The Standard of Care in a Medical Malpractice Claim
Proving that a Medical Professional Did Not Provide the Appropriate Level of Care
In most personal injury claims, the legal theory upon which recovery is sought is negligence. To prove negligence, you must show that the defendant (person or entity being sued) breached, or failed to use, the expected level of care in whatever action caused the accident. In a general personal injury claim, that level of care is based on what a reasonable person would do.
In medical malpractice claims, the principle of negligence still applies. However, with doctors and other medical professionals, because of the specialized training, the standard of care is different. For medical professionals, including doctors and nurses, the standard of care has three components:
- That of a reasonably competent and skilled medical professional
- With similar training and experience
- In the same medical community
Accordingly, if a health care professional has a specialty, the standard of care will be based on what other professionals with the same specialty, in the same geographic location, would do. There are no guidelines set forth in the law, however, to establish whether certain actions were reasonable—what constitutes reasonable behavior is determined by a jury on a case-by-case basis. To help the jury decide whether a medical professional’s conduct met the standard of care, it’s customary (and even mandatory in some states) for the parties to present expert witnesses who will testify about acceptable standards of care.
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