The terms malpractice and negligence are often used interchangeably, but they are not the same thing. While they may be similar, there are some distinct differences between these two acts. Understanding the differences between the two forms of neglect will allow a patient to determine who was at fault in their case, and a medical professional to avoid this situation in their practice. Here are some differences between medical malpractice and negligence that you ought to know.

medical malpractice vs. negligence


A primary difference between medical malpractice and negligence is who can be considered liable for each one. Anyone that sees or deals with a patient can be guilty of negligence, including non-professionals. This is a common misconception because many believe that only professionals can be at fault for such a situation.

Medical malpractice, on the other hand, can only be committed by a medical professional. Essentially, negligence can be committed by someone due to ignorance while medical malpractice must be committed by someone that should know better.

Standard of Care

The standard of care provided is another big difference between negligence and medical malpractice. Negligence is considered a standard of care that anyone would reasonably provide. For this reason, guilty cases of negligence often are situations in which most people would agree with the plaintiff. Medical malpractice differs, as it must be a breach of professional standards.

Medical professionals are held to a higher standard than many other professionals and they must have not held up those standards in order to be guilty. This is a case that may require more information from medical malpractice experts, as they will be able to explain exactly what those standards entail. This differs from negligence since the common person likely won’t previously understand those standards.


While some situations that may harm a patient involve intentional negligence, others are unintentional. As medical malpractice can only be committed by a medical professional, there has to be some intent to fail to meet specific standards. This means that the person at fault for the malpractice knew that they were not following those standards, but continued anyway. Negligence can be committed by someone that was not professionally trained to complete certain tasks and therefore unintentionally caused harm to a patient. This is often the differentiating factor in whether the person committed negligence or medical malpractice.

african american man in hospital bed due to medical malpractice or negligence

Harming the Patient

In some cases, the amount of harm done to the patient may differentiate medical malpractice and negligence. In order for medical malpractice to have been committed, there must have been some harm done to the patient. Since a medical professional must have treated the patient in order for it to be considered malpractice, there is usually harm done because the professional would have been able to easily avoid it.

There doesn’t necessarily have to be any harm done to a patient to be accused of negligence, as the patient just has to be put in a potentially harmful situation. This can be because the person providing the care wasn’t properly trained and didn’t know any better.

People often confuse medical malpractice and negligence or think that they are the same thing. There are some specific differences between these two acts which differ based on responsibility, the standard of care, intent, and the harming of the patient. An expert medical witness can provide additional information about these acts for a case.

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