“A Breach of the Standard of Care”: What It Means for Your Suit
The medical profession is highly regulated and requires healthcare professionals, from doctors to lab techs, to maintain certain standards of care. These standards keep patients safe by ensuring high-quality treatment. When they are breached, patients suffer.
Fortunately, there is often justice for the suffering. Through a medical malpractice lawsuit based on a breach of the standard of care, a victim can get compensation for the losses and injuries they have incurred.
But understanding breaches of standards of care for lawsuit purposes is difficult and requires the services of a seasoned medical malpractice lawyer who knows how to fight.
Understanding a Standard of Care
The term “standard of care” refers to the level of competence in treating patients that all healthcare providers must meet. They must possess the skill, knowledge, training, and experience to properly deliver the same quality of care and make the same or substantially similar decisions that another professional in their position would.
If a doctor makes a treatment decision that no other reasonable doctor would have made, that doctor has likely breached the standard of care. For example, if a doctor fails to diagnose a condition that any other reasonable doctor would have detected, that doctor has likely breached the relevant standard of care.
All Health Care Professionals Are Included
Doctors are not the only professionals who are held to a standard of care. Others include:
- Mental health professionals
- Physical therapists
Additionally, hospitals and clinics must maintain various standards of care, particularly relating to the cleanliness of the facility, the availability of proper equipment, and the diligent screening and hiring of qualified professionals.
Even if a hospital adequately maintains all relevant standards of care, it may still face vicarious liability for the malpractice of one of its licensed employees.
How Attorneys Prove Breaches of Standards of Care
A breach of a standard of care is not a simple mistake that any healthcare professional could make. The law does not allow patients to sue for foreseeable human error. No, a breach of a standard of care is an occurrence for which there is no excuse.
When attorneys take on a medical malpractice case, they must find evidence of a breach. What that evidence is can vary from situation to situation given the innumerable ways in which healthcare professionals treat patients. In other words, the circumstances determine what the standard of care should be and whether a breach took place.
The fact that surgery or some other treatment was not successful is not enough evidence of a breach. Medical professionals are not deities, nor are their procedures perfect. However, a failed surgery or treatment coupled with other evidence could in fact signal medical malpractice.
Common examples of breaches of standards of care include:
- Failure to diagnose a condition or injury other professionals would have caught
- Faulty diagnosis
- Failure to provide follow-up care
- Errors in prescribing or administering drugs
- Intentionally harming a patient
Evidence of these acts of malpractice might come in the form of:
- A patient’s medical records
- Hospital records
- Blatantly obvious evidence that speaks for itself (i.e., amputation of the wrong foot)
- Diagnostic test and examination procedures and results
- Expert witness testimony and reports
- Witness testimony
There’s also the certificate of merit, which is a document that the attorney of record completes before filing the lawsuit. In the document, the attorney affirms that they have consulted with a licensed doctor who has knowledge of the medical issues at hand. After consulting with this doctor, the attorney reasonably believes that the client has a valid medical malpractice case worth pursuing.
This document acts as a powerful first piece of evidence that a standard of care has indeed been violated.
It is important to note that proving medical malpractice requires more than a showing of a breach of a standard of care. The attorney must also demonstrate three other elements:
- Duty: Was the patient officially under the care of the negligent healthcare professional?
- Causation: Did the healthcare professional breach actually directly cause the injury and losses?
- Damages: Did the injury lead to compensable damages?
Once these elements have been established, your attorney will proceed to calculate and negotiate a proper compensation figure.
Get Help From Medical Malpractice Lawyers Who Know How to Fight
When a healthcare provider breaches a standard of care, they should be held responsible. If you have been harmed by a doctor or some other healthcare professional, don’t hesitate to give Silberstein, Awad & Miklos a call. We’ll review your case for no charge and help you understand your options for getting the justice you deserve.