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negligence vs.malpractice

Negligence vs. Malpractice: What’s the Difference?

The professional health field is one of the most important and respectable practices to get into. But the job is far from stress-free, and everybody has a breaking point. When the stresses of the profession become too much, negligence and malpractice often aren’t far off.

But aren’t negligence and malpractice the same thing? As it turns out, they’re not.

Keep reading to find out the difference between negligence vs. malpractice.

Negligence vs. Malpractice: What’s the Difference?

The terms negligence and malpractice are often used interchangeably by both the uninformed and professionals alike. That’s because most people don’t have to worry about them. The ones most at risk of malpractice and negligence lawsuits are people in the health field.

What Is Negligence?

Negligence is a more far-reaching term than malpractice. It doesn’t just apply to medical professionals, but to most people working a profession.

Negligence is a general term that denotes carelessness and deviation from the accepted ways of work. If a professional stops giving their best effort at the workplace, they’re being negligent. 

Medical negligence would be negligence performed by a doctor or nurse. The outcomes of medical negligence can be dire at worst.

The prescription of medication is a common area for negligence. A doctor might not take into account the full list of medications a patient is on and prescribe a new medication that works adversely with the ones already being taken.

In this case, negligence could lead to life-threatening side-effects for the patient.

Negligence could also include organ puncture in surgery, giving inadequate aftercare instructions, or giving improper doses of anesthesia to a patient.

The key factor in negligence is intent. The negligent doctor doesn’t want to harm the patient, and their actions are unintentional. They don’t know how much harm they can cause by forgoing the steps they did.

What Is Malpractice?

Malpractice is similar to negligence, but much more sinister.

When a professional is accused of malpractice, they’re being accused of intentional negligence. The medical professional is aware of the consequences of their negligence but continues to do it anyway.

Medical malpractice can be a concern during surgery. 

A surgical team could be accused of medical malpractice if they fail to sterilize their equipment, for example. The team might be in a rush to get through the surgery, so they cut corners and forgo proper sterilization. This could lead to infection, or even death in the worst-case scenario.

Whether you’re a surgeon or not, it’s pretty obvious that surgeons are supposed to take their time. It’s also pretty obvious that a person’s life is at risk when under the knife, no matter how minor the surgery. As a potential patient, you like to hope surgeons know this doubly well.

Concerning doctors, malpractice could be as simple as overprescribing medication on purpose. 

Many doctors have gone down for overprescribing, including Elvis’ doctor in 1995. He knew that a number of his patients were addicted to painkillers, but kept prescribing them more and more. He apologized for his actions, but had his doctor’s license officially revoked because of this.

Proving Negligence & Malpractice

As you can imagine, negligence and malpractice are both treated very seriously by the courts. But they’re not always easy to prove in a court of law.

Malpractice Cases

There are four things that must be proven by the courts to find a professional guilty of malpractice. It must be proven that:

  • The doctor owed the patient health care 
  • The doctor did not provide owed health care in a standard, expected way
  • The shirking of responsibility caused injury (emotional, physical, financial) to the patient
  • The injury was considerable

It can be hard to prove malpractice from the patient’s end. They’re not a professional like the doctor, so they won’t exactly know how to defend themselves. In the majority of cases, the patient will consult another professional and bring them to court to help defend them.

If the patient manages to prove malpractice, they can be compensated for their injury, the wages they lost because of the incident, and their medical expenses. The doctor may even lose their license.

Negligence Cases

Negligence cases require very similar elements proven to go to court. In a negligence case, it must be proven that:

  • The doctor owed the patient health care
  • The owed health care was not performed adequately with reasonable care
  • The resulting injury or ailment was caused by said negligence
  • The negligent doctor could have foreseen the damage done

These are sometimes referred to as the four D’s: Duty, dereliction, damages, and direct cause. 

Compensation for a negligence case is also similar. The patient might be given money for lost wages, medical bills, and anything else related to the injury. To properly defend themself, they’ll usually hire on a professional to help examine their case.

What to Do If You Suspect Negligence or Malpractice?

If you or someone you know is the victim of medical negligence or malpractice, it’s important to seek legal help as soon as possible. Find a reliable lawyer who’s practiced in medical malpractice cases.

If you wait too long to pursue legal action, the trail will go cold. The resulting injury may not show as well, making it harder to prove damages. If the injury was physical, you should consider photographing it for further proof.

What’s more, taking no legal action means the negligent doctor will continue to work. This could lead to further malpractice down the line. The last thing anyone wants is a negligent doctor continuing to work without any repercussions.

Keep Medicine Professional

Negligence and malpractice may not be the same thing, but they’re both equally fightable.

Medical malpractice and negligence are serious issues in the health field today. The only way to fight against these problems is to lawyer up and head to court. Now that you know how to differentiate between negligence vs. malpractice, you’ll better know how to pursue your case.

If you need a reliable medical malpractice lawyer in the Albuquerque area, contact us right away. We’ll help you get the compensation you deserve. 

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