Negligence is a general term that describes carelessness or the failure to act as a reasonable person would have in the same situation. Malpractice is a more specific term that means a professional knew the possible consequences of their actions.
But how does medical malpractice differ from negligence? The main difference is whether the medical professional unknowingly made a mistake or acted knowing the potential consequences. The West Virginia medical malpractice attorneys of Robinette Legal Group, PLLC can help explain the difference between negligence and malpractice. If you believe you’ve been the victim of harmful medical care, contact us today for a free consultation.
What Are Some Examples of Medical Negligence?
Negligence is used in civil law to prove that someone’s carelessness resulted in your injuries. Proving negligence requires four elements:
- There was a legal duty to protect your safety.
- There was a breach of that duty.
- You suffered injuries.
- The breach of duty directly led to your injuries.
When it comes to medical negligence, your health professional has a duty to provide you with a certain standard of care. If they fail that duty and it results in injuries, they can be guilty of medical negligence. Some examples of this include the following:
What Are Some Examples of Medical Malpractice?
Medical malpractice is a form of negligence. However, it typically requires some element of intent. While your medical professionals shouldn’t hurt you intentionally, this may mean that your doctor or other professional acted or failed to act while aware of the possible consequences.
Medical malpractice can occur any time medical professionals knowingly follow a treatment plan outside the boundaries of the accepted professional medical standards of care. For instance, a doctor may prescribe you a medication knowing the generally accepted treatment plan would call for a different one. You could have a medical malpractice case if you suffer avoidable side effects.
Malpractice in the medical field sometimes occurs with surgery. For instance, if a patient has conditions that would make surgery particularly risky and a doctor proceeds with surgery anyway, that doctor could have committed medical malpractice if the patient is harmed.
Another example of medical malpractice is wrongly prescribing or over-prescribing medication. If a physician prescribes medication differently than the FDA’s intended or permitted use or what is generally accepted in the medical community, those circumstances could warrant medical malpractice claims.
How Can You Prove Negligence or Medical Malpractice?
Medical negligence and malpractice cases require proving the following elements:
- The medical professional owed the patient a duty of care.
- The medical professional violated that duty.
- Given their experience and training, the medical professional should have expected the patient’s injury as a potential consequence of their action or inaction.
- The patient suffered an injury due to the medical professional’s actions, for which they can be compensated.
Establishing each of these elements requires substantial evidence, often including the opinions of one or more experts in the medical field. These opinions can show a court or insurer that the medical professional or institution acted negligently or outside the accepted medical standard of care. Another doctor who is respected in the field will often need to testify that your injuries should not have happened and most doctors would have acted differently.
What Damages Can I Recover from My Medical Negligence Lawsuit?
You can seek financial recovery for your injuries through settlement negotiations or a lawsuit. You could be compensated for the following damages:
- Past and future medical bills
- Incidental expenses
- Lost wages
- Future medical needs and wage loss
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
You may also be entitled to punitive damages. Unlike economic and non-economic damages, punitive damages are not compensatory. They are not meant to make up for any specific losses you suffered. Instead, a request for punitive damages asks a court to punish the at-fault party in a way that deters them or anyone else from committing similar acts. The at-fault party must have acted with extreme negligence, wanton disregard, or actual malice for you to obtain punitive damages. West Virginia law caps punitive damages at either four times the compensatory damages or $500,000, whichever is greater.
Medical negligence or malpractice can also cause fatalities. You may be wondering what to do because a medical professional’s action caused the death of a loved one. In that case, you may obtain additional damages for:
- Funeral and burial costs
- Medical bills incurred between your loved one’s injury and death
- The loss of their financial and emotional support in your life
West Virginia law caps non-economic damages in medical malpractice cases at $250,000 per occurrence. If the harm results in death, permanent and substantial deformity, or permanent and substantial disability, the cap on non-economic damages is raised to $500,000 per occurrence. Non-economic damages include pain and suffering and do not include economic damages such as medical bills or wage loss.
Contact Our Medical Malpractice and Negligence Attorneys to Get Compensated
If a medical professional or institution committed a mistake or intentional act that harmed you, the Robinette Legal Group, PLLC wants to help you get the compensation and accountability you deserve. Contact us today for a free consultation with our medical malpractice attorneys to learn more about malpractice vs. negligence.
Jeffery Robinette was admitted to practice law in 1991 and is licensed in all levels of state and federal trial courts in West Virginia. Mr. Robinette is also licensed in all state and federal appeals courts in West Virginia and the United States Supreme Court. As a National Board Certified Trial Attorney who has handled hundreds of motor vehicle, injury, and construction defect claims and a leading author on insurance claims settlement issues and difficulties in West Virginia, Jeff Robinette is uniquely qualified to represent your best interest.