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Breach of the Standard of Care & Medical Malpractice


In a medical malpractice case, one of the critical areas that a plaintiff needs to prove is that a breach of the standard of care occurred and harm resulted from it. In this article, you’ll understand what “standard of care” means and how it applies in a medical malpractice action.

Understanding the Standard of Care

According to Cornell Law School, “standard of care is an essential concept in determining whether a person was negligent and potentially liable for a tort. If a person breaches the standard that applies to them and their actions cause harm to another person, they can be liable for negligence.”

In general, the standard of care asks what a reasonable health care provider, doctor, nurse of similar training and skill would do under the same circumstances. If a person acted outside that standard, they might have committed a level of negligence that leaves them open to liability for any harm resulting from their action or inaction.

Applied in a medical malpractice context, the standard of care means, in general, what a reasonable medical professional would have done under the same circumstances. In short, if most other medical professionals would have acted differently when presented with your case, the medical professional who treated you may have breached their duty to you.

How a Breach in the Standard of Care Affects a Medical Malpractice Case

A medical professional must provide a standard of care to their patients. Evidence of the prevailing standard of care and how the healthcare provider or facility failed to meet the applicable standard of care (breached their duty) is necessary in a medical malpractice case.

In determining whether medical malpractice exists in a case, our team at the Villari Firm analyzes whether there was a breach of the standard of care.

Healthcare providers must meet certain standards of care when treating a patient. If a healthcare provider or facility fails to meet the applicable standard of care and harm results, there may be a medical malpractice claim.

Proving a Breach of the Standard of Care

Proving a breach in the standard of care requires clear and objective evidence. The evidence necessary may get introduced in many forms, such as verbal and written expert testimony, medical records, and medical board actions. An experienced medical malpractice attorney analyzes the facts of your case, consults with respected experts, and works directly with you to develop the best possible strategy for the case.

Example Breaches of the Standard of Care


Misdiagnosis occurs when a medical professional diagnoses a condition incorrectly. Misdiagnosis exposes the patient to procedures or medicines for a condition that the patient does not need and that, in fact, may cause harm. It can also result in a significant delay in the correct diagnosis and treatment.

Misinterpreting Lab Results

Misreading lab results or missing the lab results all together can lead to irreparable damage to a patient.

Failing to Diagnose

Failure to diagnose or a delayed diagnosis is a diagnosis that is not made in time to effectively treat the injury or condition, causing the patient harm.

Lacking Follow-Up Care

A patient receiving treatment from a medical professional is owed a duty to continue receiving care until their condition has been remedied. Discharging a patient before treatment is complete can lead to catastrophic results for the patient.

Prescription Errors

Ordering the wrong medications or none at all can lead to patient harm or worse. Additionally, a medical professional who fails to take an adequate history and misses that a patient’s current medications may cause harmful interactions with the newly prescribed medications has not acted within the standard of care.

Intentional Harm

On rare occasions, the negligence of a medical professional can be so extreme it rises to the level equivalent to intentional harm. While it is hard to believe this could happen, an example would be a doctor who chose to perform surgery while drunk.

How a Medical Malpractice Lawyer Helps Your Case

Heidi Villari has over 20 years of experience as a medical malpractice lawyer. She is thoroughly familiar with the standard of care of medical professionals. After reviewing your case with her team of medical and legal experts, she can counsel you as to whether your doctor failed to meet that standard of care and was negligent. Call Philadelphia medical malpractice lawyer at The Villari Firm 267-388-9429or fill out our contact form to discuss your case today.

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