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What determines the standard of care in a malpractice suit?

If you have suffered an injury or illness as the result of a medical professional’s negligence, you may be considering filing a medical malpractice claim. If you do choose to file a lawsuit, in many cases, the court will take into account whether or not the professional or medical facility violated the reasonable standard of care.

Generally speaking, the standard of care refers to how a competent, skilled professional would have provided you a certain level or type of care, be it monitoring your recovery, advising a course of treatment or conducting a procedure.

According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, there are a few specifics that may play a role in determining if medical negligence played a factor. The standard of care expected in your specific case could hinge on one of the following:

  • Local standard – The physician would be expected to have the same skills and knowledge as other physicians in the practicing area, which can be especially important in rural malpractice claims in which doctors might lack certain resources.
  • National standard – The physician should have the same skills and knowledge as a competent practitioner in the field.
  • Respectable minority – When doctors deviate from the standard treatment or recommended procedures, they may be able explain their actions through proving that a respectable minority of physicians would have done the same.

In Massachusetts, it is nearly always required that your attorney bring in an expert medical witness who would discuss the steps that should have been taken for your care or treatment. Additionally, the witness would likely speak to how the physician who deviated from those standards was responsible for causing you further pain or suffering. Having an expert witness will help prove your claim that the medical professional who treated you was negligent. While this information should not be taken as legal advice, it can help you understand the process and what to expect.

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