What Is the Difference Between Medical Malpractice and Medical Negligence?

Doctor in handcuffs

Anyone would expect a doctor to treat a patient’s injuries when they come in for treatment. However, some healthcare providers may fail to meet the standards of care that other medical professionals in similar situations would have provided.

These mistakes can lead to serious issues. If a person or their loved one is left with exacerbated injuries when they visit the doctor, they may have a medical malpractice lawsuit or medical negligence case on their hands.

Medical malpractice and medical negligence are related concepts, but they have distinct differences. Let’s explore them to help you better understand and be prepared for your medical malpractice or negligence claim.

If you suspect your doctor acted negligently, don’t hesitate to speak with an experienced medical malpractice attorney. Contact The Pagan Law Firm to schedule a free consultation.

What Is Medical Malpractice?

Medical malpractice is when a healthcare professional is aware of the potential risk to a patient’s well-being that a certain procedure may carry before they make a mistake. Perhaps their mistake was due to failure to meet the care standards of that specific procedure. Generally, patients who intend to make medical malpractice claims must prove four legal requirements:

  1. That their doctor had a duty to provide care or treatment to the patient. Generally, this element revolves around the idea that a person owes a duty of reasonable care to another.
  2. The treating doctor breached their legal duty by failing to follow their profession’s standards. This element may require testimonials from expert witnesses to describe medical nuances.
  3. There was a causal relationship between the doctor’s breach of duty and the patient’s injury. Injured patients can show a direct relationship between their doctor’s alleged misconduct and their injuries.
  4. Damages from the patient’s injuries exist in a way that the legal system can compensate for. Courts can usually determine monetary damages easily, but some rare cases may involve punitive damages that will require additional compensation for the patient.

What Is Medical Negligence?

Medical negligence is when a healthcare professional accidentally harms a patient due to their decision or performance. Thus, it is an error of judgment. In the U.S., establishing negligence somewhat follows the requirements to establish medical malpractice. Essentially, it involves a breach of the doctor’s duty of care to a patient.

Patients would visit the doctor or a hospital and trust them to help them recover. While doctors may not always succeed in saving their patient’s life, patients still expect them to utilize their professional skills most appropriately. Thus, most negligence cases involve investigations into whether the doctor delivered treatments how other professionals would have under the same or similar circumstances.

For more questions about the difference between medical negligence and medical malpractice,call The Pagan Law Firm at 212-967-8202 today. We will provide expert advice and legal representation for your case.

Examples That Lead to Medical Malpractice Claims

Some of the more common types of medical negligence that could potentially lead to a lawsuit include:

  1. Ignoring or misreading test results leads to a delayed diagnosis
  2. Misdiagnosis or a delayed diagnosis that resulted in worsening conditions
  3. Performing an incorrect procedure on a patient
  4. Performing the right procedure in a wrong manner
  5. Failure to properly inform the patient of known risks associated with a medical procedure
  6. Emergency room errors, such as failing to observe a patient or misreading vital signs
  7. Surgery errors, such as operating on the wrong body part or leaving medical equipment inside a patient’s body
  8. Substandard follow-up care or a failure to refer the patient to an appropriate specialist
  9. Discharging a patient before they have recovered fully
  10. Failure to confirm a patient’s medical history

Note that claims heavily depend on the facts of each case. For example, suppose a surgeon is performing the correct procedure on a patient while following all standard protocols dutifully. However, they accidentally slice an organ inside the patient.

In this case, there is an injury due to medical negligence and not malpractice since the doctor was following the correct procedures. The patient may have a negligence claim, but not medical malpractice.

However, if the doctor fails to take the necessary steps to prevent the injury, then it may be medical malpractice. Furthermore, a successful medical malpractice claim requires evidence and proof of the four elements discussed above.

Thus, medical negligence may not necessarily be medical malpractice since the patient must prove a higher burden of proof to win compensation for medical malpractice. Hiring a lawyer from The Pagan Law Firm can help establish medical negligence and malpractice in a personal injury claim.

Can a Medical Professional Commit Both Medical Malpractice and Medical Negligence at Once?

Understandably, there is a confusing area between these two claims, based on the example above alone. As it appears, courts may consider medical malpractice a type of medical negligence because the performing physician failed to practice their skills correctly, thus they were careless.

