What is the difference between Medical Malpractice and Medical Negligence? Understanding the difference can guide you in deciding the type of claim you want to file, and the kind of representation that you need moving forward. Here is the rundown on what distinguishes these two terms from each other, something you’ll need to know to file the most accurate claim possible.
1. What is Medical Negligence?
Negligence is a word used to describe when someone’s carelessness or recklessness causes harm to another. With Medical negligence, a medical professional must have had a duty to treat you with a standard of care, breached that duty, and caused you injury that is provably linked to that breach of duty. The injury or death involved is the result of a mistake. Examples include when a foreign object is accidentally left in a patient after a surgical procedure. It is alternately described as an unintentional but avoidable mistake.
2. What is Medical Malpractice?
Medical Malpractice is a more serious offense than Medical Negligence. While the basis of the definition is the same, with malpractice, the physician or medical professional allegedly knew and willfully failed to maintain the standard of care , resulting in injury to the patient/plaintiff. While not necessarily malicious, it is an intentional disregard of the standard of care rather than an accidental misstep. For example, a surgeon may forgo a necessary medical test prior to a surgical procedure that would have made it clear that it was unnecessary, and anything that goes wrong during that procedure could be deemed as an unnecessary consequence resulting from intentional action.
3. What is the Difference? Why Does it Matter?
First of all, there is a legal difference. Medical Malpractice is a more serious offense than Medical Negligence, and also demands more in terms of monetary and punitive damages.
Secondly, the difference is in the intent. Put simply, negligence is an accidental disregard for the standard of care, and malpractice is an intentional disregard of the standard of care.
4. Proving Negligence vs. Proving Malpractice
While the Burden of Proof remains with the victim/plaintiff and their legal team, fortunately there aren’t really any differences in the procedural proving of negligence versus malpractice. The attorney holds a preliminary investigation which leads into the discovery phase of the case, during which documentation and evidence are gathered and witnesses are contacted.
5. Next Steps
If you are reading this because you believe you have been a victim of medical negligence or medical malpractice, your best strategy if you intend to file a lawsuit is to contact a medical malpractice lawyer who can guide you through the process and conduct a preliminary investigation on your behalf. Though there are key differences between medical negligence and medical malpractice that may change the intensity and course of litigation, the most important thing to know is that you need to hire a competent attorney who is familiar with the nuances between the two, who can get you the best result possible. You will be glad that you didn’t embark on a legal journey without adequate representation.