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Understanding the difference between medical malpractice and negligence


To help you understand your rights and your case better, this guide will explain the difference between medical malpractice and negligence.

Medical malpractice and negligence are two legal terms that share some commonalities but are not interchangeable. If you are a victim of medical malpractice or negligence, it’s important to understand the difference between the two to build a strong case, support your claim, and ultimately, get your due compensation. To help you understand your rights and your case better, this guide will explain the difference between medical malpractice and negligence.

Medical malpractice
Medical malpractice usually occurs when a doctor or any other healthcare professional omits to take appropriate action or offers substandard treatment that causes a patient’s injury or death. It could be due to misdiagnosis, wrong treatment, incorrect surgery, premature discharge, or poor aftercare services. In other words, there is an element of “intent” in the case of medical malpractice where the healthcare provider breaches their duty of care. The doctor might know the appropriate action to take but they choose another route, fully knowing this may harm the patient. The risk of harm would be present in the conduct of the healthcare provider. 

Medical malpractice law
According to the medical malpractice law, patients are eligible to recover compensation for any harm or injury that may arise from substandard treatment. Various factors should be present to win a medical malpractice claim. The victim must prove these circumstances surrounding their injury:

● Failure to uphold proper standard of care
● Injury caused by negligence - the patient must prove negligent behavior
● The injury has caused considerable damage, like loss of income, disability, pain, and suffering. 

Consult a medical malpractice lawyer
Proving medical malpractice can be challenging since medical providers are professionals who, at times, may fail to save lives due to different factors. The doctors have a duty of care to their patients, and not every bad outcome could be a result of medical malpractice. Proving a medical malpractice case can be difficult, so it is advised to consult a knowledgeable attorney. 

Cases of malpractice are rampant in Washington DC. Luckily, there are various professional attorneys in the area ready to assist the victims. If you enlist the services of Washington DC medical malpractice lawyers, you can recover some peace of mind since you will be able to rest easy knowing that they have handled cases related to medical malpractice before. A professional attorney first conducts investigations to prove the wrongdoing by the healthcare provider. Then, they will engage in negotiations with their insurance company to get you maximum compensation. If you couldn’t reach a settlement amicably, your lawyer will help you take your case to court.

Generally, negligence is a legal theory usually applied to hold individuals or companies legally responsible for causing the injury or harm you suffered. In most cases, that involves injuries from a slip and fall or car accidents. The plaintiff must prove negligence to win their claim. Negligence claims must prove four elements that include duty, breach, causation, and damages.

● Duty - the claimant should prove that the defendant owed them a duty of care
● Breach of duty - the defendant breached the duty of care by not acting in a way that a reasonable person would. 
● Causation - the defendant’s actions have caused your injuries. The defendant could have foreseen that their actions would harm the victim
● Damages - the plaintiff should get monetary compensation for the injuries suffered. 

Medical negligence
Apart from general negligence that applies to different types of injuries, you must know medical negligence. The concept of medical negligence applies when a healthcare provider makes a mistake when treating a patient. Such a mistake can result in an injury or harm to the patient. However, with this type of negligence, no "intent" is involved. This is the primary difference between medical malpractice and medical negligence. In the case of medical negligence, the doctor does not commit the action with the intent to cause harm though it ultimately does.

Photo by Jonathan Borba from Pexels

A good example of medical negligence may involve a healthcare provider accidentally leaving a pair of scissors in harms’ way or a sponge inside a surgical wound. In this case, the medical practitioner does not intend to harm the patient, but the unfortunate happens. Therefore, only an experienced malpractice lawyer can evaluate the facts to determine whether medical negligence or medical malpractice lawsuits would be required. 

While medical malpractice and negligence are in fact related, they each occur under different circumstances. Only an experienced attorney can make a clear distinction between the two, which ultimately comes down to “intent.” To put it simply, medical negligence can be viewed as a mistake that caused unintended harm to the patient, whereas medical malpractice is when the healthcare provider knowingly avoided following the standard procedures.  

Main photo by Vidal Balielo Jr. from Pexels

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