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What Is the Difference Between Duty of Care and Breach of Care?

When a medical professional treats a patient, they enter into an implicit contract with that patient. The duty of care is activated when the medical professional agrees to take on a patient, perform the requested services, and provide medical care.

If you think your medical provider breached their duty of care,, resulting in injury or harm to you, reach out to the medical malpractice lawyers at Regan Zambri Long as soon as possible. Time matters in medical malpractice cases. In Washington, DC, you typically have only three years from the incident to file a lawsuit. Don’t risk losing your chance to seek justice. We offer a free, no-obligation consultation.

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What Is Duty of Care?

Once a doctor-patient relationship has formed, the doctor has a legal duty to provide medical care that is up to the acceptable standard of care. In other words, given all the same information and the same or similar circumstances, they must provide care that aligns with what another reasonable person (specifically a physician, in this case) would do.

Legal scholars specializing in medical malpractice have generally determined that this duty of care applies to all the following actions: attending, diagnosing, referring, treating, and instructing the patient. Generally, specialists are held to a higher duty of care in their specific practice areas.

What Is a Breach of Duty of Care?

If a duty of care owed means that a medical provider must treat a patient with an acceptable standard of care and take the same steps a reasonable healthcare provider in similar circumstances would, then breaching that duty means failing to do those things. Essentially, a breach of duty of care in medicine happens when a medical professional does not provide an acceptable standard of care for their patient. It might mean they make a diagnosis or enact a treatment plan completely unaligned with what a reasonable doctor would do in similar circumstances.

When a duty of care is breached, it may be a case of medical malpractice. If you think you have not received adequate care or are a victim of medical malpractice, you may have a valid personal injury claim. Successful personal injury claims achieve both justice and financial compensation for the victims. Contact our personal injury lawyers as soon as possible to determine whether you have a medical malpractice case.

Legal and Ethical Implications in the Relationship Between Duty of Care and Breach of that Duty

Duty of Care: The duty of care sets the baseline for acceptable behavior and conduct within a specific profession or context. While it may vary from one situation to another, failing to uphold one’s duty of care can have legal and ethical consequences. Individuals and organizations can be held accountable for not meeting their duty of care obligations, potentially facing legal actions, fines, or damage to their reputation. Ethically, duty of care underscores the moral obligation to prioritize the safety and well-being of others.

Breach of Care: Breach of care is the breach of a legal or ethical duty with significant implications. Legally, a breach of care can lead to lawsuits, where the injured party seeks compensation for damages caused by the negligence or failure to meet the duty of care. In the realm of ethics, it can tarnish an individual’s or organization’s reputation, eroding trust and credibility.

How the Two Concepts Interact

The relationship between duty of care and breach of care is sequential. Duty of care sets the expectation and standard for responsible behavior in a given situation. When someone fails to meet this standard, a breach of care occurs. In other words, a breach of care results from failing to fulfill the duty of care.

To illustrate this relationship further, consider the example of a lifeguard at a swimming pool. The lifeguard’s duty of care is to ensure the safety of swimmers by monitoring the pool and being prepared to respond to emergencies. If the lifeguard becomes distracted and fails to notice a swimmer in distress, their inattention represents a breach of care. In this scenario, the breach of care arises from the failure to meet the lifeguard’s duty of care obligations.

Proving Medical Malpractice

Even if you think that a breach of duty of care has occurred, proving that in medical malpractice cases requires a great deal of evidence. To pursue a successful malpractice claim, you must be able to prove the following:

A duty of care existed:

As discussed above, a duty of care is formed between patients and medical professionals when the medical professional agrees to treat the patient. As soon as that doctor-patient relationship is formalized, the duty of care exists, so you must show that the defendant owed this duty of care.

It’s important to note that if a medical provider meets someone at a party and provides some casual medical advice, the duty of care is likely nonexistent — no formal doctor-patient relationship has been established.

