Understanding the Standard of Care

Understanding the Standard of Care

In 1837, an English farmer built a haystack near the boundary of his neighbor’s property. His neighbor warned the farmer on multiple occasions that the haystack was a fire hazard, but the farmer ignored him and left the matter up to chance. Ultimately, the haystack did catch fire and damaged a number of cottages on the neighbor’s property. The neighbor subsequently sued the farmer for damages. This tort law case, Vaughan v Menlove, would establish the foundation for the “standard of care” that all modern medical malpractice cases are based on.

The judge in Vaughan v Menlove described the standard of care in terms of the concept of “the reasonable person.” According to the judge, we can determine whether someone has breached the standard of care by asking ourselves whether they “proceeded with such reasonable caution as a prudent man would have exercised under such circumstances.” If they haven’t proceeded with this reasonable caution, then they have been negligent in their actions.Doctor and Patient 2

So How is This Idea Applied in Medical Malpractice Cases?

The standard of care depends on the circumstances of a given case. For a malpractice case to be viable, the plaintiff must prove that their physician acted in a fashion that was contrary to reasonable medical practice. This might mean that they failed to warn them about potentially dangerous drug interactions. It might mean that they performed surgery on the wrong limb. Or, it might mean that they recommended a course of treatment that wound up causing undue harm to the patient. Clearly, some cases are more cut-and-dried than others. In essence, violating the standard of care is synonymous with negligence.

Have you been treated by a physician who violated the standard of care? Our experienced malpractice attorneys can help. Give us a call today to learn more about how you can get the compensation you deserve for your pain and suffering.


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