"Medical Standard of Care" in a Malpractice Case

"Medical Standard of Care" in a Malpractice Case

“Medical Standard of Care” in a Malpractice CaseWhat do most medical malpractice cases depend upon? They will fall on whether or not a health care professional was negligent in treating or failing to treat a patient. Medical negligence is always measured by the medical standard of care that was applied in the treatment setting in which the patient was harmed. In a malpractice lawsuit, the standard of care is always something that comes into play. But what does it mean?

What is the “Standard of Care?”

The standard of care is a legal term, and not a medical term. Lawyers will primarily use this term and not doctors. Doctors will typically only think of the standard of care when they are testifying in court on medical malpractice cases or when they are attending seminars on such. What the standard of care means is that the degree and skill of the average heath care professional who practices the specialty is taking into account the medical knowledge that is available to the physician. It is based on the customary practices of the average physician, or what they would typically do in similar circumstances.

Reasonable Practices vs. Customary Practices

There is a difference in legal liability when it comes to a reasonableness standard and customary practices. Physicians know that most medical procedures and treatments involve some risk or complications. However, they don’t want all patients thinking that these complications are the result of negligence because this isn’t the same for every situation. One example of complications in standard medical treatment is anesthesia, because the administration always involves risk.

Another way to see things is to compare the legal and medical viewpoints on standard of care. Physicians tend to believe that reasonable care includes the customary practices of the average physician. The legal viewpoint is that reasonable care and the customary practices of the average physician are separate standards of care.

Reasonableness Standard in Medical Malpractice Cases

Some states have been moving toward the standard “reasonableness” definition for determining medical malpractice. Other states have a modified definition of “standard of care.” There are rules they follow in which doctors and lawyers recognize that there may be more than one acceptable method of delivering care to a patient in a given situation. Each state varies on their ideas of standards of care.

What are the Standards of Care for Children?

A child is generally not expected to act as a reasonable adult would. Instead, the courts hold children to a modified standard. Under said standard, a child’s actions are compared with the conduct of other children of the same age, experience, and intelligence. Courts will, in some jurisdictions, apply the adult standard of care to children who engage in certain adult activities.

You may have specific questions about how your state defines a standard of care as it applies to malpractice. You may also want to understand your options if you believe you have a negligence case. For this, you should contact a medical malpractice attorney. Call WTW today for a consultation to see where you stand in your case.


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