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Subjective Factors in Medical Standards of Care

Medical StandardsWhen discussing medical malpractice, the concept of the standard of care often comes up. However, it can be difficult to exactly explain what the standard of care is, and how it changes from doctor to doctor and location to location. If you are intending to mount a lawsuit where the standard of care must be identified, it is important that you know exactly what to discuss and how.

Negligence and Medical Malpractice

Medical malpractice in California is a subset of negligence law. To have a successful negligence claim, you must be able to prove four things regarding the event and your injuries from it. The first is that a duty of care must exist between plaintiff and defendant. (In medical malpractice cases, this is the duty between doctor and patient, and it is established by law.) The second element of a negligence case is to be able to show that the duty has been breached, and the third is to show it has been breached specifically by the actions of the defendant. The fourth is to show evidence of tangible injuries.

The ‘standard of care,’ as most often referred to in legal situations, is synonymous with ‘duty of care.’ A physician owes a duty of care to their patients, which means that they must provide the same level of care as a doctor of like age, experience and talent. If they are unable to do so, they are likely to be found negligent.

Room for Debate

In medical malpractice, the standard of care is generally higher for a doctor than it would be for someone with less medical training. However, even among doctors, the standard may vary slightly depending on the doctors themselves. Historically, another factor, geographic location, has been important as well; though California stopped using this rule in 1999, approximately 20 states still keep it on the books.

In California, the standard of care for healthcare professionals is “the level of skill, knowledge, and care in diagnosis and treatment that other reasonably careful healthcare professionals would use in the same or similar circumstances.” The major subjective points in the standard of care have more to do with the patient’s perception of the appropriate level of “skill and knowledge” than the doctor’s qualifications. Many patients labor under the misapprehension that any complication is tantamount to malpractice, when in reality some complications just happen. Care that is not perfect does not equal sub-standard care, but patients will sometimes bring suit alleging that it does.

Seek Experienced Legal Assistance

If you or a loved one has been the victim of truly substandard medical care, it is important to seek the advice of a knowledgeable attorney. The San Jose medical malpractice lawyers at Corsiglia, McMahon & Allard, L.L.P. have been handling malpractice cases for many years, and have acquired a reservoir of knowledge on the subject that we are happy to share with you. Contact our office today via telephone at (408) 289-1417 to schedule an appointment. We serve San Jose, the Bay Area, and the counties of Monterey, Alameda, Santa Clara, San Benito and San Mateo.

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Client Reviews
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My experience with Attorney Brad Corsiglia during my recent medical malpractice case was nothing short of amazing given the very stressful circumstances. I was fortunate to find Brad highly recommended from a mutual contact and from the very beginning of the process, Brad was truly engaged and knowledgeable in understanding my case and providing input on what avenues were available to me. Michelle M.