In a Montana medical malpractice case, the judge will instruct the jury as to the standard of competence, or standard of care, to which the doctor should be held. The jury must then decide whether the doctor’s treatment met this standard of care.
In general, a doctor treating a patient has a duty to act with the level of skill of a reasonably competent doctor in similar circumstances. This generally means a physician practicing in the same specialty or field of medicine, with access to the same medical equipment and facilities. Thus, a general practitioner will not be held to the same standard of care as a specialist.
Montana is one of several states which apply a “locality rule” for defining the standard of care in malpractice cases. Under the locality rule, a doctor in a rural area with limited resources will not be held to the standard of a doctor practicing in a major city, with access to the latest high-tech equipment.
Montana’s locality rule applies only to non-board certified general practitioners. And unlike some states, Montana does not limit its locality standard to similar communities within the state. For non-board certified general practitioners, the standard of care in Montana is that exercised by competent physicians in similar communities anywhere in the United States. Board-certified specialists and board-certified general practitioners are held to a national standard of competence regardless of the size of the community in which they practice.
Determining whether a patient has a valid medical malpractice claim requires a thorough evaluation of the facts and the medical records. Montana residents who believe they have been injured by misdiagnosis, doctor error or hospital negligence can benefit from consulting a knowledgeable attorney.
Source: Findlaw.com, “What Is a Doctor’s Duty of Care?,” accessed June 19, 2016