THE FOUR ELEMENTS OF LIABILITY FOR ACTIONABLE NEGLIGENCE
As stated earlier, negligence is conduct that falls below a standard established by
the law for the protection of others against unreasonable risk of harm. The four
elements of liability for actionable negligence that must be established are: duty owed
(the existence of a professional relationship), breach of duty (deviation from what should
have been done), injury, and proximate cause or causation (a direct causal relationship
between breach of duty and injury).
DUTY OWED, THE FIRST ELEMENT OF LIABILITY FOR ACTIONABLE
Duty owed by a health care provider is conformance to a certain standard of
conduct. This standard may be established by statute or, as with health care
professionals, by professionals themselves. Standards for the code of ethics, adopted
by the American Society of Radiologic Technologists and the American Registry of
Radiologic Technologists (ARRT), were developed by the ARRT. Standards for
radiologists were developed by the American College of Radiology.
BREACH OF DUTY, THE SECOND ELEMENT OF LIABILITY FOR
a. Scope of Duty (Standard of Care). Once duty has been established, the
scope of duty owed or the standard of care must be determined. The standard of care
for hospitals is usually the degree of reasonable care that the patient's known or
apparent condition would require. This is known as the "reasonable person" standard.
(1) In some states, reasonable care extends to conditions that the hospital
should have discovered through the exercise of reasonable care. Generally, the
standard for individual health care professionals is what a reasonably prudent health
care professional engaged in a similar practice would have done under similar
conditions. This is established through expert testimony and common sense. For
example, a "reasonable person" would protect a disoriented patient from falling out of
(2) Standards such as licensure regulations, accreditation standards, and
institutional rules should be published/posted.
breach of duty: failure to provide a specific duty that is owed to
reasonable person standard of duty: a measurement of the actor's
conduct against what a reasonably prudent person would have done
under the same or a similar circumstance.
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