Although the terms “negligence” and “malpractice” are often used interchangeably, they both carry different meanings with different legal implications. An act of negligence may not result in any real or lasting harm, whereas malpractice denotes the idea that harm has been inflicted.
So what is the difference between negligence and malpractice? In this blog, we’ll strive to clarify the meanings of both these legal concepts and their role in medical malpractice cases. If you have any additional questions or concerns about this topic or how it applies to your current legal matter, we encourage you to contact our Charleston, WV law office for a free consultation.
How Are Negligence and Malpractice Defined?
To better understand the difference between negligence and malpractice, we must first define these two terms:
- Negligence – A general term referring to conduct that lacks due care, involves carelessness, or deviates from what a reasonable person would understand to be the standard of care.
- Malpractice – An omission or act made by a health care professional during the course of a patient’s treatment; an act that deviates from the accepted standard of care; a negligent act that causes harm or injury to a patient.
A negligent act may rise to the level of malpractice. However, a negligent act may also exist on its own without causing any harm.
To better understand this concept, we can think of a doctor who failed to order imaging testing for a patient who presented with abdominal pain. If this pain was caused by minor gastrointestinal distress that ultimately cleared on its own, the doctor’s negligent failure to look further into the cause of the pain would have ultimately caused no harm. However, if the patient’s abdominal pain was the result of a cancerous tumor in their stomach or intestines, the negligent failure to order additional testing would rise to the act of medical malpractice.
Similarly, an obstetrician who failed to monitor a mother and baby during the labor and delivery process would have acted negligently. If the newborn was delivered safely and the mother was unharmed, though, there would be no cause to file a medical malpractice lawsuit as neither party would have suffered any related injuries or damages.
Negligence only rises to the status of malpractice when there is a victim who has suffered real, measurable damages.
How To Tell the Difference Between Negligence and Medical Malpractice
Unsure if a doctor’s actions were simply negligent or constituted medical malpractice? The most effective way to determine this is to meet with an attorney who is knowledgeable in all aspects of medical malpractice law.
The attorneys at DiPiero Simmons McGinley & Bastress, PLLC meet with victims and their families in Charleston, WV to discuss the types of damages they suffered as the result of a doctor’s negligence and whether they have a legal standing to pursue a medical malpractice claim. We offer free consultations to all injury victims, and we frequently provide our services on a contingency fee basis—this means we don’t get paid unless we win your case.
If you’re on the fence about meeting with an attorney or would like additional information as you wait for your free consultation, there is a straightforward way to determine whether something is a simple act of negligence or a more serious act of medical malpractice. Ask yourself the following questions:
- Was I injured, hurt, or otherwise harmed as a result of the negligent act?
- Did my injuries or harm result in tangible damages, such as lost wages, medical bills, pain and suffering, mental anguish, or more?
- Will I require financial support to address my resulting damages?
If you answered “yes” to the above questions, it is possible that a doctor’s negligent actions constituted medical malpractice. If you answered “no” you may still want to meet with an attorney to discuss your case in greater depth. It’s possible there are details that you missed that a lawyer can help you uncover.
What Is a Doctor’s Duty of Care?
Each and every doctor that treats patients in the state of West Virginia is expected to uphold a duty of care. This duty of care is a legal obligation to provide appropriate care and treatment that falls in line with the accepted standard of care. The standard of care is the type of medical care that any reasonable physician would provide when placed in similar circumstances.
- If a doctor provides thoughtful care and treatment to the best of their knowledge, and that treatment aligns with what other physicians would do, then they have performed their duty of care.
- If a doctor provides care that is not based in medical knowledge or that does not align with what other physicians would do, then they may have violated their duty of care.
Proving negligence by demonstrating how a doctor violated the standard of care and failed to uphold their duty to a patient is one of the most important roles of a medical malpractice attorney.
What Happens When a Doctor Breaches Their Duty of Care
Severe harm can happen when a doctor breaches the duty of care that they owe to a patient. A failure to uphold this duty can mean that a patient is not properly diagnosed, does not receive appropriate treatment, is not prescribed the correct medication, or is given the incorrect treatment options.
Breaching the duty of care is a serious failure with potentially disastrous or even deadly outcomes. If you lost a loved one or were injured because of a doctor’s carelessness, you deserve to be fully and fairly compensated for the harm you have suffered.
DiPiero Simmons McGinley & Bastress, PLLC Fights for Medical Malpractice Victims
You should have received thoughtful, knowledgeable, and compassionate medical care from your doctor. If they instead engaged in acts of negligence that caused you to suffer physical, emotional, and financial damages, you may be owed compensation for all that you have been through.
Medical malpractice claims seek to compensate victims for their medical expenses, lost wages, mental anguish, emotional trauma, physical pain and suffering, and other related losses.
For an opportunity to speak with a lawyer about what happened to you or your family member, please contact our Charleston, WV law office by phone or through our convenient online form. We’ll schedule you for a completely free case evaluation at a time that works best for you.