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Standard of Care in Medical Malpractice

In a medical malpractice or medical negligence case, one important aspect of the case is proving the standard of care. The standard of care means the level of caution and attention that a medical professional or hospital must exercise in the treatment of a patient.

In any personal injury lawsuit for medical malpractice, the injured party must show four things:

  • The applicable standard of care,
  • That the healthcare professional deviated from that standard,
  • That the deviation caused the plaintiff’s injury, and
  • That the plaintiff was, in fact, harmed.

Expert Witnesses

In Maryland, to prove the standard of care, a plaintiff must use expert testimony. This means testimony from a medical professional who has experience with the medical procedures or treatments that are at issue in the case. Expert testimony is required because generally, the standard of care that a medical professional must adhere to is a complex issue, and is not something that non-experts easily and fully understand. To be a qualified expert in Maryland, a healthcare provider cannot make more than 20% of his or her income from expert witness fees in personal injury lawsuits.

Standard for Medical Professionals

If a lawsuit is filed against a medical professional, such as a doctor or nurse, the standard of care that the person must meet is that he or she must have used the care and skill expected of:

  • A reasonably competent practitioner,
  • Of the same class to which the defendant belongs, and
  • Under the same or similar circumstances.

The court must also take into account other issues, including:

  • Whether the medical professional is a specialist or a general practitioner,
  • What medical facilities were available,
  • The proximity of other specialists and special facilities,
  • Any pertinent advances in the medical profession, and
  • All other relevant considerations.

Standard for Hospitals

If the defendant is a hospital, rather than an individual health care professional, the standard of care differs slightly. In that case, the hospital must use the degree of care of a:

  • Reasonably competent hospital,
  • In the same or similar circumstances.

The court must take into account other factors, such as:

  • Relevant advances in the profession,
  • The availability of special facilities and specialists, and
  • All other relevant considerations.

Strict Locality Rule

In Maryland, the strict locality rule was abandoned in 1975. Historically, the rule meant that the applicable standard of care was specific to the locality or community where the malpractice occurred. Thus, the expert witness testifying in the case had to be familiar with the standard in that locality.

Now, courts do not take the locality of the malpractice into account. Instead, they focus on the class and circumstances of the healthcare provider. Therefore, the expert’s training, experience, and specialties must be similar to those of the defendant.

Charles County, MD Personal Injury Lawyers that Fight for You

Medical malpractice injuries can have devastating and long-lasting effects, so it is important to retain the services of an experienced personal injury attorney. If you have been injured by medical malpractice in Waldorf, St Charles, Clinton, Charles County, St Mary's County, or anywhere in the State of Maryland, please call the Law Office of Robert R. Castro today, at 301-705-5253, for a free initial consultation.

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