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The Difference Between Negligence and Malpractice

Published on Jun 20, 2019 at 2:59 pm in Medical Malpractice.

Stethoscope and pen on chart

You may have heard the terms “negligence” and “malpractice” used interchangeably, but there are clear differences between the two legally. If you’re pursuing a personal injury claim, it’s important to understand the difference between the terms, as your case may proceed differently depending on the circumstances of your accident.

In general, negligence involves a person’s failure to exercise care in a way that a reasonable person would have done in a similar situation. The majority of personal injury claims revolve around this idea. Malpractice, however, is a type of negligence that specifically relates to licensed professionals who fail to provide services that meet the required standard of care. Most personal injury claims revolving around malpractice are the result of a negligent doctor.

Personal Injury Claims and Negligence

Most personal injury claims are filed on the basis of negligence. Examples include a negligent driver being intoxicated when they caused your accident or a property owner neglecting to fix a broken step, which caused you to fall. These cases are filed within civil court, and generally only apply to harm caused by carelessness, not intentional harm.

Medical Malpractice Claims

When entering into a medical facility, you expect to leave in a better state than when you arrived. Unfortunately, negligent medical providers can make mistakes that result in serious injuries. When that happens, the victim can file a medical malpractice claim. Claims are often filed for surgical errors, birth injuries, medication errors, anesthesia mistakes, and misdiagnosis.

As opposed to claims involving negligence, malpractice claims involve a professional that has made an egregious error that harmed someone. With medical malpractice, the standard of care comes into play. The standard of care refers to how a typical physician would respond in any given situation. If it’s determined that your doctor acted outside that realm and that is what caused your injuries, they can be found guilty of malpractice. Like claims involving negligence, these are filed in civil court. A medical expert may need to be brought in to strengthen your claim.

Proving Fault and Seeking Compensation

Whether your case revolves around negligence or malpractice, it’s important to be able to establish a clear relationship between the negligent act and the injury. There are four elements that go into proving either type of claim:

  • Duty. This refers to the obligation the defendant owed the plaintiff. In the event of a car accident, the negligent driver’s duty would have been to drive in a way that did not put others at risk. With a negligent doctor, their duty was to follow the standard of care.
  • Breach. The breach occurs when the duty isn’t followed. If the negligent driver rolled through a stop sign and hit your car at an intersection, they breached their duty to stop. If a doctor ignored your symptoms and diagnosed you incorrectly, they did not follow the standard of care.
  • Causation. This refers to the harm the plaintiff suffered. The car accident victim may have suffered from injuries like whiplash or broken bones. The medical malpractice victim’s condition may have worsened and evolved into something much harder to treat.
  • Damages. The damages are what the plaintiffs are seeking to make up for the losses they incurred as a result of their injuries.

If your case proves the elements above, you’ll be eligible for compensation to cover your losses. Compensation is typically broken down into special damages, general damages, and punitive damages. Special damages involve the amounts that can be calculated, like medical bills. General damages are harder to determine, as they involve factors like pain and suffering. Punitive damages, which are not always an option, severe to punish the at-fault party.

The damages you are eligible for will depend on your claim’s unique circumstances. Your lawyer will work with experts to determine what you are owed, so you can recover as fully as possible from what you were wrongfully put through.

Get Help From Golden Law Office

If you or a loved one has been injured or killed in an accident, regardless of the type, you may be eligible for compensation to cover the sustained losses. Depending on your personal injury claim, it can be challenging to reach the outcome you deserve. In order to maximize your chances of receiving full and fair compensation, it’s best to work with an experienced lawyer who can handle the difficult legal matters for you.

At Golden Law Office, we understand that the litigation process can be overwhelming and confusing. We’ll work to ensure you understand every step of the process, so you feel in control during this challenging time. If you’re ready to take action or simply have questions about the legal process and what the right actions are for you and your family, contact us today. We’ll set you up with a free consultation, so you can decide how to proceed.

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