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What Is the Difference Between Medical Malpractice and Medical Negligence?

Posted in Our Blog on August 15, 2019

When we visit the doctor, a hospital, or any other medical professional, we expect to be safe and to receive care up to professional standard. However, medical professionals can commit an act of misconduct, error, or violence against their patients – often with devastating effects.

If you experience a breach of duty of care at the hands of your doctor, you could be a victim of medical malpractice or medical negligence. Although these two terms may sound interchangeable, they actually refer to two different types of misconduct.

The Definition of Medical Malpractice

Between medical negligence and medical malpractice, the act of malpractice is the more severe charge a health care professional can face. Malpractice occurs when a doctor, nurse, or any other medical worker breaches his or her duty of care to you and causes you injury.

Duty of care refers to the standard that all medical workers must uphold while caring for patients. If the at-fault party in your claim acts in a way that a similarly trained, educated, and prudent professional would not have, you could hold him or her liable for malpractice.

The professional may have known that there was an element of harm present when he or she committed the malpractice, but continued to commit the malpractice anyway. For example, say that you visit a doctor for a diagnostic test and he or she knowingly uses faulty equipment because he or she didn’t want to buy a new one. You later discover that you developed cancer that a working piece of equipment would have caught – and you can hold that doctor liable for malpractice.

Not all issues that occur during the course of medical care constitute malpractice, however – the medical professional you are holding liable must satisfy four elements in order for you to successfully file a lawsuit against him or her.

  • First, you will need to prove that the at-fault party owed you a duty of care.
  • Next, you will need to prove that the at-fault party breached that duty of care.
  • Then, you will need to prove that the at-fault party’s actions led to your injuries or worsening illness.
  • Finally, you will need to prove that you can collect compensation for your damages through the medical malpractice lawsuit.

The Definition of Medical Negligence

Medical negligence also involves a medical professional committing an act of harm against a patient and breaching his or her duty of care. However, the main difference between medical negligence and medical malpractice is that the element of intent does not exist. The at-fault party in your claim may have made a mistake while treating you, leading to harm.

In medical malpractice, the doctor you visit for your health care screening may knowingly use a piece of defective equipment out of laziness. In the case of medical negligence, the doctor you visit does not know that the equipment was faulty when he or she ran your tests. Both outcomes impact your results and your health, but since negligence doesn’t involve intent, it is not an act of malpractice.

Can You File a Lawsuit for Medical Negligence?

While medical malpractice may seem to be more heinous than medical negligence, you can still file a lawsuit against the medical professional in Louisiana civil court. To do so, you will need an attorney to evaluate your claim and determine what damages you can collect, as well as how to build a strong case in your favor.

Another major benefit of hiring an injury attorney for your medical malpractice or negligence case is that your lawyer can help determine which category your claim falls into. Your attorney will evaluate the facts of your case, consult with medical experts, and review your medical records to see if the element of intent is present.

Pursuing a lawsuit against a medical professional can be difficult without help. If you believe you are the victim of medical malpractice or medical negligence, contact an attorney as soon as possible. Your attorney will be able to help you identify how to proceed with your claim, as well as assist you with the filing process and launch an in-depth investigation.