medical malpractice

What to Do If Your Medical Provider Fails to Meet the Standard of Care

When you seek medical attention, you expect to receive the appropriate care for your condition. Unfortunately, there are instances when medical professionals fall short, causing harm or injury. Knowing what is considered the standard of care in medical malpractice cases is essential for determining whether you have a valid claim. Our experienced Kansas City medical malpractice lawyer at Peterson & Associates, P.C., explains the standard of care and can guide you on the steps to take if you’ve been injured due to a health care provider's negligence.

What Is the Standard of Care?

The standard of care refers to the level and type of care a reasonably competent health care professional with similar training and in the same medical community would provide under similar circumstances. The care provided should be consistent with what other medical professionals consider acceptable and appropriate in similar situations.

For instance, if a patient has signs of a heart attack and visits the emergency room, the standard of care would include conducting specific diagnostic tests, such as an electrocardiogram (EKG), and providing immediate medical treatment. If a doctor fails to perform these standard procedures and the patient's condition worsens, the doctor may be considered negligent for failing to provide the standard of care. 

Another example would be if a doctor fails to diagnose a serious condition, such as cancer, despite clear symptoms and available diagnostic tests. As a result, the patient's condition worsens significantly, requiring more aggressive treatment and reducing the chances of recovery. This failure to properly diagnose and treat the condition promptly constitutes a breach of the standard of care and is considered negligent.

Other examples of a provider failing to meet the standard of care include:

  • Delayed diagnosis or misdiagnosis
  • Failure to diagnose a medical condition or treat a patient
  • Surgical errors or unnecessary surgery
  • Errors in medication or in administering medications.

Establishing the Standard of Care 

Several elements must be established for a valid medical malpractice claim. These include: 

  • Duty. You must show that a doctor-patient relationship existed, meaning that you hired the doctor, and the doctor agreed to be hired. This establishes that the doctor owed you a duty of care. A signed consent form can provide proof of this duty.
  • Negligence. You must demonstrate that the health care provider was negligent in your diagnosis or treatment. This means showing that the provider did not exercise the level of care and skill that a reasonably competent health care professional would have under similar circumstances. You must prove what the standard of care was and how the provider deviated from that standard. 
  • Causation. You must establish a direct link between the provider's negligence and your injury. It must be shown that the negligence was the cause of the injury and that the harm would not have occurred if the provider had not been negligent.
  • Damages. You need to demonstrate that you suffered specific damages due to the injury. This could include physical pain, mental anguish, additional medical bills, and lost work and earning capacity.

Establishing these elements involves several critical factors:

  • Medical guidelines and protocols. Established by reputable medical organizations, these guidelines provide clear benchmarks for acceptable medical practices. They outline the expected procedures and treatments for various conditions, serving as a reference point for evaluating the care provided.
  • Expert testimony. Medical experts play a crucial role in malpractice cases by offering professional insights into appropriate care in a specific situation. Their testimony helps to establish whether the health care provider's actions align with what a competent professional would have done.
  • Common practices. The standard of care is also determined by examining what is commonly practiced by medical professionals in the same specialty and geographic area. This comparison helps to identify whether the care provided deviated from what is typically expected in similar circumstances.

Steps to Take if You Are Injured or Harmed Due to Medical Malpractice

If you suffered harm or injury due to the negligence of a medical professional who failed to provide you with the standard of care, there are several steps you should take. The following steps can help protect your rights and your ability to pursue a medical malpractice claim. 

  • Seek immediate medical treatment from another health care provider to address any injuries or complications caused by the negligent care. This step ensures your well-being and creates a medical record of your condition following the negligent care.
  • Keep detailed records of all medical treatments, prescriptions, and communications with health care providers. Document your symptoms, any changes in your condition, and how the injury or harm has impacted your daily life. This information can be crucial for your case. 
  • Obtain copies of all your medical records from the health care provider you believe was negligent and from any other providers who have treated you since. These records are vital for proving the standard of care was breached.
  • Contact a qualified Kansas City medical malpractice attorney who can evaluate your case, explain your rights, and guide you through the legal process. An attorney will also help determine if you have a viable claim and what damages you may be entitled to seek.

In addition, avoid discussing the details of your case with anyone other than your attorney. This includes posting about your situation on social media. Statements made to others can be used against you in court.

Proving a Breach of the Standard of Care With Your Attorney

When you hire a medical malpractice lawyer, they will work to prove that a breach in the standard of care caused your injury or harm. They do this by:

  • Gathering evidence. A lawyer will collect all relevant evidence for your case. This includes medical records like diagnostic tests, treatment plans, and notes from the health care provider. 
  • Consulting medical experts. Lawyers work closely with medical experts who can review the case details and offer an informed opinion on whether the care met the standard. Medical experts can identify deviations from accepted medical practices and help establish that a breach occurred.
  • Researching medical standards. Your lawyer will research established medical guidelines and protocols that apply to the specific condition and treatment in question. This helps to clearly define the standard of care that should have been followed.
  • Depositions and testimonies. Lawyers conduct depositions of the medical professionals involved and other witnesses to gather information and statements that can support the negligence claim. They also prepare and present expert witnesses whose testimonies are crucial in explaining the standard of care and how it was breached.
  • Building a compelling case. Your lawyer will use evidence and expert testimonies to build a compelling argument. This will demonstrate how the medical professional's actions deviated from the accepted standard of care, leading to your injury or harm.

In addition, your lawyer will handle all necessary legal paperwork, ensuring the lawsuit is filed correctly and within the statute of limitations. In Missouri, the deadline for filing a medical malpractice claim is two years from the date on which the injury or harm occurred. If you fail to meet this deadline, your case will be dismissed, and you will not be able to recover damages.

Many medical malpractice cases are settled out of court. Your lawyer will negotiate with the health care provider’s insurance company or legal team to seek a fair settlement. You could be compensated for damages such as medical expenses, lost wages, or pain and suffering. If a settlement cannot be reached with the insurance company, your lawyer will be prepared to take your case to court. 

How a Kansas City Medical Malpractice Attorney Can Help You

At Peterson & Associates, we strive to maximize the claims of our Kansas City medical malpractice clients and secure the best possible outcome. For one medical malpractice client, we secured a settlement of $3.5 million. Each case is unique, and we will give you the personalized attention and care you deserve. 

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