However, these cases typically come down to the medical professional’s intentions and awareness of the matter. When legal professionals enter the picture, they will consider multiple factors surrounding the patient’s injury. In particular, they may ask questions involving the following elements:

  • The Events of the Treatment or Procedure: What happened before the medical professional made the mistake that injured the patient? Some cases may involve physicians who were burned out or irresponsibly drinking before a scheduled operation. The specifics will change the claim.
  • The Healthcare Professional’s Skill Level: What is the acting physician’s reputation in the procedure they conducted? Were they aware of the potential consequences that their decisions and actions would lead to if they proceeded? Also, consider that an emergency may require an unskilled doctor to take over a situation.
  • The Protocols of the Medical Procedure: Was the mistake preventable because of standard protocols surrounding the medical procedure in question? Did the doctors and nurses involved in the procedure follow them dutifully? The medical industry likely already has preventative measures in place to avoid mistakes that injure a patient.
  • The Intentions of the Healthcare Professional: Every patient expects their assigned healthcare professional to deliver the best treatment possible, but did their actions and decisions reflect the best intentions? Patients may argue that their healthcare expert did not offer the best treatments because they failed to explore all the possible options.
  • The Likelihood of the Mistake: Did the patient’s injury result from an honest mistake that another medical professional could have made? Have other patients experienced the same accident before, meaning it could have happened to anybody? Statistics may come into the picture to determine whether a claim is valid or not.

Again, there can be a considerable amount of overlap between medical negligence and malpractice. Understanding the fine distinctions between them is crucial to determining whether or not the medical professional is liable. Contact The Pagan Law Firm today to speak with a seasoned attorney to learn more and discuss your case.

What Are a Doctor’s Defenses to Medical Malpractice and Medical Negligence Claims?

Medical professionals accused of medical malpractice or negligence and who face medical malpractice lawsuits may have a valid defense against claims. After all, such claims can put a career and livelihood at risk. Good doctors will need a solid defense against them while the victim still gets justice. Here’s an overview of common defenses to medical malpractice and negligence.

Standard Negligence Defense

Doctors can disprove their negligence in a medical malpractice claim. Perhaps they would argue that the care they delivered upheld their profession’s medical standards and there was no causal relationship between the patient’s injuries and treatment. Another example that a doctor can prove in a standard negligence defense is how the patient’s injuries did not result from a medical error.

Common doctrines associated with standard defenses to negligence claims include comparative fault and assumption of risk. Some states have a comparative fault doctrine to reduce a patient’s recovery according to their level of fault in the matter. Meanwhile, the assumption of risk is about the patient understanding that the treatment they proceed with comes with potential risks.

Contributory Negligence

Another doctrine of standard negligence defense is contributory negligence. Also known as avoidable consequences, this defense allows medical professionals to argue that they are not the only ones at fault for the plaintiff’s injuries. They may have a valid defense against a medical malpractice claim if they can prove that the patient was also negligent and had a role in causing their own injuries or exacerbating their own illnesses.

For instance, the patient could have come in for treatment without disclosing essential details about their medical history. Thus, the operation that the doctor delivered suffered from a lack of information. Another example is when the patient failed to follow the doctor’s orders and took medicines outside of their prescriptions. Regardless, this defense can take fault away from the doctor involved in a malpractice claim.

Good Samaritan Laws

This medical malpractice defense involves an emergency situation. Good Samaritan laws protect medical professionals who help people in medical distress. Doctors and nurses may encounter events outside of a hospital and are mere bystanders in the situation. Some physicians might avoid helping out of fear of unintentional injury.

Such laws may protect them from civil liability if their rescue attempt goes awry. However, these professionals owe a medically distressed individual the same duty of care and treatment that any reasonably competent doctor would deliver under the same situation or similar circumstances.

Respectable Minority Principle

Some medical professionals can pursue a radical form of treatment outside of the medical mainstream to help a patient. Their methods may be new or require longitudinal research. However, if a respectable minority of professionals in the field supports the techniques, the medical professionals may have a valid defense against a malpractice claim.

This defense requires medical professionals to adequately inform their patients about the risks involved in the treatment method they intend to follow. Patients can claim a lack of informed consent if a doctor fails to establish the assumed risk in the radical treatment. Thus, the doctors must cover all their bases before they can use this defense in any malpractice claim.

Statute of Limitations

Some states have a discovery rule, placing a time limit on how long a person can file a medical malpractice claim for a doctor’s alleged action. Usually, discovery rules state that the statute of limitations begins once the plaintiff discovers the injury or illness that supposedly resulted from substandard treatment. If the medical professional can prove that the patient discovered their injuries after the time limit, the court may dismiss the medical malpractice case.

However, some cases are unique and may extend beyond the established time limit. In particular, there are situations where a physician discovers foreign objects inside a patient’s body much later than when they began experiencing injury symptoms. Having a lawyer clarify the timeline of the incident can help defendants utilize the statute of limitations in complicated situations like this one. Call The Pagan Law Firm at 212-967-8202 today and schedule a free consultation to discuss how long you have to file a claim.

What Compensation Can a Person Get From a Medical Malpractice Claim or Negligence Claim?

Patients have the right to recover damages from medical professionals who make their injuries or illnesses worse. Every case varies and the compensation that a patient can get from their medical malpractice or negligence claim will depend on several factors.

