What is the “Standard of Care” for Medical Malpractice Lawsuits in Texas?
When you are harmed by poor medical care, you are only entitled to compensation when the doctor’s treatment falls below the “standard of care.” There is no general standard of care, or rulebook a doctor must follow to be clear of errors. Instead, the standard of care depends on the specifics of your case and your condition. In order to prove the standard of care in a case, medical malpractice lawyers hire experts to testify in court. If you have been injured by a doctor’s bad treatment, talk to the Dallas personal injury lawyers at The Queenan Law Firm today.
How is Standard of Care Determined?
There is no rulebook that outlines a doctor’s steps to provide good care. Usually, no two patients or conditions are exactly the same, and you cannot say what the correct course of action is until you are in that situation. Unfortunately, many doctors choose wrong. When a case goes to court, it is up to other doctors to say what the right move should have been.
This means that, when you take your medical malpractice case to trial, you often need to use people called “expert witnesses” to prove your case. Expert witnesses are healthcare professionals with similar qualifications to the one you are suing, who can explain the correct treatment to a jury. Many times, these experts are doctors that work in the same field, with the same board certifications and experience as the doctor who harmed you.
These experts examine your medical records, and may need to examine you, to decide whether the care was adequate or not. They can then form their own “expert opinion” about what they would have done in the same situation.
The doctor who harmed you – the “defendant” in a legal case – may use his or her own experts as well. Sometimes the courts may even hire an independent expert. The defendant’s expert will try to argue that the doctor’s care was within the standard of care. They argue that your injuries were a normal outcome of the treatment, and not because of negligence.
Ultimately, it is up to the jury to decide if the care was okay. The jury uses all expert opinions to decide whether the doctor’s care met, or fell below the standard of care. If you were injured due to medical negligence, such as a misdiagnosis, a bad allergic reaction to prescribed medication, and more, our medical malpractice lawyers may be able to help.
How does the Standard of Care Prove Negligence?
A bad outcome does not automatically prove a doctor’s negligence. Instead, to prove a medical malpractice case, you have to prove four things:
- The healthcare provider owed you a duty,
- The healthcare provider breached that duty,
- The breach caused you harm, and
- The harm is something you can prove to a court and get compensated. These harms are called “damages.”
The standard of care is what helps determine what the duty was and whether the healthcare professional breached it.
In some cases, the duty is clear. For instance, imagine a case against a hospital for slipping in a spill in the hallway. An expert is probably unnecessary to show the hospital had a duty to keep the hallways safe and clear of spills. In cases based on medical problems, the duty is not as obvious.
The standard of care becomes a description of the doctor’s duty. When a jury listens to the expert opinions, they make a decision of what the doctor’s duty was, and whether the doctor breached it or not. If you can convince a jury that the doctor’s care fell below the standard of care, then you have shown them the doctor breached the duty.
If the jury believes your expert, you prove the defendant doctor breached his duty. If the jury believes the defendant’s expert, they will not agree that the doctor breached his duty.
A jury may determine that the standard of care was very high, in which case your doctor’s care likely breached his duty. A jury could also set a low standard, in which case your doctor’s care would have to be exceptionally poor to breach the duty. Juries are often unpredictable, but experienced malpractice attorneys can help them properly understand a doctor’s duty by choosing the right experts to help prove your case.
Contact a Dallas Medical Malpractice Attorney Today
If you were injured by bad medical care in Dallas, talk to an attorney today. Your case may have important deadlines you need to meet. The experienced lawyers at The Queenan Law firm are awaiting your call. For a free consultation, call (817) 476-1797.