Negligence vs Malpractice: What’s the Difference?

Lurking behind heart disease and cancer, medical errors are the third-greatest cause of death in the U.S. today.

If they don’t lead to death, errors, made by accident or sometimes even intentionally, can leave patients with permanent, lasting injuries. They happen every day across the country, in hospitals, surgery centers, and other medical facilities.

These errors each fall under one of two categories; negligence and malpractice. While these terms are sometimes used interchangeably, the reality is that they are very different, especially in legal terms.

Keep reading to learn what you need to know about negligence vs malpractice.

Negligence vs Malpractice

Both negligence and malpractice can have similar outcomes for the patient. Either can lead to serious, lasting consequences that may affect the patient for the rest of his or her life.

In extreme cases, the patient will die as a result of negligence or malpractice.

Both may have the same outcome for the patient. But cases of negligence and malpractice are handled differently from a legal perspective.

What is Negligence?

An incident can be considered medical negligence if it meets certain requirements.

To start, an individual who had a legal duty to protect your safety must have done something to breach that duty. While breaching that duty, the patient must sustain an injury. That injury does need to be a direct result of the negligence.

Both individual medical professionals and facilities can be responsible for negligence. For instance, say a hospital fails to train its staff and a patient is injured because of that lack of training. That is negligence and the hospital is responsible.

What is Malpractice?

In order for an incident to be considered a case of medical malpractice, it must meet all of the same requirements as a case of medical negligence.

The patient must have been injured as a result of the actions of a medical professional or facility. However, there is one major detail that sets a case of medical negligence apart from a case of medical malpractice.

When a case is considered negligence, the action of the medical professionals or facility are determined to have been unintentional. They did not mean to injure the patient. Their actions may have been accidental, or out of their control because of a lack of training.

But when a case is malpractice, the actions of the medical professional or facility is done intentionally.

For example, after giving birth, if doctors fail to detect that a mother is suffering from preclampsia, they may unintentionally leave the mother susceptible to a seizure. But if they leave medical equipment like sponges or clamps inside the mother’s stomach following a c-section, this could be considered malpractice, depending on the circumstances of the c-section and the mistake.

Various other complications at birth may fall under the category of negligence or malpractice.

Getting Justice

If you think that you may be a victim, it’s important to learn the difference between negligence vs malpractice.

For more information about other legal terminology, check out the rest of our blog.

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