What is negligence?

Negligence is a legal doctrine in personal injury law. It's an idea used to define whether the actions or inactions of another person or entity caused you to sustain harm. When established, it paves the way to hold that person or entity liable for the damages caused. Knowing the difference between "what is negligence" and "what is medical malpractice" is the first step in understanding what legal route to pursue for your injuries.

At Morgan and Morgan, we recognize that after an injury, the last thing you want to do is figure out the complicated process involved that will allow you to hold wrongdoers accountable. That's why you may be looking for a medical malpractice lawyer to sort out issues of negligence vs. malpractice. For practical answers to this question and advice concerning whether you have a claim, we urge you to contact us for a free case evaluation today. Read on for more clarification between negligence and medical malpractice.

What Is the Difference Between Medical Malpractice and Negligence?

The terms medical malpractice and medical negligence are basically synonymous. However, proving medical negligence is only one aspect of a medical malpractice claim. Still, proof of medical negligence is essential for a successful case. Generally, having the help of a medical malpractice lawyer would help dramatically in this requirement.

How to prove negligence - Here are the basic elements needed to prove negligence:

  • A person or entity had a legal duty to ensure you would not come to harm
  • The legal duty of care was breached
  • The breach of duty is the cause of your injury
  • You were injured as a result of the breach

To break that down, proving negligence requires four elements: duty, breach, causation, and damages.

How to prove medical negligence - Proving medical negligence is essentially the same except for a few additional aspects. Medical negligence requires that the person or entity that harmed you be in the medical profession. This can include doctors, nurses, medical staff, health providers, and even institutions such as hospitals, clinics, labs, and emergency rooms.

There must be an established relationship between you and the medical professional. A relationship means that you have been formally accepted to receive medical care. This would fulfill the element of a legal duty of care. To prove the duty of care was breached, your lawyer must demonstrate that the caregiver violated an accepted medical standard of care model. This means the medical professional's actions or inactions were outside of the norm for a professional in their place, and another professional with similar credentials in a likewise situation would have taken different steps to ensure their patient was not harmed.

How Does Medical Negligence Graduate to Medical Malpractice?

Medical negligence becomes medical malpractice when the healthcare professional's actions or inactions cause injury to the patient. For instance, the patient's condition worsens, complications arise, or more medical attention is required to fix what was done or not done. These are just a few examples of what constitutes medical malpractice. Along with the duty of care and breach of said duty, medical malpractice requires an injury (causation) and damages (further medical treatment, pain and suffering, loss of income, loss of enjoyment of life, etc.).

It's important to note that just because a patient suffers complications from treatment doesn't automatically mean medical malpractice occurred. The medical professional must have done something different than what another reasonably competent medical professional in the same field would have done under similar circumstances.

Furthermore, even if a medical professional was negligent, a medical malpractice claim requires injury and damages to exist for a chance of success. If you did not come to harm and did not suffer any losses, you wouldn't have a viable claim.

How Long Do I Have to File a Claim for Medical Malpractice?

When you come to harm after receiving substandard medical care, taking quick action is critical because all states have statutes of limitations which are deadlines for filing a civil claim against the wrongdoer. Unfortunately, once the statute of limitations has passed in your state, you will almost certainly lose your right to recover compensation for your injuries. There are a few exceptions that will vary by state, such as if you were a minor when your injury occurred or if you did not discover your injury until a later date. Many states have a "discovery rule," which means the time clock starts once you have discovered or reasonably should have discovered your injury.

Understanding "What Is Negligence?" — How a Medical Malpractice Lawyer Can Help

Negligence is the cornerstone of any personal injury claim. Proving negligence is the challenge that must be met. Medical negligence is a behavioral standard. Again, it compares how a reasonably prudent person would have acted to uphold the standard of care expected of a professional in the medical field. When a medical professional deviates from the standard of care and a patient comes to harm, they may be held liable for the damages that ensue.

Depending on your state, a medical malpractice claim may require additional steps before pursuing a legal claim, such as contacting the doctor to see if any remedy can be reached, contacting the medical licensing board, and acquiring a certificate of merit. The certificate of merit is required in many states. Getting a certificate of merit necessitates getting another physician on board to attest to the health care professional's negligent behavior.

The medical malpractice lawyers at Morgan and Morgan are standing by to help you navigate the complex process of filing a claim for compensation. We can assist in recovering expenses you've incurred, as well as compensation for pain and suffering, lost wages, and any other inconveniences you've had to endure because of a medical professional's negligent actions. Contact us today for a free and confidential case evaluation. If we don't win, there is no fee for our services. We believe victims of negligence should never have to fight alone.