Here’s a complete and thorough explanation of what medical malpractice means. In addition, learn when you should seek counsel for your case.


Medical professionals such as doctors, nurses, and other clinical staff have a duty of care to serve patients to the best of their ability and within the standards of care for their practice.

Medical negligence is one of the leading causes of death in the United States, just behind heart disease and cancer.

Medical malpractice is defined as a violation of a standard of care or negligence, or proof of significant damages because of medical negligence. Actions of negligence or omissions in care that cause death or injury to a patient can include errors in diagnosis, treatment, aftercare, or other health management details. The standard of care for medical providers is defined as what a provider did, or failed to do, that falls below the level of medial care that is expected and required for that specialty in that fatal scenario.

Given there is a wide variety of medical procedures, specialties, and variations from provider to provider, medical malpractice can take on many forms. Common medical malpractice claims include:

  • Failure to diagnose or a misdiagnosis
  • Unnecessary surgery
  • Surgical errors
  • Improper medication dosages or prescriptions
  • Early release from a facility
  • Neglecting relevant aspects of patients’ history
  • Failure to coordinate care or recognize symptoms

When is some a victim of medical malpractice?

Experiencing a bad medical outcome does not automatically equate to proof of medical negligence. A claim of malpractice exists when a provider’s negligence or a breach in the duty of care results in injury to the patient. Additionally, there must be a doctor-patient relationship or a health care provider-patient relationship, in order for a duty of care to arise for a healthcare provider or hospital. 

What is the medical duty of care?

The Medical Duty of Care is essentially a legal metric that is used to measure whether the healthcare provider’s actions are consistent with established, required treatment options in the medical community. This metric assesses the legal culpability of their actions based on what competent and careful providers would have done in a similar scenario. In the legal landscape, medical experts must be consulted to shed light on how care should have been improved. This expert will have the education and specialized knowledge to provide strong support for grievances offered.

What is medical negligence?

Medical negligence is not an intent to harm, but rather an act of carelessness. This negligence must occur after establishing a healthcare provider/patient relationship. Additionally, the negligent breach must be shown to fall below the applicable standard of care. Finally, the negligence has to result in injury or damages. Thus, any failure to meet the medical standard of care that results in harm to the patient could constitute medical negligence.

How does it differ from medical malpractice?

The term “malpractice” is often used interchangeable with ‘negligence’.

An example of medical malpractice might include ignoring a small spot on an X-ray or MRI that later turns into a later-stage form of cancer. The progression of cancer may result in high-cost surgeries or treatments that could have been mitigated with earlier treatment.

To have a medical malpractice case, it must be shown that the provider provided negligent care, resulting in harm to the patient.

A claim of malpractice exists when a provider’s negligence or a breach in the duty of care results in injury to the patient.

Do I have case of medical malpractice?

To constitute a legal case of medical negligence or malpractice, four factors must be present:

1. An existing doctor-patient relationship

Having a doctor or health care provider relationship between you and the person or facility that caused harm is necessary.

2. A duty of care

The doctor, provider, or care facility had a duty of care based on the medical professional’s established professional relationship with the patient.

3. A breached duty of care

The provider must have breached the duty of care due to negligent treatment or other means of malpractice, with the result being harm to the patient.

4. Harm as a result of the breach

The breach must be shown to have ultimately impacted you and caused your harm.


Violations in professional standards of conduct should always be taken seriously, especially when it comes to medical care. Health care professionals are trusted with a person’s safety and well-being, therefore any preventable harm done during the course of a health care provider/patient relationship reflects poorly on the profession at large. In the tragic instance of medical malpractice, it is vital to have an experienced litigator who will do their best to address the damage done.

A qualified lawyer is needed to handle such claims, as medical malpractice suits can be complex. Finding a knowledgeable attorney who has experience handling medical malpractice cases is essential. Moreover, having a firm that can find and retain experienced medical experts can help with the successful resolution of a medical malpractice case. Working with qualified medical malpractice attorneys can make all the difference.

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Mr. Angueira is an accomplished senior trial lawyer at Swartz & Swartz, P.C., who has obtained record breaking results for his clients. He was admitted to the Massachusetts Bar in 1982 and the New York Bar in 1983. He specializes Employment Litigation, Medical Malpractice, Product Liability, Discrimination, Whistle Blower and False Claims.



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