Few people realize it, but doctor malpractice depends on where you live. There are two main reasons why where you live makes a difference.
1. Level of Expertise
The basic legal requirement for doctor malpractice is the same everywhere. A doctor has a duty to do what a reasonably prudent doctor would do in the same circumstances, and if he/she doesn’t and the patient is injured, there may be malpractice.
The key wording is “a reasonably prudent doctor … in the same circumstances”.
Even though there has been vast improvements in medical education, there also has been more and more medical specialization. A doctor in a general hospital in rural, Smalltown, USA, cannot be expected to have the same expertise with a specific condition as a specialist working in a hospital specializing in the specific condition. This is not to say that a doctor in a rural area is not competent. Rather, it is to say that a doctor who treats the same condition over and over again is simply more experienced with that condition than a doctor who treats the condition every so often.
The two doctors, one in a rural general hospital and the other in a specialized hospital, are in different circumstances. When considering what “a reasonably prudent doctor … in the same circumstances” would do, we have to look at doctors in the same circumstance. If a doctor in a general hospital in rural, Smalltown, USA, is alleged to have done something wrong, we look at what other doctors in general hospitals in rural, Smalltowns, USA, would have done. If a specialist working in a specialized hospital is alleged to have done something wrong, we look at what other specialists working in specialized hospitals would have done.
2. State Requirements
Generally, if a doctor’s malpractice caused major injuries to a patient, the patient would have a malpractice claim regardless of where the patient lives. However, if the injuries are relatively minor, where the patient lives can make a difference. This is because some states have set minimum amounts of damage that must be suffered by a patient before the patient can file a claim for malpractice. In states with the minimum, if the patient’s dollar damages do not reach the minimum, then the patient cannot file a doctor malpractice claim.
Also, while it does not affect whether or not there is a malpractice claim, some states have put a cap on the amount of money that a patient can recover for non-economic injuries such as pain and suffering. I don’t know of any state that has caped money recovery for economic damages such as the costs of future medical treatment and loss of future income.
The above information is general information only. If you have any questions whatsoever, talk with a lawyer licensed in your state.