The Standard of Care in a Medical Malpractice Case

The Standard of Care in Medical Malpractice Cases

When you have been hurt because of the wrongful acts of another person, the typical basis for recovery is a lawsuit alleging negligence. To succeed with a negligence action, you have to show that:

  • There was a commonly accepted standard of care, which the defendant failed to meet
  • The defendant’s breach of the standard of care resulted in some type of injury
  • The injured party suffered an actual loss because of the injury

In a typical negligence claim, the standard of care to which the defendant is held is that of a “reasonable person.” Though different courts have defined “reasonable” in different ways, the generally accepted standard is that of an average person of ordinary prudence. In our legal system, the jury determines whether the actions of the defendant met that standard. Accordingly, in all negligence claims, the jury must evaluate whether the behavior of the defendant was reasonable, or what would have been done by an average person of ordinary prudence.

In a medical malpractice case, though, the defendant is held to a different standard. Because the practice of medicine requires a high degree of skill and training, it is not something that can be done by an “average person of ordinary prudence.” Instead, physicians are held to a higher standard, which is typically established through the use of expert testimony. Here are the specific questions the jury typically must ask about the conduct of a medical professional:

  • Was the care given similar to that which a reasonably competent and skilled health professional would give?
  • Was the care given similar to that of a person with similar training and background?
  • Was the care given similar to that provided by other similar professionals in the same medical community?

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