The Difference Between Negligence and Malpractice

Most people know if they are hurt in a car accident, or if they slip and fall due to a dangerous condition on someone’s property, that it’s best to seek the assistance of a personal injury lawyer about legal disputes. But what if a medical mistake or a healthcare professional’s negligence is the cause of the injury? Can you assume that the same personal injury attorney is knowledgeable about medical malpractice?

Medical negligence by healthcare professionals may arise to the level of medical malpractice, which is a type of personal injury. All medical malpractice attorneys are personal injury attorneys. But not all personal injury attorneys are medical malpractice attorneys. 

Although both involve negligence, medical malpractice claims are much harder to prove than other personal injury cases. If you have a malpractice case, you should seek out an attorney who has extensive experience in pursuing medical practice claims. 

Know the Difference: Malpractice vs. Negligence

Personal Injury Versus Medical Malpractice

To win your personal injury claim, you must prove the one you claim caused you harm:

  • Owed you a duty of care.
  • Breached that duty.
  • The breach of the duty of care caused you harm.
  • The harm caused you to suffer damages.

Examples of personal injury claims

  • You were in a car accident where the other driver was at fault by speeding, texting, running a red light, or other negligent action.
  • You tripped and fell due to a dangerous condition on someone else’s premises, you slipped and fell due to a spill on the floor of a retail business, you tripped over an uneven sidewalk, and similar types of actions.
  • You were injured by using a defective product.
  • An unleashed dog attacked you and bit you.

To win your medical malpractice claim, you must prove

  • You had a healthcare/provider relationship with the professional you claim was negligent. This does not include your neighbor who you casually asked for advice.
  • Your healthcare provider’s care was below the acceptable standard of care of other professionals in the same field in the same geographical area.
  • The breach of the standard of care caused you harm.
  • You suffered damages as a result of the provider harming you by providing you with substandard care.

Examples of medical malpractice claims

  • Failure to properly diagnose a disease.
  • Surgical errors, such as operating on the wrong body part, leaving a surgical tool inside the person, anesthesia errors leading to brain damage, and more.
  • Medication errors. The wrong medication is prescribed, or the correct medication is prescribed but in the wrong dosage. An intravenous pump giving pain medication after a surgery malfunctions and the patient is given too much medication resulting in an overdose, or is given the wrong medication to which the patient has an allergic reaction.
  • Birth injuries due to inadequate mother and fetal monitoring during labor.

Differences in Personal Injury Versus Medical Malpractice

  • Florida law has a different statute of limitations for personal injury and medical malpractice claims. 
  • Expert witnesses are required in a medical malpractice case. The expert must explain how the healthcare practitioner’s care fell below the acceptable standard in the community.

Damages Available for Personal Injury and Medical Malpractice are the Same

In both a medical malpractice and a personal injury claim, the available damages are the same. This includes economic damages, which are quantifiable and can be calculated, and non-economic damages, which are damages that are not quantifiable.

Economic damages which are available in both types of injuries include

  • All medical expenses that are incurred because of the harm. This means current expenses and ones that are expected to be incurred in the future due to the harm.
  • Current lost wages and those expected to be lost in the future due to the harm caused by negligence or medical malpractice.
  • Rehabilitation expenses if rehabilitation is required.
  • Retraining for a new job if necessary.
  • If you are permanently disabled and unable to work, wages you would have earned if not for the harm caused you by the negligent person or entity.

Noneconomic damages which are available in both types of injuries include

  • Pain and suffering.
  • Emotional distress.
  • Loss of consortium or companionship. This may be paid to a family member, such as a wife or child, who has lost the relationship due to the harm caused.

Punitive Damages

Punitive damages are for the purpose of punishing someone for their intentional actions that resulted in harming another. They are not generally available in personal injury or medical malpractice which are based on the negligent acts of another.

Under Florida law, punitive damages may be awarded in personal injury and medical malpractice cases if the defendant’s negligent actions amount to gross negligence. Florida state law defines gross negligence as when “the defendant’s conduct was so reckless or wanting in care that it constituted a conscious disregard or indifference to the life, safety, or rights of persons exposed to such conduct.”

If you believe you have a personal injury or medical malpractice case, at The Ferraro Law Firm, we have years of experience pursuing both types of claims. We’re focused on each client’s case and will use all our resources to ensure you have the most robust representation possible. To schedule your free consultation, call 888-554-2030 or fill out our free case consultation form and a member of our team will soon be in touch. 

Frequently Asked Questions: Medical Malpractice

  • Is malpractice the same as negligence?
  • What defines medical negligence?
  • What is the most common cause of medical malpractice?
  • What are the most common types of medical negligence?