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In any hospital or medical facility, not every procedure goes according to plan. There’s also the possibility that someone may deviate from accepted practices that may cause further harm than good to the patient. In such a scenario, how would you know if it’s already a case of medical malpractice? That’s what this guide will try to answer. Since medical malpractice can occur in countless ways across different scenarios, let’s look at what constitutes medical malpractice and what is not.

When it Might Be Medical Malpractice

When it comes to medical malpractice cases, they have something in common regardless of the scenario— the healthcare provider’s action or inaction falls short of the standard of care applicable to the specific circumstances. In simpler terms, the healthcare provider was negligent, which led to a worse outcome for the patient. Some examples of medical malpractice are:

  • Improper Treatment
  • Failure to Diagnose
  • Misreading or Ignoring Lab Test Results
  • Failure to Warn a Patient of Known Risks
  • A Breach of Doctor-Patient Confidentiality
  • Performing Unnecessary Surgery
  • Errors in Surgery
  • Poor Follow-Up Care
  • Delayed Treatment

Understanding ‘Standard of Care’

As mentioned above, if a medical professional’s actions fell short of the accepted standard of care, whatever they did can be considered an act of negligence. That standard of care is determined by what a patient should expect as a reasonable level of care in their specific circumstances. Falling short of that standard can come in many forms, such as the examples mentioned above. If the mistake is found to be a mistake that most other medical professionals wouldn’t make in similar circumstances, then they did not provide an acceptable standard of care.

Negligence vs. Malpractice

People often use “medical malpractice” and “medical negligence” synonymously. Strictly speaking, though, there’s a huge difference between the two terms. In fact, medical negligence is merely a required legal element of any medical malpractice claim. If we define medical negligence, it’s basically an act or omission by a medical professional that deviates from the accepted medical standard of care. Without an act of negligence, a medical malpractice case cannot be substantiated. 

How Negligence Becomes Medical Malpractice

Looking at both definitions of negligence and malpractice, it looks like they both go hand in hand. The question is, when does negligence become malpractice? The simplest answer would be when the negligence resulted in the patient being injured or their condition worsening. Negligence that leads to unreasonable and unexpected complications or one that necessitates additional medical treatment is also considered malpractice. In other words, those two elements—legal causation and damages—are necessary for a negligent act to become a malpractice case.

When It’s Probably Not Medical Malpractice

Just because a patient’s condition became worse already means that it’s already a malpractice case. There’s the fact that there’s really no guarantee that every patient will respond to treatment in every situation. When a medical professional attempts to treat a patient and their condition suddenly worsened, it could be due to a number of factors, which may not exactly be within the doctor’s control. As long as the healthcare provider acted with reasonable care and skill in performing the treatment, it wouldn’t be considered medical malpractice.


Medical malpractice is a serious crime and can lead to a patient’s death if a healthcare professional isn’t careful with the kind of service they provide. It helps to know when a particular case is considered negligence, malpractice, or simply something that can’t be solved by the existing treatments and medical procedures available today.MHM Firm

The lawyers of McCallum, Hoaglund & McCallum are here to help our clients seek the justice they deserve. With more than 75 years of experience as legal professionals, our attorneys bring their deep expertise in several practice areas such as medical malpractice defense, alternative dispute resolution, and civil litigation, among others. If you need the help of a medical malpractice lawyer in Birmingham, AL, contact our firm for a consultation today.