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Understanding a doctor's duty of care

When you seek medical care, your doctor has a duty to offer medical care that meets or exceeds the standard of care. These concepts are very important if you end up having to make a claim regarding medical malpractice against the doctor.

The duty of care concept is important because it sets the standard as to whether the doctor must treat you or not. When there isn't an established medical connection between the doctor and patient, the doctor doesn't have any duty to render medical care at all.

In order to establish a doctor-patient relationship, there has to be an agreement regarding medical care. This is established when you visit the doctor for care. This means that once the doctor accepts you as a patient, he or she has a duty to you.

A doctor who is on your care team must at least meet the standard of care. Conversely, a doctor who is in a restaurant with you won't have any duty of care to another person in the restaurant who is choking.

There is usually not anything that you can do if there isn't a duty of care between you and the doctor. If there is a duty of care, you can take legal action if you don't get the care that does meet the standard of care.

The standard of care means what any reasonable doctor with the same training and the same information would do with your case. If your doctor is a specialist, he or she would have a higher standard of care than a general practitioner. Understanding these points is important when you are seeking compensation.

Source: FindLaw, "What Is a Doctor's Duty of Care?," accessed April 26, 2018

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