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What is a doctor's standard of care?

In order to succeed on a medical malpractice claim in Lafayette, certain legal elements must be met. It is critical that victims of medical malpractice know and understand these elements and how to prove them, because a failure to do so could mean a lost case and continued financial difficulties in the aftermath of the incident. These elements include showing that a standard of care was owed to the patient, that standard was breached, the breach was the cause of the victim's injuries and those injuries are compensable.

This week we will look at the doctor's duty of care. A duty of care arises as soon as a doctor voluntarily decides to assist a patient with his or her medical condition. Once a doctor-patient relationship is established, then a duty of care is owed. That duty of care includes treatment with the skill, diligence and care possessed by a competent physician under similar circumstances. Though this may sound simple to establish, there are a number of issues that can affect the applicable standard of care. For example, a rural doctor may not be expected to have the same access to medical equipment as a doctor at a well-renowned urban hospital.

So how does a medical malpractice victim show to the judge and jury which standard of care should apply? Oftentimes a victim will need to utilize an expert witness to testify about the standard practices in the particular medical field in question and the type of hospital where the incident occurred.

Establishing the appropriate standard of care is critical. If the standard of care is allowed to be lower than what it should be, then it will be easier for a defendant to show that he met the standard. To retain the best possible chance of succeeding on a claim and recovering compensation for medical expenses and lost wages, a plaintiff needs to ensure that this piece of their lawsuit is as sound as possible.

Source: FindLaw, "What is a Doctor's Duty of Care?" accessed on Oct. 9 2016

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Tauzin & Lorio, Attorneys at Law
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