The concept of medical malpractice may differ depending upon the law of medical malpractice in the state in which you live. For instance, in Maryland, medical malpractice occurs when “the care given by the health care provider is not in accordance with the standards of practice among members of the same health care profession with similar training and experience situated in the same or similar communities at the time of the alleged act giving rise to the cause of action.” (The Annotated Code of Maryland, Courts and Judicial Proceedings Article, Section 3-2A-02(c)(1)).
In short, medical malpractice occurs when the medical provider departs from the standard of care that the medical care provider is required to meet. Standard of care is that degree of care that a reasonably prudent person would exercise under the circumstances. In the medical malpractice context, the standard of care is based upon what a similarly qualified health care provider would have done (or not done) under the same or similar circumstances. Even though one doctor may have done something differently than another doctor under the same circumstances doesn’t necessarily mean that the standard of care was breached (breach of the standard of care means that the care that was provided did not meet the required level of care). While most people would want and expect that the medical care that they are provided is the best medical care available, the standard of care is rarely, if ever, the highest level of medical care. The standard of care can be thought of as a floor (or minimum) level of care that if not reached, the standard of care has not been met (that is, there may be medical malpractice negligence).
When most people talk about medical malpractice, they are referring to medical errors or medical mistakes that caused them to be injured. Even if a medical provider breaches the standard of care, he will not be liable to his patient unless the breach caused the patient to suffer injuries or damages of some sort. It may be easier to understand this concept by way of an example. Let’s say that a driver of a car on a two-lane, two-way roadway that is divided by solid double-yellow lines is approaching another car coming from the opposite direction. If the driver of the first car crosses over the yellow lines into the opposite lane of traffic, he has breached the standard of care (that is, he has acted negligently). However, if he crosses back over into his own lane of traffic before a collision occurs and his negligence has not caused any injuries and damages to the other driver, the driver of the second car cannot sue.
Often the standard of care for a medical provider is based either on a national standard (that degree of skill and care that a reasonably competent practitioner in his field would use under the same or similar circumstances) or a local standard (that degree of skill and care that a reasonably competent provider in his locality would have used), which is known as “the locality rule.” If the national standard is in effect, then a medical expert (a person is a medical expert if he/she has sufficient qualifications to be an expert in the field due to his/her education, experience, and/or training) in the same or sufficiently related medical field anywhere in the U.S. should be able to testify as to the applicable standard of care. If the locality rule is in effect, then the medical expert must be sufficiently familiar with the applicable standard of care in the local community in order to provide expert testimony.
As you can see from the general statements above, the law for medical malpractice is often complicated and often varies among the states. It is important when you seek legal advice regarding a potential medical malpractice claim that you speak with a competent medical malpractice attorney in your area to answer your medical malpractice questions. Visit our website to be connected with medical malpractice lawyers in your local area who may be able to assist you with your medical malpractice claim. Or call us toll free at 800-295-3959.