Most personal injury lawsuits are based on the legal theory of negligence. This includes medical malpractice cases, although the way negligence works in these cases is somewhat different. In this blog post, we will try to explain negligence and medical negligence.
The idea behind negligence is similar to what we commonly call “carelessness,” but its legal meaning is more specific. The basic idea behind negligence law is that everyone has a duty to avoid the unreasonable risk of harming other people. When we act negligently, we breach that duty of care. If someone else is harmed as a result of our negligence, we can be held liable for their damages. Damages can include medical expenses, pain and suffering and much more.
In analyzing negligence claims, courts often apply what some call “the reasonable person standard.” This means they ask themselves, “What would a reasonable person do under the same or similar circumstances?”
For example, if the plaintiff in a car accident case claims that the defendant was looking at their smartphone instead of watching the road in the moments before the crash, the court will ask if a reasonable driver would have done the same.
The answer, of course, is that a reasonable driver would have kept their eyes on the road. Therefore, the defendant acted negligently. The next step is to determine whether this negligence was the cause of the plaintiff’s damages.
The way courts analyze medical negligence is slightly different . In medical malpractice cases, the question is not, “What would a reasonable person have done?” It’s “What would a reasonable medical professional acting up to the standards of their profession do under the same or similar circumstances?”
Rather than judging the defendant’s behavior against the general public, courts judge the defendant’s behavior against professional standards.
A doctor cannot cure every problem for every patient — they are only human — but they have a duty to provide care that is up to the standards of their profession. If they provide substandard care, and a patient is injured as a result, they can be held liable for the patient’s damages.
All the above may seem dry and technical for people who have been injured because of medical negligence, but these concepts are very important for helping the injured and their families recover the compensation they deserve after they have been harmed due to medical malpractice.