What does “Standard of Care” mean in medical malpractice claims?


Medical Malpractice Lawyer

When you walk into a doctor’s office, the hospital or a clinic, you are putting an incredible amount of trust in the hands of the doctor and other members of the health care team. You are entitled to a certain quality of care when it comes to diagnosis, treatment and follow-up protocol and procedure. When that quality of care is compromised, for any reason, and you suffer as a result, you may be entitled to compensation. The following explores what determines the standard of care in the medical world and how that may affect your claim.


Definition of standard of care

The standard of care in medical settings is intended to be a guideline of the careful, skillful and ethical treatment that patients should receive. The standard may vary depending on the medical specialty but it is always intended to provide the patient with the best care possible. In addition, the standard is based on the criteria that any reasonable person would act in a similar manner under similar circumstances. It is important to understand the standard of care because the integrity of the claim is based on whether or not the patient received substandard care. If it is determined that the patient received substandard care, the health professional may be found negligent.


Who determines the standard of care?

An expert medical witness may provide testimony that explains the standard of care that is appropriate and acceptable in circumstances similar to the case in the malpractice claim.


Who can act as an expert medical witness in a malpractice case?

In most medical malpractice claims, an expert medical witness is required to speak on behalf of the appropriate standards of care in the case. The medical witness should be someone who is considered an expert in the same or similar medical specialty as the person whom the case is against. As previously mentioned, this individual will provide testimony that establishes a standard of care that directly relates to the circumstances surrounding the malpractice case.


What should the expert witness testimony consist of?

The testimony of the expert witness is an integral part of the patient’s case and therefore should be someone who can be impartial yet clear in his or her explanation of three key points. The first is to establish what the acceptable standard of care in this situation should have been. The second is to show how that standard was not met. The third point is to illustrate how the injury occurred as a result of the substandard of care. The testimony should be in general, understandable terms and relate to similar circumstances to the patient’s. If there is no evidence of a violation to the standard of care, there is no case. Similarly, if there is evidence pointing to substandard of care but no injury resulted from it, there is no case.  


If you feel that you have a medical malpractice claim, it is important that you consult with a medical malpractice lawyer Salt Lake City, UT offers immediately. An experienced attorney will be able to determine if you do have a case and what the next step should be.

Thank you to our friends and contributors at Rasmussen & Miner for their insight into medical malpractice claims and standards of care.