The terms “medical negligence” and “medical malpractice” are so often used interchangeably that most people are unaware of the difference between negligence and malpractice. 

Colloquially, you can use both terms to describe a personal injury or wrongful death claim based on medical misconduct. However, Georgia law makes a distinction between the two that is important to understand.

Negligence vs. Malpractice

What is the difference between negligence and malpractice? The difference between medical negligence and medical malpractice lies in the state of mind of the defendant at the time they committed the misconduct. 

What Is Medical Negligence?

Medical negligence occurs when a healthcare provider, while treating a patient:

  • Performs a careless and inappropriate act, or 
  • Fails to perform an act that their professional duty demands that they perform.

In both cases, what makes the misconduct medical negligence is the defendant’s carelessness in performing their duties. The misconduct is always accidental–but culpable nevertheless. 

What Is Medical Malpractice?

Just like medical negligence, you can characterize medical malpractice as a form of misconduct when treating a patient. The difference with medical negligence is that medical malpractice describes an intentional, rather than accidental, departure from the accepted standard of care.

The defendant need not have intended to cause the patient harm. Instead, they intentionally committed an act that exhibited reckless disregard for the patient’s well-being.   

Examples of Medical Negligence

Following are some common examples of medical negligence:

  • Failure to administer medication at the appropriate times or missing doses.
  • Overlooking symptoms that require medical attention.
  • Providing treatment based on a misreading of the patient’s chart.
  • Failure to monitor a patient’s vital signs on a regular basis.
  • Miscommunication among medical staff.
  • Failure to follow up with a patient after a medical procedure.
  • Failure to sterilize medical equipment, leading to infection.
  • Failure to regularly turn bedridden patients. This can result in bedsores.
  • Failure to order testing when the patient’s condition or statements indicate a need for them.
  • Failure to provide the patient with instructions on post-operative care.

Hundreds more types of medical negligence are possible.

Examples of Medical Malpractice

Medical malpractice is more serious than medical negligence, and it more often results in punitive damages. Following are some examples:

  • Providing medical treatment without first securing the patient’s infrared consent.
  • Performing surgery on the wrong kidney.
  • Prescribing medications that have dangerous interactions.
  • Deliberately ignoring ominous results of labs, MRIs, and other tests.
  • Deliberately ignoring patient complaints.
  • Performing unnecessary surgery to increase a patient’s medical bills.
  • Delaying necessary treatment without a sound medical reason.

A doctor who commits medical malpractice might commit further wrongdoing by falsifying your medical records to conceal their original malpractice.

Proving Your Case: Elements of a Claim

The legal profession uses the terms “medical negligence” and “medical malpractice” interchangeably to describe a personal injury or wrongful death claim for which the defendant must pay compensation. In both cases, the party seeking damages must prove the following six elements:

  • A doctor-patient relationship existed between the victim and the defendant.
  • The defendant owed the victim a specific duty of care.
  • The defendant breached their duty of care to the patient.
  • The patient suffered physical harm.
  • The patient would not have suffered harm absent the defendant’s misconduct.
  • A “reasonable healthcare provider” would have been able to foresee that the misconduct in question would harm the patient (proximate cause).

To win your claim, you must establish each of these elements on a “more likely than not” basis.

Proving Your Case: Expert Witnesses

Medical negligence/medical malpractice claims almost always require an expert medical witness. In particular, you will probably need an expert witness to establish the exact nature of the defendant’s duty of care towards you and to establish that the defendant breached their duty of care.

Yes, You’re Going To Need a Lawyer

Medical negligence and medical malpractice claims almost always require a lawyer to make sure the injured party receives the full value of their personal injury claim. Medical negligence and medical malpractice claims are particularly difficult to win without a lawyer; doctors fight hard to protect their reputations, and these claims tend to be complex.

Contact Our Medical Malpractice Law Firm For Help Today

If you or a close one have suffered from medical malpractice in Atlanta, GA, please call Malone Law at (770) 390-7550 or contact us online to schedule a free case evaluation today.

Malone Law

2 Ravinia Dr NE
Suite 300
Atlanta, GA 30346