If you are bringing a medical malpractice lawsuit, the first thing you must establish is that the doctor had a “duty of care” to you. Here’s what this legal concept means and how it can affect your case.
Doctor’s Duty Of Care: A Definition
The duty of care, also known as the standard of care, it is the standard that all medical professionals and healthcare providers are required to uphold when dealing with a patient. In other words, it is how physicians, nurses, pharmacists, and even hospitals are expected to perform, based on the customary knowledge, skills, and actions of any average professional in their field.
For instance, when you consult with a doctor, he or she has the duty of care to provide you with helpful medical advice, just as (or better than) any average doctor would.
If a medical professional falls below this standard while serving you, he or she can be said to have failed the duty of care.
When A Doctor Has A Duty Of Care
A doctor’s duty of care only begins when a doctor-patient relationship has been established – that is, as soon as the doctor agrees to assist the patient.
A person cannot expect a duty of care if, for example, that person simply heard the doctor’s medical advice meant for another person. In another example, a physician does not have this professional responsibility if he or she just happened to be in a room where someone is having a heart attack. The physician’s duty would only start if he or she voluntarily comes to that person’s aid.
How Duty Of Care Affects A Malpractice Case
A successful medical malpractice case requires four elements:
- that the doctor had a duty of care to the patient
- that the doctor breached or failed this duty
- that this breach caused injury or illness to the patient
- that this resulted in damages or losses to the patient
As the first element in a malpractice case, duty of care must be established before anything else, otherwise, the case cannot be pursued.
What this means for your claim is that you must show that you were a patient of the doctor, thus establishing that he or she had a professional duty to you. We at Willens & Baez are ready to help you concretely prove this as well as the other elements of your malpractice case.