What is the Difference Between a Medical Error and Medical Malpractice?


Clients often ask us whether they have a valid medical malpractice case. They recognize that their doctor made a mistake, but they don’t know if the medical error is serious enough to warrant a medical malpractice claim.

In order to prove a medical malpractice claim, your lawyer will have to prove the following four essential elements:


A professional duty is the first element in a medical malpractice claim. The medical malpractice attorney has to establish that there was a doctor/patient (or healthcare staff/patient) relationship. They might ask: Was this medical provider charged with taking care of the patient and/or accepted the responsibility of caring for this patient? If the answer is yes, then duty has been established.


The next element in the medical malpractice claim is a breach of duty. Once the attorney has proven that the medical professional had a duty to care for the patient, the attorney must next prove that the medical

professional breached that duty. In other words, they have to prove that the medical professional failed to provide the standard of care expected of them.


The next element the medical malpractice attorney must prove is causation. If they can establish that the patient’s injury would not have occurred if it weren’t for the defendant’s actions or inactions, then they have proved causation. In other words, in order for the medical malpractice claim to be successful, the attorney must prove that the medical malpractice error led to the patient’s injuries and/or increased the patient’s risk of harm from sustaining their injuries. It’s not necessary to prove that the medical provider’s negligent actions were the only cause of the patient’s injuries. It’s only necessary to prove that the medical provider’s negligence increased the risk of harm to the patient.


The last element is damaged. The attorney will need to establish that, as a result of the medical professional’s negligence, the patient suffered injuries. These injuries may be new injuries or they may be an old injury that has been aggravated or worsened due to the medical professional’s mistake. 


If the medical malpractice attorney cannot prove each of the above four elements, then it’s unlikely they’ll convince a court that the medical error rose to the level of medical malpractice.

If you believe you or a loved one has suffered an injury as the result of a medical provider’s mistake, contact the experienced medical malpractice lawyers at VSCP LAW.

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