The standard of care is an important phrase you will hear often in any medical malpractice case in North Carolina. An essential part of any medical malpractice case is showing that the health care provider failed to meet this standard of care while providing treatment to the injured party. North Carolina General Statute §90-21.12 defines the standard of care as “the standards of practice among members of the same health care profession with similar training and experience situated in the same or similar communities at the time of the alleged act giving rise to the cause of action”. In other words, the doctor, nurse, or other health care provider must have treated you with methods and techniques accepted by other doctors, nurses, or other health care providers who do the same procedures in the same city, town, or county in which the doctor, nurse, or other health care provider practices.
This, somewhat vague, definition is where your expert witness is essential. The expert witness, having been familiarized with the community in which your health care provider practices, determines what the applicable standard of care was for that health care provider in that community. For example, our office settled a case where a young woman, who the plastic surgeon knew was a smoker, underwent a breast reduction surgery in Asheville. Our expert provided his opinion that it was the standard of care for plastic surgeons in Asheville not to perform plastic surgery on patients who smoked within a certain period of time prior to the scheduled surgery. In addition the applicable standard of care required plastic surgeons in Asheville to warn the patient of the additional risks smokers face when undergoing plastic surgery. Having stated what the standard of care was that applied to that plastic surgeon, our expert was able to state how and why the defendant plastic surgeon failed to meet that standard.
As you can see in the above example, the applicable standard of care in any medical malpractice action in North Carolina is shaped by expert witnesses based upon the North Carolina statute. Your expert(s) will define what he or she believes the standard of care to be and apply it to your care and treatment and the experts retained by the defense will define what they believe the applicable standard of care to be and how they believe the health care provider met that standard.
It is important, therefore, that your expert be familiar with the community in which you received your care and treatment, or lack thereof, and be able to express convincingly what he or she believes the standard of care to be that applied to your care. Moreover, he or she must be able to articulate why the doctor, nurse, or other health care provider failed to meet that standard. At The Rawlings Law Firm we make every effort to familiarize all expert witnesses testifying for our injured clients with the local community, are able to describe in detail and simply the applicable standard of care, and how the doctor, nurse, or other health care provider failed to meet that standard.