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Evidence of the Legal Standard of Care In Nursing Negligence

Posted on:12/6/2012
A major difference between nursing negligence and malpractice cases is in how the standard of care (what a reasonable and prudent nurse would have done) is determined. In a negligence case, the jury may be allowed to use their own common sense (e.g., that reasonable staff members wipe up spilled water from the floor and failure to do so can cause a fall).


A major difference between nursing negligence and malpractice cases is in how the standard of care (what a reasonable and prudent nurse would have done) is determined. In a negligence case, the jury may be allowed to use their own common sense (e.g., that reasonable staff members wipe up spilled water from the floor and failure to do so can cause a fall).

 

The jury usually needs evidence to assist them in determining what a reasonable nurse/facility should have done because lay jurors do not always know what is reasonable and prudent nursing practice. This evidence includes expert witness testimony, i.e., another nurse testifying as to what should have been done, based on the professional education and experience of the expert and the expert's review of the facts of the case.

 

The policies and procedures of the facility can be very persuasive evidence since they are written by the professionals who actually work in the facility and know its realities. Statutes or administrative rules are also important as evidence. If there are laws that specifically address the situation at issue, these are seen as authoritative statements of what is expected reasonable behavior.

 

Another important evidence is the standards or recommended practices of national professional associations. The American Nurses Association and most specialty nursing organizations have published standards, guidelines, or recommended practices. These statements do not have the force of law but they can be used as evidence to assist the jury in determining what the defendant nurse should have done. Likewise, the standards of professional associations that apply to facilities, such as those of the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO), can be admitted as evidence as to what reasonable facilities should have done.


  
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