Medical Malpractice vs Medical Negligence: 2 Key Differences

In the healthcare industry, physicians, nurses, and other medical professionals are expected to exercise a reasonable standard of care in diagnosing and treating various illnesses. Unfortunately, there are instances in which they commit mistakes in the exercise of their medical profession.

Not only that, but these mistakes may also cause harm to the patient. This is where the concept of medical malpractice and negligence enters the picture. Medical malpractice is also a serious criminal offense, which is why there are medical malpractice lawyers that would help anyone who is charged with this particular offense. However, while you may hear these two terms being used interchangeably to mean legal actions against healthcare professionals, both of them refer to two concepts with substantial differences.

Below are the two key differences between medical malpractice and medical negligence:

  1. Existence Of Intent

One of the distinctive differences between medical malpractice and negligence is the intent. Typically, in malpractice cases, the plaintiff must prove that the erring medical professional was deliberately and intentionally reckless. However, in negligence cases, the professional’s negligent act was unintentional. This means that even if they’re careless, it doesn’t automatically mean they committed malpractice.

Medical malpractice requires the existence of intent on the part of the healthcare professional. In contrast, medical negligence involves an act of carelessness and not intent to harm. Essentially, the intent requirement in malpractice cases recognizes that medical professionals with licenses, training, and experience should be wary of the possible consequences of their actions.

For instance, if your baby has suffered a brain injury, you may want to consider the existence of intent to determine whether you need to file medical malpractice or negligence. To help you better understand these legal concepts concerning birth injuries, you can check this post for more information.

But if you want to have an in-depth understanding of the difference between medical malpractice and negligence, it can also be a good idea to distinguish them through real-world examples. These can include:

  • Surgical Mistakes

When it comes to surgery, medical malpractice occurs when the surgeon decides to use a riskier procedure while they’re under the influence of alcohol or drugs. This means the medical professional’s actions are intentional and should be done with deliberate knowledge of the consequences.

On the other hand, medical negligence occurs when the surgeon commits a mistake such as leaving a tool or a sponge in a surgical cavity. This usually happens since surgeons are humansas well who are capable of committing errors.

  • Errors In Diagnosis

Medical malpractice happens when the doctor would have identified the illness correctly but opted to miss specific laboratory tests, preventing them from getting a proper medical diagnosis. In short, the doctor made some shortcuts, which resulted in a failure to diagnose.

On the contrary, this can be considered a medical negligence case when the doctor failed to determine the illness due to an error made during the diagnostic process.

  1. Damages

Just like the injuries sustained during a sports accident, car accident, or any incident, those which are suffered due to a healthcare professional’s mistakes may cause life-long consequences. This is one reason why the injured victims may be eligible to recover damages. Primarily, damages refer to a legal concept being used to compute the compensation that a victim should recover due to the injury sustained.

Generally, in both medical malpractice and negligence cases, the plaintiffs can receive economic and non-economic damages. The economic damages are those which compensate the plaintiffs for the direct costs of their injuries. These can include medical bills, lost wages and capacity to work, and many more. On the other hand, the non-economic damages will cover the pain and suffering plaintiffs experience because of the injuries.

Although malpractice and negligence cover these two types of damages, the difference lies in the fact that in some malpractice situations, the value of the non-economic damages may be capped, depending on the state you live in.

Also, another point of difference is there may be a third type of damages in certain medical malpractice cases. These are called punitive damages, which are usually awarded, depending on how reprehensible the malpractice is. Lastly, the court awards punitive damages to punish bad defendants and discourage those who may behave the same way in the future.

Bottom Line 

Indeed, medical malpractice and negligence are two legal terms used interchangeably. But with the information mentioned above, it’s clear how they differ from each other based on intent and damages. Therefore, if you believe you or your loved one has been a victim of either of these two concepts, it’s crucial to hire a good lawyer for legal assistance. They can help determine whether you have a malpractice or negligence case to pursue in court.

Lastly, they can make sure you recover the right amount of compensation for all the losses sustained as a result of someone else’s actions or inactions.


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