If you or a loved one have been injured due to a medical error or wrongful act by a healthcare professional, you may be confused as to how to move forward. After all, these professionals are entrusted with our very lives. You might be asking yourself if a certain error is just a common and accepted outcome considering your condition. You may also eventually ponder whether there’s a difference between medical negligence and medical malpractice. This guide will help you understand each of these issues.
Medical Malpractice vs Medical Negligence
Before delving into whether you have a valid Delaware medical malpractice claim, it’s important to understand that there’s a difference between negligence and malpractice. Even more important to understand, however, is that no condition suffered by you or a loved one excuses a medical error. Healthcare professionals have a duty of care to uphold, and when they fail to do so, it can result in medical malpractice or negligence claims.
What Is Medical Negligence?
Medical negligence is any unintentional act that can lead to patient harm. For negligence to apply in a legal sense, however, the professional must have a duty of care, violate that duty, and cause injury through the violation of that duty. This can happen if a surgeon unintentionally nicks a vein during a procedure or a pharmacist picks up the wrong medication to fill a prescription.
What Is Medical Malpractice?
Medical malpractice meets many of the same conditions as negligence, but the underlying act is an intentional act. For instance, a doctor may decide to provide an unproven therapy rather than prescribing research-backed prescriptions. Like with negligence, they had a duty of care that they violated — and if it leads to injury, the medical professional has engaged in malpractice.
The Difference, Put Simply
To put it simply, the difference between medical negligence and medical malpractice is intent. A healthcare professional doesn’t have to intend to harm you for malpractice to occur. However, they must intend to undertake an action that they know could lead to potential harm and that doesn’t meet the standards of care for their profession. While both malpractice and negligence can lead to personal injury claims, malpractice is a far more serious accusation.
How Common Are Medical Errors?
It’s unfortunate, but medical negligence and malpractice are not uncommon issues. Many people go their entire lives thinking their healthcare professionals never make a mistake. In reality, many medical errors simply aren’t serious enough to notice. For instance, you may have been misdiagnosed with the flu and given unnecessary treatment. While this act is certainly an error, it’s possibly one you’ll never even notice. And since you likely suffered no losses, a lawsuit wouldn’t be appropriate.
Unfortunately, several recent studies indicate that medical errors are more common than we once thought. In fact, some research suggests such errors are the third leading cause of death in America. If you experience such an error, it will hopefully have no ill effect on your life whatsoever. You’ll hopefully move on not even realizing an error occurred. If this isn’t the case and you or a loved one suffers harm, however, it may be time to file a legal claim.
When Can I File a Claim for Medical Malpractice?
If you were injured due to a medical error, it’s likely that you can file a claim or lawsuit immediately. However, you should keep in mind that you’re unlikely to prevail in such a case unless the healthcare professional deviated from professional standards. As such, filing a medical malpractice or negligence claim often requires a signed affidavit from another professional declaring that standards were not upheld.
Of course, personal injury laws vary by jurisdiction. While you’ll need the affidavit in Delaware, for instance, this may not be the case in other states. Additionally, you only have a certain amount of time in which to file a claim after suffering an injury. This is the case whether you’ve experienced medical negligence or medical malpractice. Obviously, these are some complex legal areas. Contact our Delaware law firm today for a free consultation and to better understand your rights.