Is There a Difference Between Medical Negligence and Malpractice?

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A person expects to receive a certain standard of care when treated by a medical professional, and the medical professional has a duty to provide this standard of care.

The term medical professional can refer to a doctor, nurse, surgeon, dentist, specialist, pharmacist, or other health care provider. It can also refer to hospitals, pharmacies, and inpatient care providers, such as a nursing home or rehabilitation center. The term doctor will be used for the purposes of this discussion.

Medical standard of care is the term used to describe how doctors are expected to treat their patients. It is defined as the level and type of care that a reasonably competent and skilled health care professional, with a similar background and in the same medical community, would have provided under the same circumstances.

Therefore, what happens when a doctor deviates from this standard of care while diagnosing and treating a patient? Two things could result:

  • Medical negligence
  • Medical malpractice

Medical Negligence

Medical negligence occurs when the doctor performs their job in a way that deviates from, or falls short of, the accepted medical standard of care. However, medical negligence does not always result in injury to the patient.

Although the doctor might deviate from a standard of care, there is no medical malpractice if the patient is not harmed and there is no impact on their health. The patient could not sue the doctor, for example.

If there is harm, medical negligence can then become the basis of a medical malpractice legal claim.

Medical Malpractice

As in medical negligence, in medical malpractice, a doctor must have performed their job in a way that deviates from the accepted medical standard of care. Medical negligence becomes medical malpractice if the patient is harmed, injured, or dies of this deviation of care.

Harm or injury in this sense includes consequences such as making the patient’s condition worse, causing unreasonable complications, or necessitating additional treatment. Those are just a few examples of many.

For a viable legal claim of medical malpractice, two elements are necessary: legal causation and damages. If the doctor’s negligence was not a foreseeable result of the patient’s harm, causation; or if the doctor’s negligence did not detrimentally affect the patient, damages, a medical malpractice claim will usually not be successful.

Medical malpractice also has an element of intent. This does not mean that the doctor intended to harm the patient. It means that by breaching the duty of care, the doctor knew the risk of harm was present.

What Are Examples of Medical Negligence and Medical Malpractice?

Following are general examples. Every situation is different, and negligence and malpractice can be challenging to discern. Consultation with a personal injury lawyer with experience in medical malpractice is an excellent first step if you wonder whether you have a case.

Medical negligence examples

  • Doctor uses a medicine to treat a patient that most doctors would not prescribe, but the patient is not harmed and improves after taking it.
  • Doctor wrongly diagnoses a patient with a variation of a disease and treats them for it the same way they would be treated for the actual disease. The patient gets better and suffers no harm.
  • Doctor recommends surgery when there are accepted standards of nonsurgical care to try first. The patient suffers no harm or injury.

Medical malpractice examples

  • Amputating the wrong limb.
  • Performing the wrong procedure.
  • Patient suffers a medical emergency after being prescribed the wrong medication.
  • Doctor fails to diagnose an illness, and the patient suffers from a lack of treatment.
  • Patient develops a harmful infection in the hospital after a surgical procedure. The hospital could be held liable if the patient can prove that hospital conditions caused the infection.
  • Doctor failed to communicate the medical risks of a surgical procedure, and the patient was harmed.

Medical malpractice claims are best handled by an experienced lawyer. There is no question that a person injured by a doctor’s negligence should be compensated for the losses they incur. If a person dies of medical negligence, their loved ones may have a valid wrongful death legal claim.

What Compensation May I Receive in a Medical Malpractice Claim?

Medical injuries can be devastating. They can affect your ability to perform the daily activities of life, work, enjoy life, and have a relationship. Also, there is the financial toll of medical malpractice. Medical bills can be staggering, and they often can last a lifetime when lifelong care is needed.

Your lawyer will analyze past, current, and future costs and assign a value to both economic and non-economic damages, including the following:

  • Medical expenses: These expenses include doctor visits, hospital stays, surgeries, prescription drugs, medical equipment, rehabilitation services, costs for help in the home, therapies, nursing home stays, and future medical needs.
  • Loss of wages: This covers past and current loss of salary if you cannot work because of medical malpractice, whether short term, long term, or indefinitely. You can also be compensated for the loss of earning potential if your injury precludes you from working in the same capacity or at the same job you did before the injury or from advancing in your current occupation.
  • Pain and suffering: Both are common and very real damages as a result of medical malpractice. You can be awarded compensation for physical pain and emotional distress common after medical injuries, such as anxiety and depression.
  • Loss of consortium: A person who suffers a medical injury may find that their familial relationships are adversely affected. There may be loss of companionship, affection, comfort, and sexual relations, among other consequences.

What if I Think I Have Suffered Medical Malpractice?

The first thing to do is consult a lawyer. A lawyer can analyze the facts and let you know if you might have a viable case. Medical malpractice claims are complex and require the testimony of medical experts. It is rarely effective to bring a claim without legal counsel.

A lawyer will also explain the time limits you are under for filing a medical malpractice claim, called the statute of limitations. Because signs or symptoms of medical harm may not always appear immediately, the limitations may start when the patient discovered the injury, not when it occurred.

It is also helpful to collect information regarding your diagnosis and treatment in one place. This would include doctor visit summaries/diagnoses; receipts for all medical and psychological care, including hospital stays, doctor visit, surgeries, and medications; correspondence between you and medical providers; and any other documents that are pertinent to your case.

It is also essential to note anything that occurred or will occur regarding your situation. Memories can become foggy, so a written or online journal can help.

In addition, do not discuss the case with anyone. The defendant’s insurance company is not above summoning your family, friends, co-workers, and others to a deposition to question them about your claims.

Finally, never do anything that could throw suspicion on your claim. For example, if you claim that a doctor’s negligence caused your chronic back pain that made you unable to work, do not be seen doing something that requires back strength.

Baltimore Medical Malpractice Lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton Advocate for Patients Injured by Medical Malpractice

No one should suffer from the negligence of a medical provider that causes an injury, harm, or death. You and your loved ones’ lives can be dramatically altered by someone else’s mistake, and you may be eligible for compensation. The Baltimore medical malpractice lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton know the complexities of a medical malpractice case. Our team will handle your case with care and compassion while you focus on healing. To schedule a free, confidential consultation, call us today at 800-547-4LAW (4529) or contact us online.

Our offices are conveniently located in BaltimoreColumbiaGlen Burnie, and Prince George’s County, where we represent victims throughout Maryland, including those in Anne Arundel CountyCarroll CountyHarford CountyHoward CountyMontgomery CountyPrince George’s CountyQueen Anne’s CountyMaryland’s Western CountiesSouthern Maryland and the Eastern Shore, as well as the communities of CatonsvilleEssexHalethorpeMiddle RiverRosedale, Gwynn OakBrooklandvilleDundalkPikesvilleParkvilleNottinghamWindsor MillLuthervilleTimoniumSparrows PointRidgewood, and Elkridge.