“Malpractice” and “Negligence”

Medical malpractice lawsuits can be very difficult, very expensive, and very hard to win. Even clear-cut cases are usually denied by the doctor or hospital, and defended aggressively by their insurance companies. And in fairness, there are many occasions when the medical care was reasonable, but still the patient did not do well.  That is the unfortunate nature of injury and disease.

When I am discussing the realities of malpractice litigation with a potential client, I often have to tell them that they simply do not have a valid case.  Sometimes I hear a response like this:  “well, OK, if we can’t sue for “malpractice,” can we just sue them for “negligence.”


The word “malpractice” has a harsh sound to it.  “Mal” means “bad” in some languages.  This causes many people to assume that “malpractice” is something worse than simple “negligence.”  Some folks incorrectly assume that to prove malpractice a lawyer must show that the doctor or hospital intended to cause an injury.


But the truth is that medical “malpractice” and medical “negligence” mean the very same thing.  They are two ways of saying that a doctor, hospital or nursing home failed to care for the patient in a way that complied with accepted medical standards of practice.  Put another way, they failed to do what a reasonably prudent doctor/hospital/nursing home would have done under similar circumstances.

Proving medical “malpractice” is the same thing as proving medical “negligence.” Both require experience, resources and effort on the part of the injured patient’s lawyer.