Medical Malpractice vs. Medical Negligence: What’s the Difference?
When people talk about medical errors, it’s very common to see the terms “medical malpractice” and “medical negligence” being used interchangeably. After all, medical malpractice doesn’t generally happen when doctors and other medical professionals are being diligent and careful, right? While these two terms are similar and often are related, and in most cases, it’s fine to use them synonymously, these terms have different meanings in the legal world.
A good way to understand the difference is to think of “medical negligence” as the broad umbrella term and “medical malpractice” as the more specific term. Legally speaking, medical malpractice is a type of negligence and certain circumstances need to be met before it can become medical malpractice. So not all cases of medical negligence are necessarily considered medical malpractice.
Because of the significant impact their actions have on the health and lives of patients, doctors and other types of medical professionals are held to very high professional standards. They are expected to meet a “medical standard of care,” which means that their actions need to be on the same level of another competent professional with a similar background working under the same circumstances. When a person’s actions fail to meet that standard, it is considered to be medical negligence. This can include things like making an incorrect diagnosis, making mistakes during a procedure, or failing to order diagnostic tests.
The key distinction between medical negligence and medical malpractice is that an injury needs to have been a result of negligence to be considered medical malpractice. The term can “injury” can include things like death, physical pain, disability, additional treatment, or an illness becoming more serious. For example, some medical conditions have symptoms that are very similar to other conditions, so a doctor might not immediately arrive at the correct diagnosis and it wouldn’t necessarily be considered negligence or malpractice. However, if a doctor reasonably should have known to order tests that would’ve helped them arrive at a correct diagnosis sooner, and that delayed diagnosis allowed the condition to worsen, that would fall into the category of being medical malpractice because the doctor was negligent by failing to order tests.
Cases involving medical errors are very complex. If you think you have been the victim of medical malpractice, it’s extremely important to speak to a medical malpractice lawyer as soon as possible. Statute of limitations apply to medical malpractice cases, limiting the amount of time you have to file a lawsuit. Speaking to a lawyer will give you an opportunity to get answers to your questions and learn more about the legal options available to you. At The Law Offices of Goodwin & Scieszka, we have lawyers who are experienced in handling medical malpractice cases. Contact us today for help.