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Understanding a Standard of Care Violation Defense

A doctor looking at his smartphne trying to understand a standard of care violation defense

Medical standards of care are vital to the healthcare industry. They safeguard the health and well-being of your patients. However, since doctors, nurses, and medical professionals have a fast-paced, challenging job, it is possible to commit a standard of care violation without knowing.

What Are Medical Standards?

Medical standards of care describe the minimum level of medical competence required for healthcare professionals. According to the U.S. Department of the Interior Medical Standards Programs, these standards ensure that you and other medical professionals perform your job in a safe, efficient manner for the sake of your patients.

Examples of medical standards include

  • Licensing requirements for doctors, nurses, and other professionals in the medical field
  • Basic protocols for treating patients with specific injuries
  • General policies you must abide by while working in hospitals, clinics, and other medical facilities.

Failing to meet medical standards can negatively impact the health of patients. A patient may file a medical malpractice lawsuit against you. Medical malpractice occurs when your patient is injured, becomes sicker, or passes away due to improper treatments or diagnosis.

Can Medical Standards Violations Be Proven?

The plaintiff must provide testimony from a qualified medical witness to prove a standards violation. The witness must testify that the standard of care has been violated and that this violation has adversely affected the plaintiff’s health.

A patient may file a malpractice lawsuit if they believe that you violated the standards of patient care. In addition, your patient may sue you for damages if your improper healthcare treatment has harmed their physical, emotional, or financial well-being. Most lawsuits are typically based on negligence claims, characterized by duty, breach of duty, harm, and causation.

Note that the patient can only prove you performed medical practice if they can present proof of the following:

  • As a healthcare professional, you have to comply with medical standards while treating and diagnosing the patient.
  • You breached your professional duty by falling short of these standards because of negligence in one or more areas of healthcare.
  • Your negligence as a medical professional was the direct cause of the patient’s injury, sickness, or death.
  • Your patient can prove that the sickness or injury your negligence caused has led them to encounter quantifiable damages.

Examples of Violations of Medical Standards

Here are a few of the common medical standard violations for healthcare professionals:

  • Performing a medical procedure on the wrong patient or the wrong body area
  • Failure to promptly or correctly diagnose a life-threatening disease or condition
  • Ignoring direct instructions from your superior or advisor in the workplace
  • Disregarding the privacy of a patient in violation of HIPAA standards
  • Inability to provide the right kind of healthcare to your patient before, during, and after medical surgery
  • Inputting inaccurate information in the medical records of a patient

Typical Remedies and Damages for Violations of Medical Standards

Your patient may recover certain remedies and damages if they sustained physical, emotional, or mental injuries because of medical standard violations:

  • Economic / Special Damages: Economic damages are computed according to various factors, such as the type of injury, amount of medical expenses, inability to work, lost wages, and other related costs.
  • Non-economic / General Damages: Non-economic damages refer to physical pain, mental trauma, emotional distress, lower quality of life, and other damages that cannot be measured by numbers.
  • Punitive Damages: Punitive damages are meant to compensate the patient and punish the healthcare professional for a highly offensive act.
  • Miscellaneous Remedies: There are also other remedies that the court may issue during a medical malpractice lawsuit. These include the suspension or revocation of the medical license of a healthcare professional, closing down a healthcare facility, or requiring a medical organization to implement new health and safety measures.

Violation of Medical Standards Defenses

There are protections against standards violations:

  • No Violation: You may seek to prove that you did not truly make a healthcare violation in the first place.
  • Lack of Proof: You may not be held liable for your patient’s injury if they cannot provide all the required proof of medical malpractice.
  • Contributory and Modified Comparative Negligence: You may prove that the patient contributed actively to their injury.
  • Statute of Limitations: The patient may not be qualified to file a lawsuit once they wait longer than the period indicated in your state’s statute of limitations.
  • “Good Samaritan” Laws: Certain states have approved “Good Samaritan” laws that protect healthcare professionals who may need to provide immediate medical treatments to patients in emergency circumstances.

Get Legal Expertise & Support

Medical malpractice lawsuits can harm your career as a doctor, nurse, dentist, physical therapist, or other healthcare professional. If your patient claims that you have violated medical standards of care, the professional services of a healthcare attorney are highly advised to protect your practice. Get in touch with us if you need the assistance of an experienced attorney specializing in standard of care violation defense.