick or injured when they were treated by the doctor who was alleged to be negligent. This means that there is frequently a question as to whether what the doctor did, even if it was negligent, caused the harm complained of. For example, if a patient dies after treatment for advanced cancer, and the doctor’s treatment was negligent, it could be hard to prove that the doctor’s negligence caused the death rather than the cancer. The patient must show that it is “more likely than not” that the doctor’s negligence caused the harm. Once again the patient may need a medical expert to testify that it was the doctor’s negligence that caused the injury.

The injury led to damages

Even if it is clear that the doctor was negligent, and that the negligence caused the harm, the patient cannot sue for malpractice if they didn’t suffer any harm. For example, if the patient makes a full recovery after some improper treatment there may be no damages to support a lawsuit. Here are examples of the types of damages patients can sue for:

  • physical pain,
  • mental anguish,
  • additional treatment expenses, and
  • lost work or lost earning capacity.


Even though you are unhappy with the treatment you received, or its results, this does not mean that the doctor is liable for medical malpractice. Assuming you were in a doctor-patient relationship, you must still establish that the doctor failed to exercise “reasonable skill and care“, that this resulted in an injury, and that you suffered specific damages.

This blog post was written by Edward (Ted) Masters, a member of the Disability Insurance Claims and Personal Injury teams.  He can be reached at 613-566-2064 or at

More Resources

Blog |
Estate Litigation


Posted September 20, 2022

Disputes over a will after a testator has died can result in costly and time-consuming litigation.  Testators may anticipate this conflict and try to avoid[...]
Blog |
Business Law


Posted September 6, 2022

Canada is a lush, beautiful country, and nature abounds. Canada is also a vibrant economic market and foreign companies looking to do business in Canada[...]
Blog |
Real Estate


Posted August 30, 2022

There has been much discussion on the changes in the real estate market, particularly on affordability. To save costs, many prospective buyers and sellers may[...]
Blog |
Practice Management


Posted August 23, 2022

In an earlier blog post, I discussed some practice development tips for newer lawyers.  This post continues that conversation. Not Work Life Balance – Integration[...]
Blog |
Practice Management


Posted August 15, 2022

Most seniors have an opinion on what new or newer lawyers should be considering concerning practice development.  Me too.  I don’t think there is a[...]
Blog |
Environmental Law


Posted August 8, 2022

Purchasing a property that is contaminated can be daunting.  There are many risks to consider, including significant liability risks.  In some cases, a full assessment[...]

Subscribe to Our Newsletter

"*" indicates required fields

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.