While there is no guarantee on how much a patient can recover, legal experts can review a case and determine whether a patient has a case on their hands. From the facts of their situation, they can get an estimate of their final settlement and proceed with their claim.

Generally, the damages that anyone can receive from a medical malpractice claim fall under two categories: economic and non-economic. Here’s an overview of each type and its subcategories.

Economic Damages

These damages involve the financial expenses and losses that a plaintiff can seek because of the medical professional’s alleged misconduct. Courts can usually account for them easily because of receipts and wage documents. Successful medical malpractice lawsuits can award a person the following compensation:

Medical Expenses

An injured patient can claim damages for the medical costs they spent to recover from care and treatments they received from a medical professional. Additionally, they can seek damages for any future medical expenses that they may need to cover in the aftermath of the negligent performance. They can obtain these damages as long as they can prove to the court that their medical care, treatments, or medications were related to the doctor’s negligence.

Lost Wages

If someone had to miss work as a result of their injuries, they can add lost wages to their medical malpractice lawsuit claim. These damages include the wages the patient lost while they recovered from the injury or illness and any wage reduction that resulted from their medical condition. Granted, these losses must have resulted from the medical professional’s negligent actions or omissions.

Loss of Earning Capacity

Negligent medical professionals may also injure a patient and leave them incapable of earning as much or any money in their particular field. As such, patients can seek damages for lost earning capacity. Once again, they must prove that the doctor’s negligence and the harm they caused compromise their future earning ability.

Non-economic Damages

Quantifying these damages can be more challenging than economic medical malpractice damages. Successful cases award these damages to compensate for subjective factors that have no specific price. Thus, it will require expert medical testimony to explain to a jury how the patient suffered. These damages include:

Pain and Suffering

Medical negligence and malpractice may leave patients with physical pain, mental anguish, and emotional distress. Patients can seek recovery for these damages but might have a hard time putting a price on them. Some professionals advise recovering patients to log how they feel about treatments and medications while undergoing them and use descriptive language to help convince the court of their pain and suffering.

Loss of Consortium

Plaintiffs may have spouses and can claim damages for the loss of consortium. These damages include the aspects of a traditional marital relationship that are lost because of the injury or illness that the negligent medical professional caused. These may include companionship, intimacy, and sexual relations. Since they are intangible elements, the spouses of the injured plaintiff may need to testify about the changes in their relationship for a successful claim.

Gathering the right evidence is necessary to receive fair compensation for all economic and non-economic damages. Contact The Pagan Law Firm today to discuss what compensation you are entitled to for your medical malpractice claim.

When To Call a Lawyer for Your Medical Malpractice Claim

Calling a lawyer as soon as possible is important if one suspects a medical professional of negligence. Considering how the statute of limitations can complicate a case, it is essential to take swift legal action to ensure success.

The sooner a patient can notify the medical practitioner, the wiser. If the professional does not respond to the notification, then it is prudent for the patient to consult a medical malpractice lawyer and proceed with legal action.

Medical malpractice and negligence lawyers have the experience and resources needed to evaluate a claim and determine whether there is a case at hand. When building a strong medical malpractice claim, they can also help the plaintiff understand the compensation options available to them.

If you or a loved one recently underwent medical treatment but seems to have gotten worse instead of better, consider talking to a medical malpractice attorney. With experts on your side, you can determine whether there was an act of negligence or medical malpractice. Thus, you can seek compensation for any losses.

Why Call The Pagan Law Firm

We are a law firm with over 30 years of experience in handling personal injury and medical malpractice cases, allowing us to help clients understand and exercise their legal rights.

Our honesty and diligence in handling every case have positioned us as the most successful firm for clients seeking justice in a medical malpractice or negligence claim. At The Pagan Law Firm, we are confident in being the best possible legal representation that anyone needs when going through a potentially life-changing legal situation.

And while we understand that anyone can claim to be the best, our reputation of success and in-depth knowledge of medical malpractice law will speak for itself. Check out some of our testimonials.

Final Words: Assert Your Legal Rights When Facing Medical Malpractice or Negligence Claims

Essentially, the difference between malpractice and negligence boils down to the healthcare provider’s intentions. Medical malpractice is when the medical professional intentionally or recklessly does something wrong that leads to injury. Negligence is the lack of reasonable care, resulting in an accident or injury.

In either case, medical malpractice or negligence can have devastating consequences for a patient’s health and well-being. If you suspect that the care you received was negligent or malpractice, it’s important to act fast and seek legal advice from a medical malpractice lawyer.

Having a legal professional on your side can help you establish whether your acting physician breached their professional duty of care. They will also fight for your right to obtain the proper compensation for your damages.

At The Pagan Law Firm, we are ready to help you with any medical malpractice or negligence claim. Contact us today to set up a free consultation.

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