If you have suffered harm as a result of a mistake or oversight made by a professional and are considering pursuing legal action, you may be unclear as to whether you’ve been a victim of professional negligence or malpractice. It’s a very good question, and one that even legal professionals often struggle with. There is a fine line between the definition of the two terms, and in fact, many people use them interchangeably, but the difference between the two basically comes down to intent: when harm is intended or anticipated as a potential outcome of a professional’s action or inaction, it is considered malpractice. If, however, the damage has been done as a matter of oversight or mistake, then the damage that has been done is more likely to be considered negligence.

When it comes to a legal proceeding, the biggest difference between the two claims comes down to what kind of damages a jury is likely to provide. Juries understand that mistakes happen, so when damages are a result of negligence, they are likely to base their decision on the compensation that they provide to a victim based strictly on economic damages that have been suffered. By contrast, when a jury believes that a professional’s actions (or inaction) were measured or considered, they are likely to interpret the outcome as the result of malicious intent and are prone to assigning both economic damages and punitive damages meant to send a punishing message to both the perpetrator and others who might be likely to act in the same way.

Negligence is defined as a professional’s failure to act in a way that is in keeping with the standard of care, no matter what their field that results in harm to their client. In the cases that are most familiar to us – those involving medical care – examples might include a physician’s failure to properly diagnose a patient’s condition. Malpractice’s definition goes beyond that of negligence, and in the case of a medical professional would go beyond failing in the duty of care to failure to provide what is the accepted standard of care. An example could include prescribing the wrong medication, performing inappropriate surgery, or simply failing to respond to a patient despite being aware of the urgency of their condition.

If you need assistance with determining the exact claim that you should be filing in relation to damages that you’ve suffered, we can help. Contact us today to learn more about how our legal knowledge and experience can provide you with the most successful outcome.