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Breach of Duty

breach of duty medical definition

Breach of Duty Medical Definition

In medical ethics, a doctor’s obligation to provide competent and appropriate care to his or her patients is guided by the phrase “First, do no harm.” All healthcare professionals are required to provide a certain standard of care or “duty of care” for their patients. When a healthcare provider fails to conduct his or her job in a rational, ethical manner or offers treatment that causes bodily injury or mental harm to a patient, they have breached that standard of care. This breach of duty, also known as medical negligence, may lead to a medical malpractice lawsuit against the responsible physician.

If you or someone you know has been hurt due to the negligence of a medical professional, you may be entitled to compensation. Request a free, no-obligation appointment with one of our Covington medical malpractice lawyers today for a free case evaluation and see how The Lawrence Firm can help you achieve the compensation you deserve.

What is the Definition of Duty of Care?

Duty of care is a fiduciary obligation that healthcare providers have to the people in which they treat. This duty is based on professional medical standards and is defined as care that any reasonable physician must provide in order to protect their patient from unnecessary risk of harm. Failure to uphold this duty of care is called a breach of duty or medical negligence. A doctor can be held liable for damages through a physician medical malpractice claim if they carelessly or irresponsibly breached their duties to provide reasonable care to a patient and caused injury.

For medical malpractice suits to take place, certain elements must be met. First, it must be proven that a doctor-patient relationship existed and that your doctor owed a certain legal duty of care to you. You must also establish what would be the appropriate level of care in a similar medical environment and under the same or similar circumstances. Finally, it must be proven that the established duty of care was breached by your healthcare provider and that this breach of duty directly led to your injury.

1. Proving the Existence of a Doctor-Patient Relationship

As previously mentioned, the plaintiff and their attorney must prove that a doctor-patient relationship was established and that the doctor had a legal and professional duty owed to a patient for a medical malpractice claim to proceed. This relationship is one that is voluntary and mutually agreed upon when the patient seeks the physician’s care.

Documents and testimony that can be used to support a doctor-patient relationship and an expectation of a duty of care should include the following information:

  • This doctor was chosen by the patient to treat him or her;
  • The patient agreed to and received examinations from this doctor in order to treat a health issue;
  • At the time the malpractice occurred, this doctor was still treating the patient.

An injured patient needs copies of medical records that show a specific treatment was administered under the care of the negligent physician. Otherwise, the physician could claim that the doctor-patient relationship ended before the negligence occurred.

It’s vital to remember that a doctor does not owe a duty of care outside of their medical office or the hospital. This means that doctors are not required to behave as “good Samaritans” under law. However, once a doctor declares himself and acts as a doctor, they owe a duty of care to their patients.

2. Establishing Duty of Care

To establish the duty of care in a medical malpractice case, the court must evaluate the level of competence, care, and diligence that a reasonable person, or in this case, reasonably qualified physician, would exhibit in the same or similar instances.

Things that must be considered include:

  • The physician’s medical specialty;
  • Other doctors’ typical or accepted practices in the area;
  • The state of the equipment and facilities at the time, as well as in the surrounding region.

Doctors are held to exceptionally high standards, and reasonably so. After all, they have the responsibility of making decisions that can seriously impact people’s lives and futures. As they enter their specific field of the profession and colleague group, each doctor vows to uphold these standards within the scope of their field.

3. Establishing Breach of Duty of Care

Expert testimony from other doctors with similar abilities, training, certification, and experience is used in court to illustrate the degree of ability and expertise of the allegedly negligent doctor. If a doctor fails to meet the standards that are required of someone in their area, they may be held accountable for any injury that occurs as a result.

Breach of Duty Examples

A breach of duty can be either unintentional or intentional, with malicious or criminal intent. The following are some examples of medical error and breach of duty legal claims:

  • Incorrectly prescribing medication;
  • Failing to note a patient’s current prescriptions or supplements;
  • Prescribing the incorrect dose for a medication;
  • Giving the incorrect drugs to a patient;
  • Giving a patient the wrong diagnosis (misdiagnosis);
  • Delaying diagnosis or failure to diagnose a medical condition;
  • Misreading or ignoring lab results;
  • Ordering incorrect or inadequate tests;
  • Not ordering tests when it was clear they should have;
  • Discharging a patient from care too soon;
  • Failing to disclose the known risks of a procedure or treatment to a patient;
  • Making serious surgical errors, such as performing surgery on the wrong part of the patient’s body or leaving surgical tools inside the body.

