It’s not unusual to hear the question: Is personal injury the same as medical malpractice? This is an understandable query, as a personal injury can result from medical malpractice. While the terms “personal injury” and “medical malpractice” do not mean the same thing, there can be some overlap.
Medical malpractice is a type of personal injury case. The broad legal term “personal injury” encompasses many different types of harm a person can sustain, including through medical malpractice. Below, we’ll explore the difference between personal injury and medical malpractice, along with examples to demonstrate each term.
Shrager & Sachs is a Philadelphia-based personal injury law firm. We have been handling complex medical malpractice cases in Pennsylvania since 1978. If you have a question related to personal injury or medical malpractice, we have the answer. We offer free, no-obligation consultations to prospective clients wishing to learn more about their legal options. Contact us today for more information.
The Difference Between Personal Injury and Medical Malpractice
Personal injury law (or tort law) is a type of civil law that seeks to right wrongs committed by one party against another party. If someone’s reckless driving causes a car accident in which you are injured, you can hold the at-fault party accountable through personal injury law.
Individuals can be hurt by someone else’s reckless, careless, negligent, or wrongful actions in various ways. One way a person can suffer injury is through a preventable error committed by a doctor or other health care provider. Medical malpractice refers to all the ways a medical professional can fail in their duty to properly treat a patient—resulting in personal injury to the patient. Giving the wrong medication, failing to run a necessary test, or leaving a surgical instrument inside a patient can all be seen as medical malpractice.
Personal injury doesn’t just mean physical injury. The harm a person suffers through another’s negligence can extend far beyond bodily injury. A personal injury case like medical malpractice may involve physical injuries, emotional and psychological injuries, financial injuries, and injury to one’s reputation. “Personal” injury means harm to one’s person, not just one’s body.
In a personal injury case such as medical malpractice, the plaintiff (the injured party) can seek compensation for the losses they unfairly suffered. Those losses will look differently depending on the individual and the nature of the incident. The term “damages” refers to the monetary award the at-fault party (the defendant) should recompense the injured plaintiff.
The types of damages most common in personal injury cases like medical malpractice include:
- Medical bills
- Hospitalization costs
- Physical therapy and rehabilitation expenses
- Lost income
- Loss of future income after disability
- Pain and suffering
- Emotional anguish (such as PTSD)
- Mental health care
- Funeral and burial expenses (in cases of wrongful death)
What Are Examples of Personal Injury?
Personal injury is an umbrella term covering all manner of harm a person can suffer due to the wrongful actions of another. Most personal injury cases center around the concept of negligence. Negligence means that a person, group, or company failed in their duty to exercise proper care.
For example, if a motorist consumed several alcoholic beverages before driving home, we can say that they violated their duty to keep other drivers, bicyclists, and pedestrians safe from danger. Or, if a hotel owner failed to fix a broken stair or post a warning sign, they neglected their duty to keep guests safe from a known and foreseeable hazard.
At Shrager & Sachs personal injury law firm, we handle these common types of personal injury cases:
- Medical malpractice
- Car accidents
- Commercial truck accidents
- Slip and fall accidents
- Dangerous property incidents
- Product liability cases
- Pedestrian-struck-by-vehicle accidents
- Motorcycle accidents
- Nursing home abuse and neglect
- Construction site negligence
- Accidents resulting in wrongful death
What Are Examples of Medical Malpractice?
Medical malpractice claims can be filed against any health care professional responsible for patient care. That includes:
- Cardiologists, OB/GYNs, pediatricians, and other specialists
- Medical technicians
In order for you to have grounds for a medical malpractice lawsuit, you and your attorney must be able to prove that the medical provider owed you a duty of care, that they breached the duty of care, that you suffered injuries as a result, and that your injuries caused measurable damage to you.
Some examples of the most common types of medical malpractice we see in Philadelphia include:
- Anesthesia errors
- Birth injuries caused by doctor or nurse negligence
- Emergency room errors, which often involve releasing a patient too early
- Prescription drug errors, including wrong medication or wrong dosage
- Misdiagnosis of a condition
- A missed diagnosis that should have been made
- Surgical errors such as wrong site surgery or internal damage during an operation
- Failure to obtain a patient’s informed consent prior to a procedure
Is a Personal Injury Lawyer the Same as a Medical Malpractice Lawyer?
Although all medical malpractice lawyers are personal injury lawyers, not all personal injury lawyers are medical malpractice lawyers. Medical malpractice is a highly specific area of tort law. An attorney must possess vast and specialized medical knowledge to successfully handle medical malpractice cases. Medical malpractice is known to be one of the most difficult areas of personal injury law for lawyers to practice.
If you were injured by a negligent medical professional, don’t hire just any personal injury lawyer. Make sure you seek out a skilled medical malpractice lawyer you know has won similar cases in the past.
Find a Personal Injury Law Firm That Specializes in Philadelphia Medical Malpractice Cases
Naturally, any real-life personal injury case will be infinitely more complicated than the basic outline we’ve provided above. Winning a medical malpractice case requires a thorough understanding of:
- The medical condition you suffered and how it should have been treated,
- The act of negligence that harmed you,
- Hospital insurance policies,
- How to find the right expert witness,
- State and federal laws that apply to your case, and much more.
If you or a loved one suffered medical malpractice in Philadelphia, don’t be afraid to look around until you find the best legal representative for you. Go prepared with any questions you have about the legal process. A good lawyer will welcome your questions and be able to explain the complicated legal jargon in a way you can clearly understand.
Contact us for an obligation-free meeting to learn if Shrager & Sachs has the right medical malpractice lawyer for you.