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What is the Standard of Care in a Medical Malpractice Case?

Are you the victim of medical malpractice where the actions of your doctor, hospital, or nurse led to your serious injuries or the wrongful death of a loved one? At Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers, LLC, our personal injury attorneys are legal advocates for patients harmed through medical negligence.

Contact us today at (888) 424-5757 (toll-free phone number) or use the contact information to schedule a free case consultation. All confidential or sensitive information you share with our legal team remains private through an attorney-client relationship.

The healthcare industry plays a crucial trusted role in improving and maintaining people’s lives, health, and well-being. Therefore, all health professionals must follow the baseline of standard quality care based on rules, regulations, and laws from their professional board and federal and state governments.

Often, many organizations and agencies are involved in developing the standards of care to ensure that it applies equally among health professionals.

Using the proper protocol, a physician can follow the objective standards to protect the sufferer and insulate the health provider to avoid an ethical violation. Unfortunately, any breach of the standard of care could harm the inpatient, leading to a health malpractice case.

A Breach in the Standard of Care

Did a healthcare professional misdiagnose or mistreat you while under their care? You might have a legal right to file a civil lawsuit based on a health standard of care that doctors must follow.

Any deviation from this standard of care forms the basis of a medical malpractice case if another doctor would have performed differently in similar circumstances to uphold the health standard. Thus, in a medical setting, the healthcare professional must follow a reasonable standard of care.

In the negligent standard of care cases, the plaintiffs need to prove that the physician deviated from this standard. As a result, they suffered damage, which was directly associated with the physician’s negligence – the healthcare professional, in this case.

The plaintiff can also argue that another doctor in similar circumstances would have acted differently to avert the health damage from occurring.

But what is the standard of care in a health setting? When can you file a health malpractice case against a physician?

As a patient, especially if you’re chronically ill or you’ll soon undergo extensive treatments, it’s essential to be familiar with these concepts.

What is Medical Malpractice?

Malpractice refers to medical treatment provided by health practitioners which deviates from accepted standards of care. In addition, any medical errors, omissions, or other mistakes which result in harm are all considered medical malpractice.

Medical negligence is health malpractice where the physician’s actions or decisions fail to meet a reasonable standard of care and cause harm as a result.

Medical negligence may happen when the doctor operates on the wrong body part. For example, if the doctor fails to perform a procedure correctly, gives incorrect information about diagnosis/treatment plans, or when medication side effects lead to severe complications for victims.

Examples of Medical Malpractice

Medical malpractice can be of different types, such as clinical misdiagnosis, clinical negligence, and clinical mistreatment.

Following are some examples of the negligent standard of care:

  • A medical team made a wrong diagnosis of an emergency patient and prescribed inappropriate treatment resulting in his death.
  • Improper fetal monitoring for an inpatient in labor
  • Surgical errors
  • A surgeon left a surgical sponge inside the body of their patient, causing severe complications
  • Anesthesia errors
  • Failure in diagnosing a clinical condition
  • Medication errors – too much, wrong medication, not recognizing a medication’s reaction in the patient’s body
  • A medical practitioner failed to properly diagnose the patient’s abdominal swelling, which was later cancerous

Apart from these listed failures, failing to perform the routine clinical level of care on your outpatients against clinical protocols also constitutes medical malpractice.

The above clinical malpractice cases raise many issues that need to be addressed by lawmakers and medical practitioners.

  • These include issues like whether or not clinical doctors are liable for the damage they cause due to their mistakes?
  • What is the acceptable compensation limit from the health professionals?
  • Should we hold them responsible for most of the mishaps because they do not have the proper clinical equipment or are not well-trained enough?

Any physician or clinical practitioner knows that they will deal with life-and-death decisions all day long. These decisions carry such magnitude that a medical physician must manifest high standards.

What is the Standard of Care?

In medical malpractice cases, the reasonable standard of care hinges on clinical community standards, the physician’s licensing board, and state statutes.

According to medical malpractice laws in most states, doctors must meet this “standard of care” when treating clinical patients. Therefore, if a doctor violates this standard of care, it may be considered medical malpractice.

In legal terms, doctors are liable for negligence for failing to hold reasonable standards expected of them as physicians, even if the failure does not injure a patient.

As medical professionals, it is crucial to know clinical malpractice laws. In that case, they will understand if their clinical practice can be held legally liable for a medical error, misdiagnosis, or clinical malpractice.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Outlook Handbook, medical errors were responsible for more than 40 percent of all adverse events resulting in death or severe harm among hospital patients from July 2003 through June 2004.

What Determines the Standard of Care?

Medical malpractice laws establish the medical standard of care. In clinical malpractice cases, medical expert witnesses will testify to define the reasonable standard of respect for the particular circumstances and patient’s condition.

In some states, the plaintiff must contact an expert witness, usually a medical expert in the same field as the defendant, to obtain an affidavit. The expert witness will state the doctor violated the standard of care.

While the medical standard of care guides clinical practice, clinical professionals are not expected to adhere to this standard at all times. Instead, they are allowed the latitude to make reasonable medical decisions based on their training and experience.

Accordingly, the medical standard of care provides physicians with guidance regarding what clinical treatment options may or may not be reasonable in a particular situation.

Examples of a Medical Standard of Care

The U.S. Supreme Court heard the Helling v. Carey case in 1974. Morrison Helling, the plaintiff, went to her ophthalmologist, Dr. Robert Laughlin, and Dr. Thomas Carey, for vision problems that hinted towards glaucoma.

