January 17, 2021

What’s the Difference Between Personal Injury and Medical Malpractice?

While personal injury and medical malpractice are similar in that they both involve injuries that victims suffer through no fault of their own, the areas of law differ in significant ways. Medical malpractice, which is a category of personal injury law, occurs when a healthcare professional provides inadequate or improper medical care. Personal injury law is broader in scope and includes cases that arise from car crashes, slip and fall accidents, defective products, animal attacks, intentional acts that cause harm, and medical malpractice.

Personal Injury

Personal injury is a term used to denote personal bodily harm following a traumatic event such as a car accident, falling down a flight of stairs, or using a defective product. It does not include damages done to personal property, such as the vehicle or the stairs mentioned in the earlier examples. Personal injury becomes a matter of law when injuries are caused by the actions of another, regardless of whether those actions stem from intention, negligence, or recklessness.

Personal injuries fall under tort law. It is commonly held that individuals and businesses have a legal obligation to act in a way the preserves the health and safety of others, referred to as the duty of care. For a personal injury claim to be legally viable, it needs to be proven that the defendant had a duty to act reasonably and responsibly in the circumstances; that there was a breach to said duty; the defendant’s breach of duty caused the harm; and that the victim suffered measurable harm.

Sometimes, personal injury claims evolve into personal injury lawsuits. When a crash happens, for example, and the at-fault driver’s liability coverage only meets minimum car insurance requirements in that state, the victim’s medical bills can easily exceed policy limits. The victim can file a personal injury lawsuit against the negligent driver to recover the remaining losses.

Medical Malpractice

A case is classified as medical malpractice when a medical professional does not follow the recognized standard of care and that negligence causes injury to a patient. Negligence in the medical field can include the deviation from standard procedures or not informing a patient of possible risks associated with procedures.

Medical malpractice includes more than just doctors and surgeons. It also includes:

  • Nurses
  • Medical Technicians
  • Dentists
  • Social/Mental Health Workers
  • Chiropractors
  • Medical Facilities

The nuances of medical malpractice are multiple, but normally lawsuits are built around claims of negligence. Hospital records and surgical consent forms are often used as evidence to support claims.

In some cases, victims of medical malpractice can recover compensation from multiple parties. When defective medical devices cause injuries or death, for example, victims might be able to recover compensation by suing the device manufacturer, the healthcare provider, or both. If the device was defective, the manufacturer may be liable under the theory of product liability. If the healthcare provider knew about or reasonably should have known about the defect but used the device anyway and failed to warn the victim, he or she can be sued for medical malpractice.