Is there any difference between Medical Negligence and Medical Malpractice?
Understanding the nuances of medical malpractice and medical negligence is of utmost importance, especially when protecting patients’ rights and well-being. The healthcare system is built on trust, expertise, and the expectation that medical professionals will provide the highest standard of care. However, there are instances where healthcare providers may fall short, leading to harm or adverse outcomes for patients. It becomes crucial to differentiate between medical malpractice and medical negligence in such situations.
This comprehensive blog aims to shed light on the critical distinctions between medical malpractice and medical negligence. By understanding these concepts more effectively, patients can navigate their rights and potential legal recourse.
What Is Medical Malpractice?
Medical malpractice is a legal concept that arises when a healthcare professional, such as a doctor, nurse, or surgeon, fails to meet the standard of care expected in their profession, resulting in harm or injury to a patient. Simply, it refers to a breach of the duty of care owed by healthcare providers to their patients.
To establish a medical malpractice claim, certain key elements must be proven. Firstly, it must be demonstrated that a doctor-patient relationship existed, showing the duty of care owed by the healthcare professional to the patient. Once this relationship is established, the next crucial element is proving that the healthcare professional breached their duty of care. This means their actions or omissions fell below the accepted standard of care expected from a competent medical professional in similar circumstances.
During the fiscal year of 2021, a total of 339 medical malpractice claims were filed in New York City. It is common for these claims to take five to ten years to resolve from the filing date. In New York, medical malpractice claims are subject to specific legal requirements and time limits. It is crucial for individuals who believe they have been victims of medical malpractice to seek legal advice promptly to ensure their rights are protected. Let’s first understand the different types of medical malpractice cases.
Examples of malpractice include
Medical malpractice cases can encompass a wide range of situations, such as:
When a medical professional incorrectly diagnoses a disease or injury, deviating from the recognized diagnostic standards of care. This can occur due to failing to order necessary tests or misinterpreting test results. Misdiagnosis can lead to delayed treatment for the actual medical condition and may result in unnecessary treatment for an incorrect condition, such as undergoing unnecessary surgery.
Delay in Diagnosis:
Injuries, illnesses, or diseases that are not timely diagnosed, often resulting in a delay in receiving appropriate treatment.
This involves giving a patient the wrong medication, incorrect dosage, administering the proper medication via the wrong route, or failing to consider medication allergies or potential interactions. Medication errors can have severe consequences for patients.
Surgical mistakes that result in patient injuries, including performing the wrong surgical procedure, leaving surgical tools inside the patient’s body, or infections caused by unsanitary conditions in the operating room.
Mistakes related to administering anesthesia during surgery, can lead to complications and injuries.
Emergency Room Malpractice:
Mistakes made by emergency room doctors, nurses, or other medical professionals that result in injuries or worsen existing illnesses.
Failure to Monitor:
Negligence in adequately monitoring a patient’s condition, resulting in preventable harm. For instance, a minor heart attack goes unnoticed, leading to a more severe heart attack requiring a heart transplant.
Failure to Inform of Risks:
Doctors are obligated to inform patients about the risks associated with specific medical procedures so that patients can give informed consent. When a doctor fails to disclose these risks, and they materialize, patients may have grounds for a malpractice claim. For example, a malpractice case may arise if a patient undergoes a prostatectomy without being informed about the dangers of incontinence and impotence, and subsequently experiences debilitating incontinence.
What is Medical Negligence?
Medical negligence occurs when a healthcare professional fails to meet the required standard of care while treating a patient. It involves acts or omissions that deviate from the accepted medical standard of care, leading to harm, injury, or adverse outcomes for the patient. Establishing the medical standard of care required in a particular case is a crucial element in any negligence lawsuit, as it serves as a benchmark against which the medical professional’s actions are assessed.
The medical standard of care serves as a playbook that outlines the expected protocols and practices for patient treatment in various medical situations. It represents the minimum level of care that a reasonably competent healthcare professional with similar training and expertise would provide under similar circumstances. This standard exists to ensure patient safety and protect their rights.
When healthcare professionals obtain their medical license, they take the Hippocratic Oath, pledging to provide the best possible care to their patients while avoiding harm. Any breach of this oath, resulting in substandard care, can be considered negligence in legal terms.
When a court evaluates whether medical negligence has occurred, it compares the actions or inactions of the healthcare professional to the accepted medical standard of care. If it is determined that the professional’s conduct fell below the standard, resulting in harm to the patient, then a case of medical negligence can be established.
Types of Medical Negligence:
When similar symptoms lead to an incorrect diagnosis, resulting in inappropriate treatment.
