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What Is the Standard of Care in Medical Malpractice?

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Updated February 18, 2020 | Medical Malpractice |


You may have come across the term “standard of care” while researching medical malpractice lawsuits. But what does it mean?

In any industry, professionals have a duty to uphold a level of care as determined by the specifics of their field. Healthcare providers, similarly, must meet a similar expectation when working with their patients.

As a legal term, and not a medical one, the standard of care is used to describe this expectation in medical malpractice lawsuits.

What is the Standard of Care in Medical Malpractice?

Standard of care can be described as the care that an average healthcare provider would be expected to provide under similar circumstances. Medical knowledge is taken into account as well—specifically, the medical professional’s specialty and knowledge available to other physicians.

How It Differs from Other Types of Negligence

Negligence cases are based on the “reasonable person” standard. In other words: How would a reasonable person act in similar circumstances? What actions would they do or not do? If a reasonable person would have performed an action, then not doing that action could be considered negligent.

However, in medical malpractice cases, standard of care is often referred to instead of negligence.

Average vs. Reasonable Physician

Although every case is different, medical malpractice cases tend to look at how an “average” physician would act, as opposed to a “reasonable” physician—bringing the focus to methodology instead of medical results.

Since non-medical professionals (judges, juries, attorneys, patients, etc.) may interpret a “reasonable” standard as a medical case with perfect results and care, specifying an “average” physician reminds others that medical malpractice is not always the cause of poor medical results. Risks and complications are, unfortunately, a reality.

Who Determines Standard of Care?

Qualified expert witnesses provide testimony to help determine the standard of care for any given medical malpractice case. Attorneys on both sides can call witnesses to give examples of what an average physician in the same field and similar circumstances would do, helping to establish the standard of care for that case.

Contact a Medical Malpractice Attorney Today

If you or a loved one have been injured as a result of medical malpractice, contact the Indianapolis Medical Malpractice Attorneys of Wilson Kehoe Winingham. The lawyers at WKW will fight for the compensation you deserve. Call 317.920.6400 or fill out an online contact form for a free, no-obligation case evaluation.

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