What is the Standard of Care in Medical Malpractice Cases?

What is the Standard of Care in Medical Malpractice Cases?

Medical malpractice is a legal cause of action brought by a medical malpractice lawyer against a medical or health care professional who deviated from the standards of care in their profession through a negligent act or omission, and thereby caused injury or death to their patient.

In Washington State, those injured by medical negligence may file medical malpractice claims seeking compensation for their expenses and injuries. The statute of limitations for most personal injury claims is three years from the date of injury; after which time the plaintiff may be permanently barred from recovering any compensation for their injuries. If you were injured due to negligent care, seek the help of a medical malpractice lawyer who can assess your potential case and discuss your legal rights.

The four basic elements of medical malpractice

Under Washington State law, there are four basic elements that must be proved by the plaintiff for a successful medical malpractice claim:

  1. The defendant owed a duty of care to the injured party (patient/doctor relationship).
  2. The defendant breached their legal duty by providing negligent care.
  3. The defendant’s alleged failure to meet the standard of care was a cause for their alleged damages.
  4. The defendant suffered damage(s) because of the defendant’s failure to meet this standard of care.

What is the standard of care in medical malpractice cases?

In medical malpractice cases, the term “standard of care” describes the reasonable and expected degree of care the medical professional* should provide to their patient in a given circumstance. The standard of care can also be described as the care and treatment that is accepted by medical experts as a proper treatment for specific illnesses and disease that is widely used by healthcare professionals. For example, when a patient presents with symptoms of heart disease such as high blood pressure and pain, numbness, and weakness in the legs and arms; the standard of care could include a recommendation to see a cardiologist for further testing.

*Medical professionals include doctors, nurses, pharmacists and other professionals who treat patients.

Read more about a breach of the standard of care in Washington State Law RCW §7.70.040.

How is the standard of care established in a medical malpractice case?

In Washington State Courts, expert medical witness testimony is generally required to establish the relevant standard of care in explaining established medical treatments for specific medical conditions because anytime opinion is involved, it is considered beyond the expertise of a layperson. While there is technically no rule that disqualifies non-physicians from testifying as experts in medical malpractice actions, the Court observed that “we have found no cases in which a non-physician is found competent to testify on a physician’s technical medical standard of care in a medical malpractice case.” Id. at 228.

On the other hand, expert testimony is not always required in medical malpractice cases where the claim is based on facts that fall within the knowledge and experience of a layperson. The Washington Supreme Court stated: “Non-expert testimony is sometimes admissible for matters such as observations of health, disease, or injury. Where the determination of negligence does not require technical medical expertise, such as the negligence of amputating the wrong limb or poking a patient in the eye while stitching a wound on the face, the cases also do not require testimony by a physician.” Id. at 228.

An experienced medical malpractice lawyer will have access to expert medical witnesses who they can call as needed.

The Seattle Personal Injury Lawyers You Want on Your Side

The personal injury attorneys at Tinker Law Firm have been winning birth injury, medical malpractice, and personal injury cases for individuals and their loved ones in Seattle and across Washington State since 1974. We seek justice for injury victims who have been harmed by preventable medical errors, and the negligent or abusive actions of another. Our clients pay no fees or expenses to file a personal injury claim; our firm advances out-of-pocket expenses and is only reimbursed when we recover a settlement on your behalf. Do not delay; personal injury claims in Washington State have a statute of limitations, which means they must be filed within a certain time from the date of the injury.

Call us now at 206-842-1000 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation with one of our skilled and experienced injury attorneys.