Standard of care refers to the degree of care a reasonable person will exercise under certain circumstances. It is an important element of many negligence cases, especially those involving injury or death. For instance, if someone’s actions lead to the injury of another person, he or she may have acted negligently and failed to provide the standard of care he or she owes the other person. A standard of care, however, is not a fixed expectation. A doctor, for example, owes a different standard of care to his or her patients than a parent owes to his or her children. Let’s take a look at how standard of care depends on the circumstances.
As a Driver
For many people, the most important and commonly encountered definition of standard of care concerns driving. Anybody who operates a motor vehicle owes a standard of care to other motorists, passengers, and pedestrians. A standard of care, in such cases, would include obeying all traffic signals, not speeding or drinking, and not driving aggressively. A person who breaks the law while driving – and subsequently injures another person – has failed to provide the standard of care that would be expected of a reasonable person.
Medical malpractice is another area where standard of care is a major issue. Doctors, nurses, and other medical practitioners owe a higher standard of care to their patients than a layperson would owe to a sick person.
A doctor may fail his or her standard of care if he or she fails to order diagnostic tests for a patient that would otherwise be expected from a doctor. Likewise, a nurse has failed to provide a sufficient standard of care if he or she forgets to provide patients with correct dosages of important drugs. While the layperson would not be expected to have such knowledge about diagnostics and prescription drugs, medical practitioners would. Therefore, they are held to a different standard of care than most people.
Adults owe a standard of care to children who are in their care, whether or not they are parents of those children. Children obviously cannot entirely fend for themselves, which is why it is so important for adults to provide the adequate standard of care to minors. An adult who lets his or her neighbors’ children play in his or her backyard pool must keep an eye on those children. The owner of the pool cannot simply claim that because they are not his children that he doesn’t owe a standard of care to ensure they do not injure themselves on his property. If they hurt themselves in that pool, then the owner may have failed to provide an adequate standard of care.
The above provides just a few examples of how a standard of care can vary depending on who owes a standard of care and towards whom. While almost all adults owe some form of standard of care to others, that standard can vary dramatically, especially for those working in certain professions where their specialized knowledge and skills give them greater responsibilities than the average layperson.