Medical negligence and medical malpractice are often used interchangeably to describe instances when a healthcare provider fails to provide the proper standard of care. However, there is a significant difference between the two.
Medical Negligence Defined
In medical negligence cases, patients are unintentionally harmed by a healthcare provider’s treatment (or lack thereof), whereas in medical malpractice cases, there is an element of “intent.” A provider knew they should have done something to treat a patient but failed to do so, knowing it might result in harm to the patient.
Medical negligence occurs when a physician, nurse, surgeon, hospital, etc., deviate from the standard of care expected of them by failing to do what a reasonably prudent provider would have done in similar circumstances. For instance, if a surgeon accidentally leaves a sponge inside a patient, they do not purposely cause harm. In contrast, a surgeon who lacks the skills to perform a procedure successfully, but does so anyway, is considered medical malpractice.
Common Forms of Medical Negligence
Cases of medical negligence commonly involve:
Any injury to an infant or mother during pregnancy or the delivery process. Injuries may result from improper care for the mother, failure to diagnose a condition, failure to initiate a timely C-Section, delayed or prolonged labor, among others.
Failure to Diagnose or Misdiagnose
If a patient is not diagnosed correctly for a medical condition that causes harm, the physician can be held responsible.
Many errors during a surgical procedure can cause harm to a patient, for example, due to techniques or instruments used or poor skills of the surgeon.
Prescribing the wrong medication or dosage can lead to serious harm.
When Does Medical Negligence Become Medical Malpractice?
Medical negligence amounts to medical malpractice when a patient is injured due to a healthcare provider’s negligent treatment or lack thereof. If you are unhappy with the care you received, it doesn’t mean that medical negligence was committed. For example, you must have suffered unreasonable or unexpected complications, your condition worsened, or you need additional medical treatment, etc. The provider must be the direct cause of harm, and as a result, you suffered financial or other losses.
Proving Medical Negligence
To prove a claim of medical negligence in court requires establishing the following four elements:
- Duty of Care: The healthcare provider owed you a duty of care, which can be proven with medical records that prove you had a provider-patient relationship with the doctor, nurse, or hospital you are suing.
- Breach of Duty: The healthcare provider violated their duty (committed medical negligence) by failing to provide an acceptable standard of care. Testimony from an expert medical witness, who would be another healthcare provider with similar qualifications, training, and experience, is often required to demonstrate what the acceptable standard of care would have been in your case and how the provider deviated from it.
- Causation: Your condition or injury was “more likely than not” caused by the medical provider’s negligence.
- Damages: You suffered losses due to your condition or injury (e.g., medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, emotional distress, etc.).
Cases involving medical negligence will often heavily rely on expert witness testimony to define the minimum acceptable standard of care.
If you or a loved one has been injured due to medical negligence, contact the experienced Kansas City medical malpractice attorneys at Goza & Honnold LLP for a free confidential consultation. Contact us online or call (913) 451-3433.