Clinically speaking, there’s a test to diagnose glaucoma, but it’s only performed in those over 40 years of age. Since Helling was younger, the physician did not perform this test.

A few years later, Helling was diagnosed with glaucoma after contact with other doctors. She sued her health care providers, alleging their negligence had caused permanent eye damage resulting in her attorneys lodging a compensation claim.

The Court of Appeal sided with the health care providers, and Helling’s attorneys took the case to the Supreme Court.

The final decision was in her favor due to the following reasons:

  • Firstly, there’s a reasonable individual standard of care for each patient, and it’s up to the physician to ensure they meet this standard.
  • Helling was visibly showing glaucoma symptoms, yet the physicians did not run the test.
  • The test was easy for health care providers to perform, but they chose not to do the test.
  • The court ruled that the doctors should have conducted the pressure test on the plaintiff. In failing to do so, the defendants were negligent, resulting in the plaintiff’s blindness.

Standards of Care in Nursing

The nurse’s actions should not cause or contribute to the patient’s health problem. The nursing professional should know and understand their limits based on training.

Several elements could constitute medical malpractice in nursing care. For example, suppose a nurse fails to adhere to established standards of care for administering medications. In that case, the inpatient may suffer severe harm or death.

The standard of care varies based on the type and kind of medication administered. For instance, there are different standards for providing chemotherapy vs. a narcotic prescription in routes and concentration.

Suppose they fail to dispense the drug in a standard way. In that case, it may harm the patient and draw the attention of the patient’s attorneys.

The same can apply to administering IV medications. But, again, nurses are responsible for helping and checking doses and concentrations of drugs before patients consume them.

Many nurses disciplined by state boards or charged with professional negligence did not follow the standards of care as per patients’ attorneys’ accusations.

If a nurse fails to perform, an outpatient’s risk can result in medical malpractice. Nurses should be aware of the laws and regulations, including state-specific statutes on-duty hours and inpatient transfers.

Suppose a nurse fails to follow an accepted practice or procedure within their field, harming an inpatient. In that case, they may be held liable for damages.

Elements of a Medical Malpractice Case

In a medical malpractice lawsuit, a clinical malpractice attorney has to prove that the personal medical injury suffered by the patient was due to the physician’s negligence during clinical treatment.

To prove this, sometimes expert witnesses have to weigh in, giving their opinion on whether the health care professional was compliant with the standard of care or not.

Apart from this, the plaintiff must have proof for the following four elements:

  • The health care provider owed a professional duty to the inpatient through an established Physician-patient relationship.
  • The health care professional breached this duty based on how another health care provider would care for their patient under similar circumstances.
  • The breach lead to the patient’s harm
  • There were resulting damages

Damages in Medical Malpractice Cases

Contact a reputable law firm or an attorney for your medical malpractice to schedule a free case consultation. Legal help will enable you to recover three types of damages in a court of law, namely:

  • Economic Damages: For instance, the personal injury caused by the physicians may have rendered you unable to earn. Thus, you are eligible to recover damages for lost wages and medical bills. In that case, you can engage your attorneys for legal follow-up
  • Punitive Damages: Punitive damages are awarded in medical malpractice cases to discourage clinical providers in the same circumstances from malpractice and to promote public health.
  • Compensatory Damages: Compensatory damages come to help the injured party (or the deceased’s survivors) gain clinical care, money for lost wages, physical therapy, and long-term clinical treatment.

Factors Affecting Medical Injury Settlements

Medical injury settlements are affected by several factors, such as:

  • Medical malpractice insurance policy limits
  • Type of medical mistake that occurs (e.g., clinical misdiagnosis, medical malpractice, and medical mal-coordination)
  • The extent of injuries suffered by the patient
  • How long it takes the plaintiff to file a medical malpractice claim after the medical injury occurred

The odds of the victims winning a medical malpractice case increase if a medical professional did not follow industry best practices, relevant law, or medical protocols and was negligent or failed to take reasonable steps to remedy medical mistakes.

Medical malpractice suits hinge on negligence. Thus, the critical component in medical malpractice is clinical professionals’ lack of due care leading to medical injuries.

Suppose clinical professionals fail to treat injured patients with dignity and respect. In that case, the victims can win medical malpractice lawsuits in a court of law if they contact attorneys for legal help.

That’s because they have established a complete disregard for their pain and suffering.

The Complications of a Medical Malpractice Lawsuit

Clinical malpractice cases can be complicated, considering the medical standard of care is subjective in some instances. For example, when the patient is suffering from a rare illness hence the need to contact an attorney.

Suppose you want to make your legal case more robust. In that case, it’s best to contact a medical expert with a similar practice area as the defendant and obtain a sworn statement.

But, more importantly, hire reliable attorneys with the relevant law practice area to ensure the best outcome at resolving the case.

Hiring a Medical Malpractice Attorney to Resolve an Injury Case

Did a health care professional injure you through medical negligence or a substandard level of care? Contact a medical malpractice attorney today at (888) 424-5757 (toll-free phone number) or use the contact information for a free case legal review.

We accept all medical personal injury cases and wrongful death lawsuits through contingency fee agreements, meaning no upfront fees are necessary until we resolve the issue through a negotiated settlement or jury trial award.

Any family member who lost a loved one by a preventable death caused by the health care provider’s negligence can file a wrongful death lawsuit. Your medical malpractice attorney will ensure you receive financial compensation to cover hospitalization costs, medical bills, lost wages, future lost earnings, family support, pain, suffering, and funeral & burial costs.

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