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Medical malpractice requires determining 'reasonable care'

The state of Illinois is home to some of the best medical professionals in the country, if not the world. These doctors, nurses, and other healthcare workers, for the most part, do a wonderful job saving lives and caring for the sick and injured throughout the state. Unfortunately, however, no matter how well-trained and dedicated, medical professionals are human, and, as such, are susceptible to making errors, for a variety of reasons. When this occurs, an individual who expected to be taken care of and regain their health may end up suffering further injury and require more treatment or have to deal with permanent degradation of health.

Last week, we discussed the ideas of duty and breach within the confines of a negligence theory in a personal injury situation. One method that is used to determine if a legal duty has been breached given a particular set of facts is to apply a 'reasonable person' standard to those facts. That is, the court will ask whether a reasonable person in the defendant's position would have acted differently, thus avoiding the circumstances in which the injuries occurred. This is generally an 'objective' standard, meaning that it takes into account what a fictitious, average, defendant 'should have known' rather than what they did, in fact, know or see.

Because many medical malpractice cases rely on the use of the negligence theory, how reasonable the defendant's conduct was is very important in such cases as well. However, the standard used is a little different. After all, if it were asked what an average person would do in a medical situation, malpractice would hardly ever be found, as the average person doesn't know the correct course to take in terms of treating healthcare problems. Therefore, medical professionals are held to the standard of 'reasonable care' within the field. That is, what would a person with the same type of training and experience who is a professional do in the same circumstances as the defendant?

Of course, this usually means there will have to be expert testimony to determine what that standard is. Further, whether the medical professional met the standard of care does not necessarily dispose of the case, because if they did not, it will still need to be determined if that breach caused the injury alleged by the plaintiff. As these cases can be very technical, it may be a good idea for those who have suffered from medical malpractice to consider consulting an experienced Illinois personal injury attorney.

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