A medical specialist is a doctor who is an expert in treating specific health problems, diseases, certain age groups, or parts of the body. Generally, a medical specialist is a doctor who is not a general family practitioner. 
Some examples of medical specialties include:

  • Allergy and Immunology
  • Anesthesiology
  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular surgery
  • Internal Medicine
  • Neurology and Neurosurgery
  • Ophthalmology (diseases of the eye)
  • Pediatrics
  • Radiology

Because of the increased level of skill involved in practicing as a specialist, medical specialists are held to higher standards of care than general practitioners. Sub-standard medical care by a specialist can result in a claim for medical malpractice.

Standard of Care for Medical Specialists

Depending on where the medical specialists practices, one of two different standards of care will apply: 1) national standard of care and 2) locality rule.

The national standard of care requires specialists to use the same degree of care and skill that a reasonably competent specialist in the same field would exercise under similar circumstances. The national standard of care is the default standard that applies. For example, an oncologist would be held to the same accepted standards as exercised by oncologists. Oncologists would not be held to the same standard as a general practitioner or specialist from a different field such as a pediatrician. This is because every field of specialty is different from the next, and each specialty requires different safety and health measures.    
The locality rule holds specialists to the degree of knowledge and skill that is generally exercised by the same specialists in the local community where they practice. This is because different communities have different facilities and medical equipment available to them. Thus, what may be the normal practice in one community may be completely different in another community.

For example, a surgeon who practices in a rural area would be held to the surgery standards of their own rural area, and not the standards for a neighboring urban community with the latest technological inventions.

Therefore, it is important to check local laws to determine how a certain specialist would be required to practice in your area. Consulting with an attorney is also helpful in learning the medical malpractice laws of your local municipality.

Violation of the Standard of Care

If your medical specialist has violated the standard of care for their particular specialty, you may have a claim for medical malpractice based on a negligence theory.
To recover damages for your losses under a negligence theory, you need to prove:

  • The particular standard of care for the physician’s medical specialty
  • Your medical specialist breached the standard of care
  • You suffered actual, verifiable losses or injuries
  • The violation was the cause of your injuries or losses.

Consulting an Attorney

Medical malpractice suits can often be very complex due to varying laws and the proof needed. They often require the use of expert witnesses. For this reason, it is very important to consult a medical malpractice lawyer if you believe that you have received sub-standard medical care from a professional specialist. An attorney can assist in filing your claim and preparing your case.