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When you visit your doctor, there’s an implicit understanding that you trust them to do what’s best for you. You realize that they went to medical school, got their degree, and know about all types of diseases and conditions. You also understand that your doctor can point you in the right direction if they find something wrong with you.
However, doctors are human, and they make mistakes. You probably don’t want to think about that, but if it ever happens, you’ll need to know the best path forward.
Part of that will be determining whether medical negligence or medical malpractice has taken place. These concepts are similar but not identical.
In this article, we’ll explain each one and what you can do if they occur
Before you hire a lawyer and try to go after the doctor, you should first determine what happened. Maybe you feel that medical negligence caused your injury based on all the facts available.
When you start talking about medical negligence, what you’re speaking about is the care standard. This is the care you should expect to receive when a doctor treats you, a surgeon operates on you, etc.
Medical professionals determine the care standard. It’s not as though they wrote it down in a book pertaining to each illness or medical condition, but they can usually agree on what it is and whether a doctor met it or not. This becomes vital sometimes if you have to bring a lawsuit against a doctor or another medical professional.
If a surgeon makes an error, that could easily be medical negligence. If a doctor does not recognize or understand your symptoms, that could be negligence as well. If they perform an unnecessary procedure on you, you can probably make a case for it then too.
Medical malpractice is a little different. A medical professional, such as a nurse, pharmacist, orderly, or doctor, not only doesn’t provide the care standard, but they also cause injury, harm, or even death in extreme cases.
Medical malpractice might be surgery on the wrong body part. It could be the doctors operating on the wrong patient or the patient committing suicide while they are in the doctor or hospital’s care.
As you can see, the two are similar to each other, but not quite the same. Generally, you could say that medical malpractice is more serious than negligence.
If a doctor or another medical professional is negligent, that’s bad, but if medical malpractice occurs, that’s more egregious conduct. The distinction between the two becomes essential if you do have to bring a lawsuit. If the medical mistake killed you, it’s your family that will probably bring the legal action in your stead.
What Can You Do if Medical Malpractice or Negligence Occurs?
The first thing it usually makes sense to do if a doctor or hospital harms you is to contact an experienced lawyer. You might not be a particularly litigious person, but this is one time where you don’t want to let what happened pass without taking retaliatory action. You deserve a care standard, and if a doctor or another medical professional harms you, you should receive proper compensation.
When you go see your lawyer, you can relay to them what happened. They’ll have expertise in this area, so they can tell you whether what took place was likely malpractice or negligence.
Once you figure that out, you’ll next determine whether it’s worth it to move forward with a lawsuit. You can always sue someone, but the real question is whether enough evidence exists to prove your assertion that malpractice or negligence occurred.
The Difference Intent Makes
Let’s say you feel like what happened to you was bad enough that you want to move forward with the lawsuit. Your lawyer agrees that it’s worth pursuing, so you start moving through the preliminary phases.
This is going to be a laborious, time-consuming process, so be ready for that. You should also understand that you’ll probably need expert witnesses and lots of documentation if you want to win your suit.
The jury is going to look for intent to determine whether what happened was negligence or malpractice. Usually, medical negligence is a simple mistake. It hurt you, but the doctor or other medical professional never intended that harm. It’s an important distinction.
Medical malpractice indicates the medical professional bungled things up much more spectacularly. They not only didn’t follow the proper car standard, but they did so knowingly. That should never happen because it takes the occurrence outside the mistake realm and makes it something else entirely.
How Much Money Can You Get?
If you can prove negligence, you can probably cash in. How much you get depends on many factors, such as how much damage you sustained, whether that damage is permanent, whether you’re no longer able to do certain things, and so forth.
If you can prove medical malpractice, that doesn’t necessarily mean the medical professional wanted to harm you. It might simply mean that the individual knew they should take a different action than what they did, and they moved forward with the procedure anyway.
If you prove medical malpractice, you probably have a big payday coming. Don’t celebrate too much, though. You’ll need to pay your lawyer a significant amount, and then you’ll probably need that money for things like medical bills, medication, to make up for lost wages, and more.
Also, a medical professional will likely fight a malpractice determination with everything they have. They pretty much have to because their professional reputation is at stake. If the jury finds in your favor, it’s a foregone conclusion that the medical professional who harmed you will lose their job.
You never want something like this to happen to you, but if it does, you must act. You can’t allow the medical professional to get away with doing this, or they might do a similar thing to someone else later.