In Washington, D.C. medical malpractice cases, the plaintiff must prove several elements in order to prove their case. One of the elements that a plaintiff must establish is that the care rendered by the defendant medical provider fell “below that which would have been taken by a reasonably prudent physician.”
The idea behind this requirement is that the law does not require doctors to be perfect and always obtain the best results. However, when the care the doctor provides falls below the generally accepted standard of care, the doctor can be held legally responsible for any harm suffered by the patient.
In order to establish the applicable standard of care, and to show that the defendant’s care fell below that level, a Washington, D.C. plaintiff must present an expert witness. An expert witness is usually a doctor who specializes in the same field as the defendant doctor, or who possesses some specialized knowledge in that area of medicine. A plaintiff’s failure to present an expert witness may result in a case’s premature dismissal. A recent case illustrates how one plaintiff’s case was dismissed based on a failure to include an expert’s affidavit supporting his claim.
The Facts of the Case
The plaintiff was an inmate at a correctional facility. The defendant doctor had contracted to be on call 24 hours a day. However, the facility was staffed with nurses most of the time, and the doctor would only occasionally visit when it was necessary. The doctor left the nurses with a rubber signature stamp so that they could submit lab requests and “sign” other paperwork, including the form documenting an inmate’s refusal of medication.
One day, the plaintiff complained of nausea and severe abdominal pain. The defendant nurse was on duty and prescribed medication. The plaintiff, believing that the medication would not help, refused it. The form documenting his refusal was stamped with the doctor’s signature by the nurse. This occurred for three days in a row, at which point the plaintiff was found lying on the floor of his cell. He was subsequently hospitalized and treated. The doctor was not made aware of the plaintiff’s condition until the plaintiff was hospitalized.
The plaintiff filed a medical malpractice lawsuit against the nurse and the doctor, claiming the rubber-stamp system created a situation in which his legitimate medical issues were not adequately being addressed. However, the only expert witness he presented did not authoritatively state that the care provided by the defendants fell below the generally accepted level of care. Thus, the court dismissed the plaintiff’s claim due to the lack of expert testimony.
Have You Been a Victim of Medical Malpractice?
If you or a loved one has recently been a victim of what you believe to have been negligent medical care, you may be entitled to monetary compensation through a Washington, D.C. medical malpractice lawsuit. These cases, however, can be extremely complex and will require at least one expert medical witness. The dedicated Washington, D.C. personal injury attorneys at the law firm of Lebowitz & Mzhen, LLC have extensive experience handling all types of medical malpractice claims, and we focus on the unique aspects of each case and each client to ensure that we craft our representation accordingly. Call 410-654-3600 to schedule a free consultation with an attorney today.
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Court Permits Premises Liability Case to Proceed over Defense Summary Judgment Motion, Washington DC Injury Lawyer Blog, October 24, 2017
Government Liability for Washington, D.C. Accidents, Washington DC Injury Lawyer Blog, October 10, 2017