Failure to Timely Diagnose:
Delay in diagnosing an illness or injury, making it harder to provide effective treatment.
Mistakes during surgery, such as organ damage or operating on the wrong body part.
Failure to Follow Up with Treatment:
Neglecting to monitor progress or adjust treatment as needed, leading to patient harm.
Failure to Treat in a Timely Manner:
Delay in administering treatment, particularly critical in emergencies or birth injury cases.
Mistakes in administering anesthesia causing brain injury, organ failure, or even death.
Medication or Prescription Error:
Prescribing the wrong drug or dosage, or filling prescriptions incorrectly, resulting in patient harm.
Understanding these different types of medical negligence is vital for recognizing potential cases and seeking legal recourse. Consulting with an experienced medical negligence attorney can help evaluate the viability of a medical negligence claim based on your specific circumstances.
5 Key Differences Between Medical Negligence & Medical Malpractice
Medical negligence and medical malpractice are terms that are often used interchangeably, but they have distinct characteristics. Understanding these differences is crucial in legal proceedings and seeking compensation for injuries caused by healthcare professionals. Let’s explore the five key differences between medical negligence and medical malpractice:
- Intent: Medical negligence doesn’t require intentional harm but can result from unintentional mistakes or failure to follow protocols. Medical malpractice involves a higher degree of negligence or misconduct, with actions or decisions that a healthcare professional knew or should have known would likely cause harm.
- Professional Standards: Medical negligence is assessed based on the accepted medical standard of care, which represents the level of skill, knowledge, and care expected from a reasonable healthcare professional in a similar situation. Medical malpractice claims assess whether a healthcare professional failed to meet their profession’s specific standard of care.
- Legal Liability: Medical negligence holds healthcare professionals responsible for damages caused to the patient, potentially extending liability to individuals, hospitals, or other healthcare facilities. Medical malpractice claims focus on the negligence of healthcare professionals, typically holding individual providers accountable, but others may share liability.
- Severity of Consequences: Medical negligence can result in a range of consequences, from minor injuries to significant harm or complications, depending on the circumstances. Medical malpractice claims often involve more severe consequences, such as substantial injuries, long-term disabilities, or even death, with lasting impacts on the patient’s life.
- Legal Process: Medical negligence claims may involve civil lawsuits or settlement negotiations to seek compensation, with the burden of proof on the injured party to establish the failure to meet the standard of care. Medical malpractice claims follow a similar process but have additional requirements specific to malpractice, requiring evidence of negligence within the doctor-patient relationship.
Damages Awarded in a successful medical malpractice lawsuit
- Medical Expenses: The injured patient can receive compensation for the reasonable and necessary medical costs incurred due to the defendant’s negligence. These expenses must be directly related to treating the injuries caused by the medical professional’s actions or omissions.
- Compensation for Lost Wages: The plaintiff can seek reimbursement for their lost wages due to the defendant’s negligence. It needs to be shown that the injuries suffered directly hindered the plaintiff’s ability to earn wages during the relevant period of the lawsuit.
- Loss of Earning Capacity: Damages may be awarded if the plaintiff can prove that the harm caused by the defendant’s negligence affects their ability to earn wages in the future.
These types of damages in medical malpractice cases are often more challenging to quantify but can still be awarded. These damages include:
- Pain and Suffering: The injured patient may receive compensation for the physical pain experienced as well as the emotional distress caused by the medical professional’s negligence.
- Loss of Consortium: The spouse of the injured plaintiff can seek damages for the loss of marital benefits resulting from the defendant’s negligence. This includes the intangible aspects of a marriage, such as affection, sexual relations, comfort, and companionship.
Additional damages that may be awarded in successful medical malpractice cases include disfigurement and loss of enjoyment of life’s pleasures. These damages aim to compensate for the visible physical changes caused by the negligence and the impact on the plaintiff’s ability to enjoy life’s activities.
It’s important to note that the specific damages awarded in a medical malpractice case can vary depending on the jurisdiction and the circumstances of the case.
The Bottom Line
Understanding the differences between medical malpractice and medical negligence is essential when seeking compensation for healthcare-related injuries. If you believe you’ve been a victim, consult with an experienced medical malpractice attorney or a qualified medical negligence lawyer. Competent lawyers at Rimland Law Firm will assess your case, guide you through the legal process, and fight for your rights. Remember to seek legal advice promptly, as there are time limits for filing a claim.
Medical Malpractice Settlement $1,200,000
Our client received a settlement at trial after our medical malpractice lawyers established that doctors had failed to timely diagnose lung cancer. Causing irreparable harm to our client and their family.