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What is the Difference Between Medical Malpractice and Medical Negligence?

When a medical professional causes harm to a patient, the patient may be able to recover compensation for their injuries through a medical malpractice claim or lawsuit. You might have heard people use the term “medical negligence” instead of medical malpractice. 

However, the terms are not synonymous in Florida. The Florida Supreme Court has established a clear difference between the two concepts. Understanding the difference between malpractice and negligence can help you understand your rights after a medical provider causes you harm.

Medical Malpractice vs. Medical Negligence in Florida

In National Deaf Academy v. Townes, the Florida Supreme Court distinguished medical negligence from medical malpractice. In this case, a young deaf girl was enrolled in the National Deaf Academy (NDA). Her parents enrolled her in the NDA because she was struggling with behavioral issues.

One day, the young girl had an outburst. Staff members had to restrain her, which resulted in a knee injury. The injury was so severe that doctors had to amputate the young girl’s leg above the knee.

Her parents sued the NDA. The NDA claimed this was a medical malpractice case because two nurses were involved in restraining the girl. They argued the case should have been subject to Florida’s strict presuit requirements.

The case made its way to the Florida Supreme Court. The Supreme Court ruled that this case was not subject to medical malpractice presuit requirements because it qualified as “ordinary negligence.” 

According to Supreme Court:

“Limiting medical malpractice claims to those that are directly related to medical care or services, which require the use of professional judgment or skill, ensures that plaintiffs bringing claims of ordinary negligence are not subjected to the complex presuit procedures for medical malpractice claims . . . .”

Arguing that someone is guilty of medical malpractice requires demonstrating a medical professional failed to provide the proper standard of care and caused injury. Two nurses had been involved in restraining the girl during her outburst at the NDA. 

The Florida Supreme Court determined this did not automatically qualify the case as a medical malpractice case. Because the girl was not receiving medical care when she was injured, this incident was an example of medical negligence.

How the Florida Supreme Court Decided the Difference Between Medical Malpractice and Medical Negligence

The Florida Supreme Court accounted for several factors when determining that this case qualified as negligence instead of malpractice. For example, the Court noted that virtually any member of the staff could have restrained the girl in the manner that caused her injury.

The Court also pointed out that medical malpractice cases usually require the testimony of a medical professional to determine if malpractice has occurred. That was not necessary in this case. Because medical testimony wasn’t necessary to prove negligence, this was not an instance of medical malpractice.

Defining the differences between medical malpractice and medical negligence is important; proving malpractice can be more challenging than proving negligence. Determining whether a case qualifies as medical malpractice or medical negligence may be a complex matter.

Do you believe you have a case? Are you not sure whether you should file a negligence claim or a malpractice claim? Strongly consider reviewing your case with an attorney. Your attorney can help you determine the correct cause of action for your injuries. 

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