Medical treatment isn’t an exact science, yet we need some way to measure whether or not a patient has received adequate treatment. The law does this by comparing the treatments one patient receives against similar treatments for other patients with similar conditions. This is the basic premise of the standard of care, which is explored in greater depth below.

What is a Standard of Care?

While laws vary from state to state, every state establishes that a doctor can be held liable in a medical malpractice claim if their treatment of the patient didn’t meet the typical standard of care. This means that the doctor is obligated to provide the minimal treatment that any doctor would administer to a patient with similar conditions. The doctor isn’t required to go beyond that minimum standard of care to prove they didn’t commit medical malpractice. 

The problem arises in that the law doesn’t provide a specific definition as to what the exact standard of care might be. Because of this, attorneys for the plaintiff and defense will have to bring in experts, such as other doctors who practice similar fields of medicine, to testify as to the standard of care in a particular case. 

When other doctors testify that they would have acted similarly, it is very damaging to a plaintiff’s claim that they received a poor standard of care from their doctor. This sort of testimony can lead to the dismissal of the plaintiff’s case.

Comparing the Average Provider to a Reasonable Provider

In most personal injury lawsuits, defendants are held up to the standard of what a reasonable person might do, but this is considered to be too low of a burden for healthcare professionals. In medical malpractice claims, the healthcare provider is instead held to the standard of the customary practices that the average provider might administer. 

If the standard of care is determined by a jury made up of average citizens, they will likely equate the standard of care with perfect medical treatment. This burden is too high, however, considering medical treatment is rarely ideal. 

A patient’s condition, including allergies and tolerances, will determine how they react to medications, surgical procedures, and other types of treatment. For that reason, the customary practices of the average provider establish the standard of care in medical malpractice cases.

What Damages Can Be Sought in a Medical Malpractice Claim?

Providing medical treatment below the standard of care can have serious consequences for patients, which is why the law allows patients to recover damages in a civil claim. If your attorney proves that your doctor provided a poor standard of care, you may be able to obtain compensation in the form of compensatory damages. 

Some damages you may be entitled to seek in a medical malpractice claim include:

  • Medical care costs to cover recovery;
  • Physical or emotional therapy;
  • Loss of wages;
  • Loss of enjoyment of life;
  • Physical disability;
  • Pain and suffering.

In some civil lawsuits, a jury may also choose to award punitive damages. While compensatory damages are awarded to help the plaintiff cover the financial burden the harm has caused, punitive damages are awarded as a means of punishing the defendant. For this reason, punitive damages are usually high enough to cause the defendant to “feel” the financial loss. For example, punitive damages levied against a hospital would be significantly higher than those charged to a single physician. The goal is to ensure standards are updated to prevent the same type of situation from occurring in the future.

If you believe you have been the victim of medical malpractice, the best course of action for you to take is to consult a lawyer. By discussing your situation with someone experienced in handling medical malpractice cases, you can discover if you received substandard treatment below the legal definition of the standard of care in your state. If your attorney thinks you have a case, they can help you seek compensation for your damages.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *