What is the Difference Between Negligence and Medical Malpractice?
Negligence is broadly defined as a failure to use reasonable care, resulting in damage or injury to another. Medical malpractice is a form of professional negligence and occurs when a health care provider, including a hospital, doctor or nurse, through a negligent act or omission, causes an injury to a patient. As Denver personal injury lawyers, we are experienced in helping our clients to maximize their recovery for medical malpractice in a wide range of areas, including misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis, surgical errors, birth injuries, and medication errors.
The primary difference between a negligence case and a medical malpractice case is what is known as the “standard of care.” While there is no medical definition for the standard of care, it is based on the negligence concept of what is reasonable. The law acknowledges that there are certain medical standards that are recognized by the profession as being acceptable medical treatment by reasonably prudent health care professionals under like or similar circumstances. The specifics of care will depend on the practice area, as well as the community where the health care provider is located.
How to Prove a Violation of the Standard of Care
Generally, medical malpractice is defined as “any act or omission by a physician during the treatment of a patient that deviates from accepted norms of practice in the medical community and causes an injury.” In order to establish that the medical professional was negligent, it must be shown that there was a violation of the standard of care. This is done through medical experts. Both sides of a malpractice case will introduce expert testimony on the issue of standard of care, and it will be up to the jury or a judge to determine whether there was a deviation from the requisite standard of care.
Causation and Injury Must Also Be Shown in a Medical Malpractice Action
It is not enough to show that there was a violation of the standard of care. For a medical malpractice claim to succeed, the patient must also show that he or she suffered an injury that would not have occurred in the absence of negligence. This is what is referred to as causation or proximate cause. An unfavorable outcome, mistaken diagnosis, or mere error of judgment, by itself, is not malpractice. The injury must have been caused by negligence. If there is an injury without negligence or there is negligence that did not cause injury, there is no case.