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How are negligence and medical malpractice different?

We've previously discussed in this space that many medical malpractice suits in Connecticut are based on the concept of negligence. Negligence is a legal concept that comes down to us from the common law, which has its origins in England a long time ago. Suffice to say the basic idea of negligence has changed through the years and is a bit more well-defined now that many states have codified what it means and the methods of showing it in court. But, while medical malpractice cases may often rest on a negligence theory, there are some differences that should be understood.

One of the main underpinnings of regular negligence is the idea of the "reasonable man." That is, that there is some sort of hypothetical average person against whom the actions of the person accused of negligence can be measured. For example, a negligence case might ask whether a reasonable person might have taken certain precautions against the sort of damage a plaintiff suffered that the specific defendant in the negligence case did not take.

In a medical malpractice case, however, it doesn't make sense to use the normal reasonable person standard. After all, an average person likely wouldn't be able to tell a spleen from an appendix during a surgical operation. So what standard does get used? According to the Connecticut Judicial Law Branch Libraries, medical malpractice or professional negligence occurs when the medical professional in question doesn't use the standard of care commonly produced by the skill and education of one who is an average reputable member of the profession. Rather than a reasonable person standard, it is more of an "average professional in that area of expertise" standard.

As one might imagine, this standard may vary widely depending upon the professional involved and the type of medical care that was rendered. A Licensed Practical Nurse wrapping a bandage will likely be held to a different standard than an experienced brain surgeon repairing an aneurism. Because of this, suits to recover medical expenses and other damages based upon medical malpractice may become complex. Thus, those involved in such cases may wish to consider consulting a Connecticut medical malpractice attorney.

Source: Connecticut Judicial Branch Law Libraries, "Medical malpractice in Connecticut", accessed on March 10, 2016

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