by Ed Sneneh, Specialist, Professional Insurance Chicago Illinois

Medical malpractice is one of the most controversial and publicized subject, although there is nothing unsual about it that makes it different that malpractice issue with other professions like law or financial services. Generally speaking, physicians and other professionals are liable for negligence in accordance with the general principles of care. Negligence is the carelessness or is the absence of that amount of care or standard of care that the conventions require the professional to exercise at any given situations.

Medical malpractice, lawyer professional liability, insurance agent errors and omission are all different names for insurance covering professional negligence. Our article here will focus on the medical practice, though the principles are the same for all professionals. The duty of the medical doctor is limited to the use  acceptable care in identifying the ailment of  and recommending a cure for the ailment of the  patients. The physician has no duty to make the cure works or even to strengthen the patient's situation,  except if the physician assumed such a responsibility by assuring certain outcomes.

The patient does not have to be a paid client for the physician for the duty of reasonable care to exist. Actually the duty of reasonable care will exist any time there is an association of physician and patient. So the fact that the patient is a charity patient does not eliminate the physician's  duty of reasonable care. Even in the even the physician is volunteering time in an emergency situation, the doctor still has at common law the duty of reasonable care.

Unrealistic claims against physicians who have offered  their free services in urgent situations (ie a physician driving with his family on the weekend witnesses a car accident and tries to help injured people) have led very recently to blemishing of 'Good Samaritan' scenarios, excusing the physicians of liability or reducing the standard of care requirements.

What is The Degree of Care?
Professional Liability Insurance Chicago Illinois
The degree of care needed from any physician is that which other specialist of the same type normally apply in the similar communities under similar conditions. For that reason, the Standard Degree of Care vary with he size of community, physician training and education, and time.

Physicians may make themselves responsible and, thus, liable in a number of ways. Keep in mind that wrong diagnosis may not particularly result in liability, but a reckless diagnosis will make them liable. When physicians  do not apply generally endorsed diagnostic and treatment methods they be charged with reckless negligence. Also, if physicians forget to give adequate directions to the patient, or  any health professional the doctors may be liable. The same could be said if the doctors fail to communicate with prior doctors treating the patient and  get the full background of the patient, for example, the doctors will be held liable. Another example is when general practitioner doctors forget or fall short to
refer the patient to a specialist when the diagnosis suggest the need for a specialist. Abandoning the patients without transferring them to another health care professional, exposing patients health or life to danger are great grounds for holding physicians with liability.

Accusing the doctors of negligence is not a ground for conviction. Testimonies of patients and experts are needed to substantiate any claims against them.  Ordinarily, the doctor cannot be adjudged negligent unless there is, in the record, testimony of medical experts on which such a finding can be based. Unsubstantiated ordinary citizens testimony is not a good ground. However, in some cases where the nature of the case is such that lack of negligence appears to be very highly unlikely — a situation known as res ipsa loquitur case, testimony of ordinary citizens, also called Lay Testimony may be considered.

Extending the res ipsa loquitur Doctrine

It is rather hard in medical malpractice lawsuits to see doctors testifying against others. For that reasons courts are using the Lay Testimony more than in other cases, and  courts resort sometimes to extend the res ipsa loquitur (the thing speaks for itself) doctrine over and above its usual boundaries.

A very clear use of the res ipsa loquitur doctrine is in situations of gross negligence (leaving a needle or scissor in the patient's body after a surgery) or amputating the wrong leg of a severely infected diabetic patient. Here. experts testimony is not of great importance and Lay Testimony maybe more than enough.
 
Professional liability insurance of attorneys, CPAs, dentists, real estate agents and brokers, as well as financial services personnel is basically based upon very similar rules. Medical malpractice is attracting more attention because of the 'litigation society' that we have in this country. More people are suing other professionals and for that reason the professional liability insurance for other fields is gaining more importance.
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