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Difference Between Medical Malpractice & Personal Injury

Medical malpractice is a specialized field of personal injury law. In a personal injury claim, one person (the plaintiff) with no fault, or limited fault, alleges that another person’s or entity’s (defendant’s) conduct led to physical or mental harm resulting in damages. There are three basic types: intentional torts, negligence, and strict liability.

Intentional torts involve an intentional act on the part of the defendant. For example, if the defendant hits the plaintiff over the head with a baseball bat, that’s an intentional act.

Strict liability refers to the opposite situation: the defendant takes no intentional action that results in harm to the plaintiff. Strict liability in civil cases generally pertains to product manufacturers. For example, if an automobile corporation selects a new type of brakes and exercises reasonable care in ensuring they work properly in its vehicles, the corporation can be held liable when the defective breaks lead to the plaintiff’s injuries.

Required Elements to Establish Negligence

The most common type of personal claim is negligence. In negligence cases, the defendant’s conduct falls below a given standard of care and results in the plaintiff’s damages. To establish negligence, the plaintiff must prove the following elements:

  • Duty: the defendant must owe a duty to the plaintiff, which basically means the law recognizes a relationship between the parties that obligates the defendant to act in a certain manner toward the plaintiff. The common duty owed is that of reasonable care under the circumstances. For example, if you are driving, you owe a duty of reasonable care to other drivers and pedestrians in the area surrounding you.
  • Breach: the defendant must have violated, or breached, this duty. Often this means that the defendant acted unreasonably in a situation. For example, driving under the influence of alcohol is unreasonable conduct, and likely a breach of duty.
  • Causation: the breach of duty actually caused the plaintiff’s harm, and the harm suffered was reasonably foreseeable.
  • Damages: the breach has to result in actual, recognizable harm to the plaintiff.

Medical malpractice is a specific type of negligence case. In medical malpractice, similar elements must be proved. However, the duty a doctor owes to the patient is different. Instead of a duty of reasonable care, the doctor is held to providing the care an average physician would typically provide in the same or similar circumstances.

Medical malpractice claims can also often be distinguished by their complexity. On top of the legal work involved and varying laws concerning statutes of limitations, lawyers must also have a working knowledge of the complicated practices and terminology of modern medicine. This working knowledge is not only necessary to understand the case, but also to be able to make optimal use of expert witnesses. These expert witnesses are generally necessary for proving a doctor did not meet the expected standard of care, and for understanding the seriousness of injuries and the financial cost of the injuries.

McCann Dillon Jaffe & Lamb, LLC: Experienced Philadelphia Personal Injury and Medical Malpractice Lawyers

At McCann Dillon Jaffe & Lamb, LLC, our Philadelphia medical malpractice lawyers examine your situation and assess the viability of your case. If viable, we apply our extensive knowledge and litigation savvy to pursue maximum compensation for your injuries. Contact us online or call our Philadelphia office at 215-569-8488 or 302-888-1221. We serve clients throughout Pennsylvania, Delaware and New Jersey.