What Constitutes Medical Malpractice?
Medical malpractice can occur in any medical field and under nearly any circumstances. The most well-known area of malpractice is surgery malpractice, but oncologists, gynecologists, and pediatricians are all equally capable of causing harm through recklessness or negligence. Even nurses and pharmacies have committed major acts of malpractice that resulted in permanent or fatal harm—sometimes by simple providing the wrong dosage and wrong medication.
However, no matter how diverse or broad the definition of medical malpractice might be, every case hinges on one element: the reasonable standard of care. Failing to meet the standard of care is the foundation of any medical malpractice case and is what constitutes your claim.
Our Florida medical malpractice lawyers explain this subject in further detail below.
The Imaginary “Reasonable Person”
In civil litigation, injury lawyers will use the legal theory of the “reasonable person” to prove the other party’s negligence. The idea behind the reasonable person is this: negligence is an outlier—an unusual amount of reckless thought or behavior. In other words, it’s a deviation from the average.
The Reasonable Person is a hypothetical person with average capabilities, average intelligence, and average knowledge. It isn’t an objective standard so much as it’s an agreed-upon idea—jurors have to decide for themselves whether the Reasonable Person would have acted in the same manner as the defendant. If the defendant acted differently than the Reasonable Person would, then they must be negligent.
If it sounds like a vague and hard-to-define standard, that’s because it is. Common sense and what the Reasonable Person would do is decided by consensus—which is why personal injury cases are tried before a jury and not with a formula.
The Reasonable Person is part of why medical malpractice cases are so complex.
The Reasonable Person Graduates from Medical School
The problem with proving negligence in a medical malpractice case is realizing that a doctor is not just an average person with average knowledge. Years of medical training changes the stakes. As a result, you can’t necessarily trust the opinion of a jury of your peers to decide what a doctor should or could have done in a given situation. You also can’t assemble a jury made exclusively of doctors—that’s not doable for every malpractice case in the U.S.
In addition, one medical specialist cannot comment on the reasonable practices of another type of specialist. An eye doctor can’t truthfully testify on how an orthopedic doctor or a neurosurgeon should have acted. Rather than consensus, medical malpractice attorneys depend on expert testimony.
Usually, medical malpractice cases will employ 1 or more medical experts who can testify about whether the defendant acted in a way that the “average doctor” would. That’s why finding a credible medical expert is crucial for a malpractice case—if a doctor finds another doctor negligent, then the jury is much more likely to rule in favor of the plaintiff.
Keep in mind, this is only one part of a malpractice case. Our Florida medical malpractice lawyers have over 100 years of collective experience fighting for the injured in cases involving a variety of medical mistakes, from wrongful surgery to birth injury cases. We’ve won against some of the nation’s largest hospitals and most well-funded law firms because we understand medical malpractice from every angle. If you want a firm that has won hundreds of millions for the injured, you want our nationally-renowned medical malpractice firm.
Call (305) 770-6335 for a free case review with Stewart Tilghman Fox Bianchi & Cain, P.A. We look forward to helping you move forward.