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Medical malpractice is a general term, often used to describe any case where a doctor causes harm to a patient. While this is somewhat true, there are two types of cases an injured patient could bring against their doctor, depending on their individual facts. Medical malpractice cases are brought when there is the presence of ‘intent’, whether obvious or discreet. Medical negligence cases are brought when there is no intent, but the act that caused harm is a mistake. In this post, we will break down the meanings of ‘intent’ and ‘mistake’ in the context of medical malpractice and medical negligence litigation.

What is Medical Malpractice?

In medical malpractice cases, intent must be present, but it is not always the definition of ‘intent’ that we may think of immediately. In this context, intent is defined as an act or omission that a doctor knew, or should have known, would cause harm to the patient. This may be ordering a cheaper, and less detailed, test or refusing to give a drug knowing that the patient could experience further injury without it. Ultimately, the doctor falls beneath the standard of care each patient deserves, resulting in harm. As reflected, malicious intent is not required for a case to be tried as malpractice, but intent and failure to meet the standard of care are central for these claims.

What is Medical Negligence?

Medical negligence claims, on the other hand, do not rely on intent. In negligence claims, the act or omission that causes injury can be thought of as a mistake made by the doctor resulting in harm. Mistakes are made every day by all types of employees, but mistakes made by doctors can sometimes be fatal. For example, if a doctor leaves a surgical instrument inside a patient after surgery and an infection develops, that doctor was negligent. It was an oversight that, ultimately, resulted in harm to that doctor’s patient. Intent is not present because the doctor did not actively make the choice to leave the instrument inside the body, nor would the doctor have allowed it to remain inside if aware of it.

Comparing Medical Malpractice and Medical Negligence

When looking at individual cases, the issue of malpractice vs. negligence is key as both invite different elements that must be proven. The key difference between the two types of actions is the presence of intent. With medical malpractice requiring the intent element, the injured party must prove that their doctor knew or should have known his action would result in harm, which led to the standard of care being breached. For negligence cases, the injured party must only prove an unintended act or omission, using the malpractice definition of ‘intent’, committed by the doctor resulted in harm.

Should you claim medical malpractice or negligence?

Determining whether your potential case is a malpractice or negligence claim should be left to expert attorneys in the field of healthcare-related litigation. The medical malpractice and negligence attorneys at The Simon Law Firm, P.C. are ready to review the key facts of your case, determine whether it is a malpractice or negligence action, and litigate it to hold the doctor accountable for their actions on your behalf. If you believe your or a loved one’s doctor has committed malpractice or negligence, please contact The Simon Law Firm, P.C. today for a full, free case consultation.

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