Understanding the difference between medical malpractice vs. personal injury can seem confusing – particularly when you’ve been injured due to the negligence of a medical professional. While medical malpractice and personal injury claims are similar in many respects, there are key differences that victims will want to be aware of when bringing a medical malpractice action.
This article discusses medical malpractice vs. personal injury claims – the similarities and the ways they differ.
What is a Medical Malpractice Claim?
Medical malpractice claims arise when a person suffers injury or loss due to the negligence of a doctor or other medical professional. There are many different types of medical malpractice claims – including, but not limited to, the following:
- Misdiagnosis (for example, when a doctor fails to diagnose or incorrectly diagnoses a condition)
- Medication errors (for example, when the wrong medication is prescribed to a patient or a pharmacist makes an error when prescribing medication)
- Injury during treatment or surgery (for example, if a surgeon operates on the wrong body part)
Surgical delays due to the COVID-19 pandemic may even give rise to a medical malpractice claim, though this area of the law is still evolving.
What is a Personal Injury Claim?
Personal injury claims cover a broad range of legal cases relating to just that – personal injury. If a victim suffers personal injury or loss due to the negligence of another party, they can bring an action for damages.
A personal injury claim can relate to various circumstances – from dog bites to nursing home negligence to any motor vehicle accidents. And, yes, a medical malpractice claim is typically considered a subset of personal injury law.
Medical Malpractice vs. Personal Injury Claims: The Key Differences
While medical malpractice is considered a subset of personal injury law, there are key differences regarding how a medical malpractice claim is handled that differ from a traditional personal injury claim. Below, we’ll cover some of the key similarities and differences.
The Legal Test for Medical Malpractice Claims
Both medical malpractice and personal injury claims are based on the concept of negligence. To put it simply, the injured party must prove that they suffered injury or loss due to the negligence of another party who owed them a duty of care.
In the medical negligence context, it is accepted that medical professionals owe a duty of care to their patients. Therefore, if a patient believes that they have suffered injury or loss due to the negligence of a medical professional, the patient needs to establish that the medical professional breached their duty by failing to meet the standard of care they owed to them.
The patient must also establish that the medical professional’s failure to meet their standard of care contributed to the injury or loss suffered by the patient. Finally, the patient must prove that they suffered injury or loss.
Availability of Benefits in Medical Malpractice Claims
In Ontario, individuals injured in most motor vehicle accidents and requiring medical or rehabilitative treatment may be entitled to “statutory accident benefits” pending the resolution of their personal injury claim under Ontario’s Insurance Act. These benefits help cover the cost of reasonable and necessary expenses incurred by the injured person (like medical treatment or transportation to medical sessions).
Medical malpractice claims, unfortunately, do not entitle an injured party to any form of accident benefits. However, you may be entitled to coverage if enrolled in other health benefits programs.
Professional Discipline in Medical Malpractice Claims
If you’ve been injured due to medical negligence, you’ll want to ensure that no one else experiences the same loss you have. That’s why professional discipline claims often go together with medical malpractice claims.
Organizations like the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario regulate the practice of medicine in Ontario (other organizations regulate the practice of other medical disciplines, such as the College of Chiropractors of Ontario). They also investigate claims made by the public about doctors in Ontario and, if appropriate, take disciplinary action against medical professionals found guilty of wrongdoing.
While a disciplinary action differs from a medical malpractice claim – and you won’t need to “bring a claim” against a medical professional in the same way that you would in a medical malpractice claim – proper reporting is a critical step for reporting your experience and ensuring the public is protected from negligent conduct.
Damages Available in Medical Malpractice Claims
Like a personal injury claim, injured parties are entitled to make claims under various heads of damages, including the following:
- Non-pecuniary damages: compensating the injured party for their injuries, pain, suffering, and loss of enjoyment of life.
- Past and future loss of income: compensating the injured party for any income loss they suffered (or expect to suffer) because of negligence.
- Past and future expenses: compensating the injured party for expenses they suffered (or expect to suffer) because of negligence, such as housekeeping expenses or costs of health care.
Like other traditional types of personal injury claims, each medical malpractice claim is different – meaning that the amount of damages an injured party receives can vary wildly depending on their unique circumstances.
Hiring a Lawyer for a Medical Malpractice Claim
Like any area of the law, hiring a lawyer familiar with the area is important to ensure a successful resolution. However, hiring a lawyer specializing in medical malpractice law is particularly important in the medical malpractice context.
Medical malpractice claims can be extremely complex, and a lawyer’s familiarity with medical malpractice law and the types of evidence relied upon is critical for a good outcome. For example, medical malpractice claims typically involve significant medical and expert evidence. Being capable of navigating medical terminology, the techniques used by medical professionals, and mountains of medical records are all traits you’ll want to look for in a skilled medical malpractice lawyer.
Contact Tierney Stauffer LLP in Ottawa, Cornwall, Kingston & North Bay for Compassionate Advocacy with Your Medical Malpractice Claim
At Tierney Stauffer LLP, our personal injury lawyers have over 35 years of experience advocating for those injured due to negligence. We are passionate about defending your rights as a patient wronged by careless negligence from a trusted professional.
If you’ve been harmed in some way due to medical malpractice, don’t give the guilty party a chance to get away with it and put others at risk. Call us at 1-888-799-8057 or contact us online to set up a free consultation with one of our experienced personal injury lawyers.