Determining the Accepted Standard of Care
The Accepted Standard of Care for Doctors
In Texas, jurors are given the following definition of negligence:
“Negligence,” when used with respect to the conduct of Dr. Davis, means failure to use ordinary care, that, failing to do that which a physician of ordinary prudence would have done under the same or similar circumstances of doing that which a physician of ordinary prudence would not have done under the same of similar circumstances.
“Ordinary care,” when used with respect to eh conduct of Dr. Davis, means that degree of care that a physician of ordinary prudence would use under the same or similar circumstances.
When the defendant is a specialist, his specialty—for example “neurosurgeon”—is substituted for “physician.”
Proving the standard of care requires expert testimony. Often there is a dispute about what the standard of care required for a particular clinical situation. The dispute may be about what signs or symptoms the patient was displaying.
Proving a Breach in the Accepted Standard of Care
Historically, courts required that the standard of care, and a breach thereof, be established by testimony from an expert witness who practiced the same specialty as the defendant. This rule, called “the same school rule,” has been abolished in Texas, as has the “locality rule” which required testimony from an expert practicing in the same or similar community.
While the standard of care for a specialist is more exacting than for a generalist, and doctors in a rural hospital may not have the same resources as those in metropolitan areas, these are factors for the jury to consider rather than hard and fast rules regarding admissibility of expert testimony.
Since most physicians are board certified, which is based on standards of care recognized nationally, regional variations in the standard of care are now rare.
In Texas, a statute lists the qualifications for expert witnesses who address the standard of care. They must:
- Be a practicing physician at the time of the testimony
- Have knowledge about the accepted standards of medical care, including diagnosis and treatment of illnesses and injuries
- Have the appropriate training and experience in order to give expert opinion
At Hampton & King, we deal with questions concerning the standard of care every day. If you or a loved one was harmed because a physician failed to uphold the accepted standard of care, contact our Houston medical malpractice attorneys today for a free consultation. We will review your case and help inform you of your legal rights.