Medical Malpractice vs. Negligence: How Do They Compare?

If you hire a personal injury attorney to deal with an issue related to the medical care you or a loved one received, there are two relevant terms. These terms are medical malpractice and medical negligence

Despite the similarities and relationship between the two, they’re not the same thing. 

When you receive medical care, you obviously expect the best possible treatment and outcomes. If that doesn’t happen, there are legal remedies available to you. 

One of the first takeaways to be aware of is that all medical malpractice is negligence, but not all negligence is malpractice. 

The following breaks down how malpractice compares to negligence, specifically within the context of a personal injury claim

What is Negligence?

Medical negligence in the context of a personal injury case means that a healthcare provider, who is the defendant in these cases, didn’t do something, which then led to harm. 

Personal injury claims are almost always filed on the basis of negligence.

Beyond medical negligence, examples can include a property owner not repairing something at their home that causes you to fall and get hurt or a driver failing to be cautious on the roadway, leading you to be injured in an accident. 

Negligence in the legal sense, is a principle where a person doesn’t exercise care that someone in a similar situation would have. 

As far as the medical industry, a doctor who doesn’t uphold their relationship and duty of care to their patient in a way that’s reasonably in line with what their peers would have done can be an example of negligence. 

What About Malpractice?

Malpractice is a type of negligence that means your health care provider deliberately breached their contract with you as the patient. 

Medical malpractice law makes it possible to recover compensation for damages that you sustain due to the error your health care provider made. 

There are thousands of medical malpractice suits filed against just doctors every year. 

Medical malpractice doesn’t mean that a health care professional is liable for all the harms a patient experiences. If their care deviated from the norm of what would be expected in a similar situation and a patient goes through harm or an injury, they may be liable for that. 

According to medical malpractice attorneys baltimore md examples of medical negligence that could lead to a malpractice lawsuit include premature discharge, misdiagnosis, failure to diagnose, and unnecessary or incorrect surgery. Not ordering the appropriate tests, not following up, prescribing the wrong medicine or an incorrect dose, or leaving things inside the body after surgery are also examples. 

One scenario that’s grown increasingly common and has led to more malpractice cases is the prescribing of blood thinners. Blood thinners are very often prescribed, but high doses can increase the risk of bleeding.

Medical errors, according to scientists from Johns Hopkins, should rank as the third-leading cause of death in the U.S. after cancer and heart disease. 

Elements in a Malpractice Case

In a medical malpractice case, there is a plaintiff.  If you’re the patient with a complaint, then you’re the plaintiff. If someone died or can’t act on their own behalf, the plaintiff might be a representative of their estate. 

The defendant is the party being sued. In medical malpractice, this is the health care provider. A health care provider doesn’t have to be a doctor. It could be a psychologist, therapist or nurse. Anyone who is a medical provider can be the defendant in a malpractice claim. 

A plaintiff has to prove four elements for a successful claim

They have to show that first, a duty was owed by the care provider or the hospital

The next element is that there was a breach of duty because the care provider or hospital didn’t follow the expected standard of care.

The breach must have resulted in an injury, and the fourth essential element of a malpractice case is that the damage was substantial for the patient. Damage can be financial, physical, or emotional. 

Some legal professionals will tell you a differentiator between negligence and malpractice is intent. Negligence is a mistake that harmed you. Malpractice can be described as a situation where the medical professional knowingly didn’t follow through with the appropriate standard of care. 

That doesn’t mean they were maliciously trying to harm a patient, but their actions caused harm that could have otherwise been prevented if they followed the appropriate measures

Lawsuits are time-consuming, so a good personal injury attorney will go over your case upfront and determine if there’s negligence or it could represent a malpractice claim. 

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