Negligence or Natural Causes: Your 7-Step Guide to Understanding the Difference

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If you are experiencing health problems following a medical procedure, you may find yourself among the many Americans who develop complications after their surgery or treatment. Given the timing of your symptoms, you may find yourself wondering whether your issues are due to your healthcare provider’s negligence. However, it is important to remember that health issues may also arise from natural causes that are unrelated to your procedure. Below are seven steps to help you understand the difference between complications due to negligence and those due to natural causes.

Step One: Call 911 If Your Issues Are Severe or Life-Threatening

First and foremost, seek medical attention right away if you are experiencing a severe or life-threatening health issue. Examples include intolerable pain, difficulty breathing, or uncontrollable bleeding. If necessary, call 911 and follow the instructions of the respondent as you wait for the ambulance to arrive. If your health issues are not severe, proceed to Step Two.

Step Two: Understand the Facts

Before you take further action, it is helpful to know that you are not alone. Millions of people experience complications following medical procedures every year, especially following invasive surgical procedures. In fact, researchers estimate that roughly 7 million people experience complications every year:

“Global estimates suggest that at least 7 million people suffer complications following surgery each year, including at least 1 million deaths, a magnitude that exceeds both maternal and AIDS-related mortality. As many as 50 percent of these deaths and complications are preventable…” – Thomas G Weiser and Atul Gawande, Essential Surgery: Disease Control Priorities, Third Edition

With over 129 million outpatient surgical procedures performed in the USA, it is easier to put these figures in perspective. Virtually every surgical procedure carries risks, and the majority of medical providers do a thorough job of outlining these risks prior to the procedure. So your next task is to look at your symptoms and determine whether they might be related to your procedure.

Step Three: Document the Symptoms You Are Experiencing

You may have a fantastic memory and feel confident in your ability to recall every detail of the symptoms you are experiencing. But there is no substitute for documenting your symptoms. You can do this by logging details in your online calendar or sending yourself an email that you can print. Here are some points to note:

  • A description of how you are feeling or what is occurring. Try to be as detailed as possible.
  • The onset of your complications or exactly when you started experiencing the problem(s).
  • Any changes in the severity of your issues. For instance, you should note whether they are improving or worsening.

This step is important for three reasons. First, your notes will be helpful to the doctor who will treat your issues. Second, you can monitor your progress as you recover. And third, the information could prove to be very helpful if you need to seek the services of a medical malpractice lawyer.

Step Four: Familiarize Yourself With the Key Elements of Negligence

Proving that your medical problems are the result of negligence is not always easy. But the waters will be less murky for you if you have a clear understanding of exactly what constitutes negligence. In a nutshell, negligence involves four elements:

  • Duty of care: This refers to a medical provider’s obligation to protect patients from harm during a procedure.
  • Breach of duty: If the provider was careless or failed to prevent a dangerous situation from developing, this sets the stage for possible malpractice.
  • Causation: The provider’s carelessness or oversight must be the sole or primary cause of subsequent health problems.
  • Injuries: The patient has suffered physical or emotional injuries due to the breach of duty or negligence.

Step Five: Apply the Elements of Negligence to Your Experience

Negligence or Natural Causes: Your 7-Step Guide to Understanding the Difference

Now that you have a greater understanding of exactly what constitutes negligence, you can apply these points to your own case. This is not an easy or straightforward process and is best handled by a medical negligence attorney. Here are some general questions to ask yourself to help determine whether negligence or natural events caused your symptoms to unfold:

  • “Have I always had a history of (insert healthcare issue)?” If your answer is “Yes,” then it is not likely that negligence caused the problem.
  • “Did my medical team send me home even though I voiced severe pain or problems?” If you answered “Yes”, then negligence is likely a factor.
  • “Have I taken care of my health and fully complied with all care instructions?” If you answered “No,” then proving negligence will be harder.

Step Six: Do Not Let Yourself Be Ignored or Intimidated

Sometimes when people share their post-procedure concerns with their doctor, the concerns are brushed off or ignored. In rare situations, a provider or representative of an insurance company may try to intimidate you to stop you from pursuing legal action. They may even try to convince you that you are fully responsible for all the problems you are experiencing. If any of these situations unfold, proceed to Step Seven right IMMEDIATELY. 

Step Seven: Contact a Trusted Medical Malpractice Attorney

Aside from receiving treatment, an important step is to seek the guidance of a medical malpractice lawyer. No two cases are exactly alike, and a skilled malpractice attorney will be able to evaluate your personal set of circumstances and determine the best legal course of action to take.

As one of the nation’s premier medical malpractice law firm, Weltchek, Mallahan & Weltchek has a proven track record of success helping victims of medical negligence receive the settlements they deserve. For nearly a decade, residents across Maryland have turned to us to serve as their legal representatives. With our team, you can experience peace of mind knowing that a legal expert is fighting for your rights.


We invite you to contact us at Weltchek, Mallahan, & Weltchek today for a complimentary case evaluation. We will listen to your story and help you determine whether your health complications were due to negligence or natural causes. If it appears that you are the victim of negligence, we will guide you through the legal process from start to finish to ensure that you are properly compensated for your pain and suffering. We look forward to serving as your trusted legal team!

Who Can You Trust with Your Case?

Have you or a loved one been injured due to negligence? We want to help. Don’t hesitate to contact us if you believe you have a case; time is an important factor. Interested in learning more? Get in touch with us so we can better evaluate and serve your needs in getting the justice your loved one deserves. You may very well be entitled to compensation.


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