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What Is the Difference Between Negligence and Malpractice?

If you experienced injuries as a result of a medical stay, you are likely wondering if you can sue for negligence. Or, is it malpractice? It can seem like the terms are interchangeable, with one substituting for the other in everyday usage, but what, exactly, is the difference between the two? Read on to learn more or consider speaking with a medical malpractice lawyer at Feller & Wendt, LLC.

What Is Medical Negligence?

Medical negligence is the failure to provide care as a reasonable person would to avoid harm to a patient. For example, you would expect a nurse to provide care for his or her patients in order for them to heal without further injury. Four elements are necessary to prove medical negligence has resulted in an injury.

  • Duty of care. A medical professional is understood to have a duty to provide adequate care any reasonable person would provide in a similar situation. Any medical personnel caring for an individual assumes a duty of care for that individual.
  • Breach of duty of care. If a medical professional fails to provide care or acts in a manner that negatively affects an individual’s care, he or she has breached the duty of care.
  • Cause of injury. A plaintiff must prove that the breach of care resulted directly in injury or harm. In other words, if the medical professional had never acted negligently, the plaintiff’s injuries would not have happened.
  • Some form of damages. The plaintiff must have suffered some sort of damages as a result of negligent care. Simple negligence is not enough, the actions or lack thereof need to have harmed someone in some way.

If all these elements are present, the medical professional has acted negligently and either the individual or the employer may need to compensate the plaintiff for the resulting medical bills, pain and suffering, emotional pain and suffering, or loss of income from the injury.

What Is Medical Malpractice?

Malpractice is, in fact, a subcategory of medical negligence. However, medical negligence can often result from a mistake or carelessness on the part of the medical professional. Negligence does not always lead to injury. Negligence also can result in injury when a medical professional is not aware their actions will cause harm.

Malpractice, however, asserts that the medical professional took action or failed to take action with the knowledge that the decision could lead to the patient suffering harm. In what is termed “proximate cause,” the medical professional considers the potential outcome of the proposed action, knows that it could cause injury or other harm to the patient, and proceeds anyway. For these reasons, malpractice is usually more serious than negligence, though definitions for both intertwine.

In short, all malpractice is medical negligence, but not all negligence is malpractice.

What Happens in a Malpractice Case?

If you pursue a medical malpractice case, you must prove the four elements of negligence in addition to the fact that the medical professional was aware their actions might result in your injury. If you are able to do so, you will receive compensation for medical bills, pain and suffering, emotional pain and suffering, and loss of income just as you would in a medical negligence suit. Sometimes, however, the court will include additional punitive damages in the case of malpractice, depending on the severity of the malpractice and its resulting injuries.

The best way to prove malpractice, besides retaining all of your medical records to provide an adequate history of your treatment, is to use an expert witness. An expert can testify that any reasonable medical professional would have known that the standard of care provided was negligent.

An experienced Meridian medical malpractice attorney can assist you in finding an expert witness, gathering evidence, and navigating the often tricky ground between negligence and malpractice. Usually, a malpractice attorney will review your case and only accept it if he or she believes it is a worthy case. In most cases, malpractice attorneys will not charge a fee unless your case reaches a favorable settlement. Contact an injury lawyer in Meridian or Layton if you believe you may be the victim of medical malpractice.