That duty of care was breached:

The next step involves proving that it was breached after the duty of care was established. This breach of duty will look different in every specific case. It may mean that a doctor gave an incorrect diagnosis when a reasonable person with the same information would not have made this error. It may mean that a doctor exhibited negligence by making an avoidable mistake during surgery or another treatment. Generally, the plaintiff must show that the defendant acted in a reckless or unreasonable manner.

That breach caused harm or injury:

Once you have proven that the defendant breached their duty, you must show that this breach of duty directly resulted in harm or injury to the claimant. For instance, the doctor’s incorrect diagnosis meant the claimant did not receive the care they needed until it was too late. Maybe the doctor’s surgical error caused physical harm to the claimant

That harm has resulted in damages:

Last but certainly not least, in a successful medical malpractice claim, you must prove that whatever harm the doctor caused directly resulted in economic or non-economic damages. Economic damages would include things like medical bills and lost wages. Non-economic damages cover the more abstract but still significant losses, such as pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment of life. To recover damages, you must provide evidence of all of these losses.

Duty to Warn

In addition to upholding a reasonable standard of care, a doctor also has a “duty to warn.” What does this mean exactly? According to the Center for Disease Control, “Duty to warn” is a legal concept that indicates possible liability for healthcare providers if no warning of possible harm is given in certain circumstances. This means that if the doctor fails to warn a patient about significant risks and potential harm to a patient’s body that may occur in a given treatment or procedure, they could be held responsible for medical malpractice.

All patients are entitled to “informed consent.” This means that before any treatment or procedure, a doctor must explain the nature of the procedure or treatment, warn the patient of potential risks, and provide alternative options. If a doctor neglects their failure to warn and the patient is unable to give informed consent, a medical malpractice claim might be possible.

Evidence in a Medical Malpractice Case

You must provide convincing evidence to prove or win any medical malpractice case. This evidence will be used to determine whether all of the four steps outlined above have occurred: that a duty of care existed, that it was breached, that that breach resulted in injury, and that that injury resulted in damages.

Evidence in medical malpractice cases can take many forms. Medical records will always be examined. An expert witness, a member of the medical community who is an expert in the specific field being discussed, will be brought in to testify. For instance, if the case involves a cancer misdiagnosis, a medical professional who works specifically in cancer care and treatment may be brought in. They can speak to whether the defendant acted in a way that other medical professionals would consider reasonable or if they seemed to breach this duty of care.

Other evidence that may be helpful include hospital records, the patient’s testimony, other witness testimony, and photos or videos of the injuries being discussed.

Reaching a Settlement

In personal injury law, the goal is typically to reach a settlement that adequately reflects and provides for all the damages and losses the victim has sustained. In personal injury cases, this is very often possible — most cases can settle without necessitating a trial.

A satisfactory settlement will provide for all economic and non-economic losses that the victim has endured.

Our DC Medical Malpractice Lawyers Can Help

When making a negligence claim against a doctor, it is always best to work with a personal injury attorney with experience in medical malpractice cases. Negligence claims can be highly complex, and research shows that having a lawyer on your side greatly increases both your chance of settling and the settlement amount itself.

A medical mapractice  attorney will handle all of the legal details so that the victim can focus on rest and recovery. Filing a lawsuit can be a grueling experience, and having a lawyer on your team takes much of the heavy lifting off your plate.

In Washington, DC, most medical malpractice lawsuits must be filed within three years of the incident. This clock starts ticking on the date of the alleged negligence. Missing this deadline generally prevents legal action. There are some exceptions, so if you think your medical provider breached their duty of care, resulting in injury or harm to you, reach out to Regan Zambri Long as soon as possible. We offer a free, no-obligation consultation.

Schedule a Free Consultation

Have you or your loved one sustained injuries in Washington DC, Maryland or Virginia? Regan Zambri Long PLLC has the best lawyers in the country to analyze your case and answer the questions you may have.

Call 202-960-4596

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