What does a “standard of care” mean in medical malpractice?

On Behalf of | Jun 15, 2022 | Medical Malpractice

When someone has been injured due to a medical provider’s actions (or failure to act), one of the biggest factors that will determine whether there was negligence involved is the applicable “standard of care” for the situation.

But what exactly does that mean? Since this is a confusing subject for a lot of people, taking a closer look can help you better understand your legal options.

A standard of care is the reasonable expectations for the situation

No two medical situations are exactly the same, but patients have a right to expect a certain level of care and caution from their provider. Exactly what they can expect, however, can vary greatly from one circumstance to another.

For example, imagine that someone suffers a serious injury to their leg in a wreck in a rural area near a tiny hospital with nothing more than a general surgeon on hand. Now, imagine that someone suffers a similar injury in a wreck but they’re right next to the Mayo Clinic, with all its vast resources and experts standing by. 

The outcome for the two patients may be vastly different, with the former patient losing their leg and the latter patient being left with nothing worse than a bad limp. As long as the medical providers in the rural area acted in a manner that can be considered reasonable for the situation, that’s not malpractice – despite the negative outcome. 

In other words, the big question that has to be answered is, “Did the medical provider behave in a way that was consistent with accepted medical practices, given the provider’s level of skill and access to information and equipment? Or did they make an obvious mistake?” 

This is just one of the many factors that have to be weighed when a medical malpractice claim, which is why it’s so important to have experienced legal guidance when you’ve suffered a serious loss.


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