Legal Question in Medical Malpractice in Georgia

Emergency Room Doctors

Since I didn't have a choice in choosing my emergency room doctor, shouldn't he be held to a higher standard of care in his treatment of me?

Asked on 3/06/07, 1:49 am

1 Answer from Attorneys

Craig Hardegree Hardegree Law Firm, P.C.

Emergency Room Physicians' Standard of Care

In Georgia, the mere fact that someone causes you damage or injures you, does not necessarily mean than you have a claim against that person. You must first determine what level of care the other person owed to you before you determine whether or not he or she committed negligence against you by breaching that level of care. Under negligence law, there are three levels of care: slight care, ordinary care and extraordinary care. The level of care which is owed to you in a particular situation depends on how the other person is legally categorized.

 As the term might imply, most people with whom you interact owes to you a duty of “ordinary care” which is defined as the level of care “exercise by ordinarily prudent persons under the same or similar circumstances.” This degree of care applies to other drivers who are on the road with you, property owners and many other categories of people. “Extraordinary care” is defined as the “extreme care and caution which very prudent and thoughtful persons exercise under the same or similar circumstances.” This heightened degree of care is usually owed to passengers by the owners and operators of buses, ambulances and elevators. One might naturally assume that an emergency room physician falls into this catagory. Not so in Georgia.

 “Slight care” is defined by the Georgia code as “that care which every man of common sense, however inattentive he may be, exercises under the same or similar circumstances.” Case law in Georgia has gone further to say the slight care is “such care as careless and inattentive persons would usually exercise.”

 Previously, emergency room physicians and emergency room staff were required to exercise ordinary care when dealing with patients. Responding to what the insurance companies had argued were too many lawsuits arising from emergency room treatment, the new Republican majority in the Georgia legislature dropped the level of care required of emergency room physicians and staff to that of “slight care.” This means that the person mopping the floor at the entrance to the emergency room now owes you a higher degree of care than does the emergency room physician. While the emergency room physician and staff are no longer responsible for damages or injuries to a patient which result from carelessness or inattentiveness, the person mopping the floor is still responsible for damages caused if he is careless in the manner in which he mops the floor.

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Answered on 12/31/69, 7:00 pm

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