Remember, however, that a medical provider hasn’t necessarily violated their duty of care or committed malpractice if a bad medical outcome occurs. Rather, malpractice requires that there was a breach of duty that would not or should not have occurred under the care of a competent physician and this breach caused the patient injury.

Your experienced Ohio or Kentucky medical malpractice attorney will assist you in determining whether the medical personnels’ acts violated the duty of care that was owed to you.

4. Proving Breach of Duty Caused Harm

Following the establishment of the duty of care AND the breach of that duty of care, the next step in a medical malpractice suit is proving that the negligence of the healthcare professional directly caused you harm. It can be difficult to do this because the injuries caused by the acts of the professional’s negligence must be distinguished from your existing health condition or injuries.

5. Proving an Injury Caused Losses

The next stage after establishing that a breach of duty resulted in injury is to establish that the harm in question caused damages. This means the patient must have suffered specific and severe harm. Medical malpractice can result in a variety of consequences, including:

  • Medical expenses
  • Lost wages
  • Lost earning capacity (future income)
  • Persistent pain
  • Mental or emotional distress (loss of enjoyment of life, loss of consortium, etc.)
  • Wrongful death

In addition to these, punitive damages may be awarded to punish the healthcare provider if they caused injury to the plaintiff with intent or malice.

How Long Do I Have to File a Medical Malpractice Lawsuit?

In order to bring a successful medical malpractice case, the lawsuit must be filed in a timely manner. A strict time limit known as a statute of limitations requires an injured plaintiff to file within a specified amount of time after the medical negligence occurred. Each state has its own statute of limitations for medical malpractice claims. We’ll cover both Kentucky and Ohio’s statute of limitations for medical malpractice law below.

Statute of Limitations Kentucky

Medical malpractice claims in Kentucky have one year to be filed after an incident occurs. However, some exceptions apply. For example, there are times when medical malpractice or misconduct is not immediately apparent. It may take more than a year to discover the harm or injury that was caused. In this case, you still have one year after the date of your discovery of the injury to file. For a medical malpractice wrongful death lawsuit arising from a doctor’s negligence, claims must be submitted in court within two years of the deceased’s death.

Statute of Limitations Ohio

In Ohio, plaintiffs must also bring their medical malpractice case to the state’s civil court system within one year of the date of injury. The one-year term begins when you discover the harm or when your provider-patient connection ends, whichever comes first. Ohio’s revised code also establishes an outside four-year time limit for initiating medical malpractice cases for certain cases. The exceptions to this statute can be found in the Ohio Revised Code § 2305.113.

Do You Need an Attorney for Breach of Duty?

Breach of duty or medical negligence claims are very complex and very serious. These claims are rarely easy to prove and require the experience and knowledge of a seasoned medical malpractice attorney. When it comes to a medical malpractice case, it’s critical to seek the advice and assistance of a legal team that has plenty of experience with this type of lawsuit.

By hiring an attorney who is familiar with the elements of medical negligence and how to prove a physician acted negligently, you give yourself a much better chance at winning the case and receiving maximum compensation for your injuries.

Contact Our Covington Medical Malpractice Attorneys Today

The Cincinnati and Covington medical malpractice attorneys here at The Lawrence Firm have extensive experience dealing with cases of professional negligence and the breach of duty of care. We are dedicated to helping victims across both Kentucky and Ohio recover compensation for losses and damages that occurred at the hands of medical professionals.

If you believe your healthcare provider breached the duty of care that was owed to you and you or a loved one suffered injuries as a result, don’t hesitate to ask for help. Contact our medical malpractice attorneys in Ohio and Kentucky for a free case evaluation. You can reach The Lawrence Firm law offices of Kentucky at 859-578-9130 or Ohio at 513-651-4130. You can also call us toll-free at 800-698-4054. We are more than ready to help you with your case.

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