What Is the Difference Between Medical Malpractice and Medical Negligence?

If a medical provider injured you, you might have heard terms like “medical malpractice” and “negligence” thrown around. But what is negligence versus malpractice? More importantly, why does it matter? A knowledgeable personal injury attorney can help explain the difference.

Medical Malpractice Definition 

Medical malpractice happens when a healthcare provider’s care falls below the applicable standard of care, and a patient is injured as a result. Let’s take these terms one at a time. 

Patient

A medical malpractice claim can only arise when it involves a healthcare provider with a professional relationship with the injured victim. 

Florida law defines a healthcare provider to include various providers and entities, such as:

  • A hospital
  • An ambulatory surgical center
  • A birth center
  • A certified health maintenance organization
  • A professional association partnership 
  • A corporation 
  • A joint venture
  • An association for professional activity by health care providers

The doctor-patient relationship is usually established by the patient seeking care. This is different from a person having a casual conversation with a doctor at a cocktail party and taking that doctor’s advice.

Standard of Care

The standard of care is the level of care that another doctor in the same specialty and similar area would provide under similar circumstances. Florida law generally requires a claimant to present testimony from a medical expert about the appropriate standard of care in the case and how the doctor’s behavior deviated from this standard.

Injury

Even if a health outcome is not desirable, the situation may not rise to the level of medical malpractice. Generally, an injury is required to form the basis of a medical malpractice claim. 

Medical Negligence Definition 

Next, you may be wondering, “What is medical negligence?” Medical negligence is defined by Florida law as “medical malpractice, whether grounded in tort or in contract.” Because of this statutory definition, there is not much difference between the terms. 

However, it is still helpful to understand how these terms are used so that you know what you must prove to win a personal injury claim. 

Negligence is one form of medical malpractice. 

Negligence occurs when the following elements are present:

  • The defendant owed you a duty of care
  • The defendant breached the applicable duty of care
  • The defendant’s breach caused your injury
  • You suffered damages

One element at a time, a medical malpractice case would usually consist of showing: 1) The doctor owed you a duty of care to act as a reasonable doctor or to provide you with the care described in your contractual relationship with the doctor. 2) The defendant did not provide you with care consistent with this duty of care. 3) The doctor’s breach directly led to your injury. 4) You suffered damages such as the need for corrective medical care, lost wages, or pain and suffering. 

So, What Is the Difference Between Negligence and Malpractice?

From a practical perspective, the difference between medical malpractice and negligence in Florida is that there may be times when a healthcare provider’s actions don’t need to be pursued under Florida’s Comprehensive Medical Malpractice Reform Act

Cases that proceed through Florida’s medical malpractice laws are subject to specific requirements, including:

  • A reasonable investigation is required before a plaintiff can file a medical malpractice claim
  • A shorter statute of limitations may apply
  • Expert witness testimony is generally required
  • Notice is required before pursuing a medical malpractice action
  • Mandatory mediation and a settlement conference are required

Proceeding with an ordinary negligence claim may simplify the process because fewer procedural hurdles are involved. 

A knowledgeable lawyer can explain which type of claim is appropriate for your circumstances.

Contact Our Medical Malpractice Law Firm in Northwest Florida

If you need legal assistance, contact the Destin medical malpractice lawyers at Brannon & Brannon Personal Injury Attorneys at your nearest location to schedule a free consultation today.

We have two convenient locations in Northwest Florida:

Brannon & Brannon Personal Injury Attorneys – Destin Office
4507 Furling Ln Suite 214
Destin, FL 32541
(850) 790-0243

Brannon & Brannon Personal Injury Attorneys – Fort Walton Beach Office
975 Mar Walt Dr
Fort Walton Beach, FL 32547
(850) 863-5297