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Is medical malpractice the same thing as negligence?

Medical malpractice lawsuits are relatively common in Pennsylvania, as they are in other states. However, many people don't understand how they work, and how they relate to other types of personal injury lawsuits, such as those filed after a car accident.

Most personal injury lawsuits are based upon the legal theory of negligence. There are four key elements to a negligence claim that have to be met prior to a negligence case being successful. There has to be a duty owed, breach of that duty, causation between the breach and the injury caused by the breach and damages. If the injured party can prove these elements, the court will generally find that the other party is liable for the damages.

Medical malpractice is in essence a kind of negligence. However, in medical malpractice the duty owed is a specialized duty. When suing a medical professional for medical malpractice, the person bringing the claim has to show that that medical professional did not act as an reasonable doctor would have acted under the same circumstances, thus causing harm. The same elements that apply in generalized negligence cases apply in medical malpractice cases. Medical professional negligence cases tend to require expert witnesses and sophisticated evidence because of the specialization of the medical field.

. The difficulty in medical negligence cases is that the claimant has to prove that the actions or the non-action of the medical personnel directly caused the damage. At times, this can be hard to show.

Keeping in mind that the burden of proof is on the person bringing the claim in court, having all of the relevant information in medical malpractice cases is imperative. Pennsylvania attorneys with experience in medical malpractice cases can help the injured or their families to understand how the process works.

Source: National Institutes of Health, "An Introduction to Medical Malpractice in the United States," B. Sonny Bal, accessed Sept. 19, 2014

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