What is the Difference Between Medical Malpractice and Personal Injury?

There are many fields of law and areas of practice for attorneys.  This happens because, while some of the general legal principles may carry-over from one field to another, there are details that take experience and focus to learn in each field.  Many lawyers, over the course of their careers, practice in multiple areas.

Medical malpractice and personal injury are two fields that are often both covered by the same lawyers or law firms.  At their core, the legal concepts are similar between the two areas.  Darwin Overson is an experienced Utah medical malpractice attorney who handles cases in both personal injury and medical malpractice.  Here, he will explain some general differences and similarities between the two.

What Types of Injuries Does the Term “Personal Injury” Include?

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Sometimes people think personal injury is just slip and fall injuries, but that is far from true.  Personal injury generally covers any injuries received from car accidents, motorcycle accidents, skiing and snowboarding, fires, construction accidents, and yes, slips and falls.

Generally, most personal injury lawsuits are based on some theory of negligence, which has four elements that need to be proved:

  1. The defendant owed the plaintiff some kind of duty.
  2. The defendant breached the duty to the plaintiff.
  3. This breach caused the plaintiff some harm.
  4. There is a harm that the court can redress, often called damages.

As people move around the world with other people, there are some duties we owe to others, such as the duty to carefully operate a vehicle, the duty to keep our houses or sidewalks safe for others to walk through, etc.  More complicated duties may be things like the duty of a ski lift operator to safely operate the ski lift, or for a delivery company to hire competent delivery drivers.

When people fail to follow through with these duties, sometimes people get hurt.  The courts try to make things right by having those responsible pay for the treatment of injuries, their pain and suffering, and their lost wages.  That is the core of personal injury law.

The term “injury” may not seem too strong, but personal injury cases can deal with terrible injuries or even death.  Even something as simple as a slip and fall case, especially if the injured person is old or handicapped, may result in severe spinal cord or brain injuries.  Car crashes are still one of the leading causes of death in almost every age group and, when people do not die, they may be left paralyzed or hospitalized for prolonged periods.  Personal injury lawyers like Darwin Overson aim to help the injured get the money they need to get back on their feet and get compensated for their injuries.

What are Medical Malpractice Injuries?

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Medical malpractice is the name for when a doctor or other medical professional fails to give the proper level of care.  May fields have malpractice issues, and most doctors and hospitals carry insurance to protect their healthcare providers from having to personally pay for malpractice issues.

At its core, medical malpractice is built on the same negligence framework as personal injury, and requires the same general elements:

  1. The doctor, because of the doctor-patient relationship, owed the patient a duty of care.
  2. The doctor breached that duty by failing to provide an adequate level of care.
  3. The doctor’s failure caused the patient some negative effect.
  4. The patient suffered some harm that the court can address – again, this is called damages.

While the same four elements are the foundation of a medical malpractice case and a personal injury case, they are generally far more complex.  While it might be common knowledge to most people that you should keep your sidewalk free of ice so that others do not slip on it, it is not as clear to most people what the proper procedures and techniques are for removing an appendix.  Because of this, even proving just the first element often requires expert witnesses on both sides.

Expert witnesses are doctors or other professionals who have special training and experience in their field.  In medical malpractice, expert witnesses are often doctors who are asked to review the defendant doctor’s work and testify about whether it was done properly.

Medical malpractice does not only apply to surgery errors.  Many of the problems people sue for are failures to diagnose or misdiagnoses, which lead to further harm because treatment is delayed.  Other more serious problems involve leaving surgical devices inside a patient, failing to properly administer anesthesia, or failing to properly explain procedures before performing them.

Call Our Utah Personal Injury and Medical Malpractice Attorneys if You’ve Been Injured

Whether you are looking for a personal injury lawyer in Salt Lake City or a medical malpractice lawyer, Darwin Overson is a Utah attorney who handles both.  If you are unsure whether your injury is a personal injury case or a medical malpractice case, contact Darwin Overson.  Darwin has been practicing for over thirty years in Salt Lake City, West Valley City, Provo, West Jordan, Orem, and throughout the state of Utah.  For a free consultation, call (801) 895-3143.


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