What Is the Difference Between Medical Malpractice and Medical Negligence?

Physician holding up two pills with dangerous red glow representing medical malpractice and medical negligence

Whether you go to the doctor for a minor issue like a cold or a major concern like cancer treatment, you expect to receive skilled care. Yet doctors, surgeons, nurses, and other medical professionals can all make serious errors.

If a healthcare provider commits a mistake when caring for you or a loved one, you may have legal grounds for a medical malpractice or negligence lawsuit. But how are these types of lawsuits different and what type of attorney do you need for your case? Discover the difference between medical malpractice and medical negligence and learn how a knowledgeable attorney can assist with your case.

What Is Medical Negligence?

Medical negligence can happen if your healthcare provider makes a mistake, fails to take action, or disregards a risk when treating a patient. Most medical mistakes that cause serious injuries or death qualify as medical negligence.
The defining characteristic of medical negligence is the lack of intent. When a doctor commits medical negligence, they do it unknowingly. For example, a doctor might prescribe a medication that causes a serious negative reaction with another medication the patient already takes.

What Is Medical Malpractice?

Medical malpractice can occur if your doctor was negligent with an element of intent. In these cases, your doctor should have known that their actions were likely to harm you. For example, a doctor might decline to treat a patient for a specific condition, despite knowing that their failure to treat would have serious consequences.

How Do I Know If My Doctor Was Negligent?

When it comes to proving legal liability, there's little difference between medical malpractice and negligence. You have to prove the following:

  • Duty of Care: Your doctor must have a duty of care, or doctor-patient relationship with you.
  • Breach of Duty of Care: Your provider must have provided care that doesn't meet the standards that a reasonable doctor would offer.
  • Injuries: Your doctor's actions must have resulted in injuries or illness.
  • Damages: Your injuries or illness must have had a financial cost, emotional or psychological effect, or a similar negative impact on your life.
  • Intent: For a malpractice case, your doctor must have acted with knowledge of the potential negative consequences.

How Much Time Do I Have to File a Lawsuit?

You have less time than you might think to file a claim against your healthcare provider. Every state has its own statute of limitations, or deadline for taking legal action against your doctor or medical team. These deadlines typically range from one to five years in each state, but they aren't always as straightforward as they seem.

That's because, in most states, the medical malpractice statute of limitations includes a standard deadline and a different deadline for patients under 18 years old. Many statutes also provide an exception for patients who didn't realize or had no way to know that their doctor was negligent before the deadline. Finally, most states have an absolute limit on filing a lawsuit.

No matter which deadline applies to your case, one aspect remains the same. If you don't act before the deadline, then you may lose the opportunity to exercise your legal rights.

Do I Need to Hire a Medical Malpractice Law Firm?

Whether you think you have a medical negligence or malpractice case, it's essential to consult with an experienced firm. Both types of cases tend to be highly complex and require deep knowledge from the legal and medical sides. Because healthcare organizations often have powerful and well-funded legal teams, you need a law firm that can make a strong case on your behalf.

At Janet, Janet & Suggs, we have 40 years of experience with pursuing legal action against powerful organizations and securing multi-million dollar settlements. Our medical negligence attorneys understand the complexities of these cases and have sophisticated legal and medical knowledge. We also have access to an extensive network of expert witnesses, who often have to testify in negligence and malpractice court cases.

What Kind of Settlement Can I Expect From a Medical Malpractice or Negligence Case?

The settlement amounts for medical malpractice and negligence cases vary based on a few key factors. In many cases, you can receive compensation for related financial losses. These expenses have set costs, such as:

  • Doctor and hospital bills, including current and future statements
  • Prescription medications and medical equipment
  • Lost income, including time off, job loss, and lower earning potential

You may also be able to recover compensation for non-economic damages, which aren't as easy to quantify. These costs include:

  • Pain, suffering, and trauma
  • Disfigurement and scarring
  • Decreased quality of life

If you believe that you or a loved one is a survivor of medical negligence or malpractice, take action today. At Janet, Janet & Suggs, we make it easy to understand your options and decide how to move forward with your case. Schedule a free legal consultation today so our medical negligence attorneys can evaluate your case and advise about the next steps.


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