As a patient, you may have heard the terms malpractice and negligence used interchangeably, but they are distinct legal concepts. In New Jersey, medical malpractice refers to a specific failure to adhere to the accepted standards of care in the medical community, resulting in harm to the patient.
Medical negligence, on the other hand, refers to a broader category of incidents in which a healthcare provider breaches their duty of care to a patient, causing harm. This can include mistakes made during a medical procedure, misdiagnosis or failure to diagnose a condition, or failure to provide adequate follow-up care.
Proving medical malpractice
To prove medical malpractice, it must be evident that the healthcare provider had a duty to administer care to the patient, that the provider did not properly execute their duty resulting in an injury to the patient. Expert testimony can determine the standard of care in medical malpractice cases, based on what a reasonable and prudent healthcare provider would have done in a similar situation.
Proving medical negligence
In contrast, to prove medical negligence, it must be shown that the health care provider had a duty of care to the patient and that this care was unsuitable, resulting in harm to the patient. The standard of care used in medical negligence cases is less specific than in medical malpractice cases. It is based on what a reasonable person in the same profession would have done.
Injuries because of either
When a patient’s injuries occur because of medical malpractice or medical negligence, they may be eligible to receive compensation for their damages, including medical expenses, lost income and pain and suffering. To pursue a claim, acting promptly is prudent, as there is a statute of limitations that sets a deadline for filing a lawsuit.
Undesirable outcomes are not always malpractice or negligence
Not all adverse outcomes in medical treatment are considered medical malpractice or medical negligence. For example, a treatment that doesn’t achieve the desired result or a known and disclosed risk of a procedure that occurs does not necessarily mean that malpractice or negligence has occurred.