What is the “medical standard of care” in a malpractice case?


What is the “medical standard of care” in a malpractice case?


Most medical malpractice cases hinge on whether a health care professional was negligent in treating (or failing to treat) a patient. And medical negligence is always measured by the medical standard of care that applied in the specific treatment setting in which the patient was harmed.

So, what is this legal measuring stick that is almost sure to affect your medical malpractice case? Here’s one answer: The “medical standard of care” is typically defined as the level and type of care that a reasonably competent and skilled health care professional, with a similar background and in the same medical community, would have provided under the circumstances that led to the alleged malpractice.  

In a medical malpractice lawsuit, it is almost always a qualified expert medical witness who will testify as to what the appropriate medical standard of care was under the circumstances -- and how the doctor’s deviation from that standard played a role in the plaintiff’s injuries.

 In fact, many states have passed laws requiring that a medical malpractice plaintiff retain an expert who has experience in the same (or at least similar) medical field as the defendant. Send in some states the plaintiff must even file an affidavit or sworn statement from that witness alongside the initial complaint, testifying that in the expert’s opinion, the medical standard of care was violated.

Learn more about Common Errors by Doctors and Hospitals.

by: , J.D.

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