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Fox Farley Willis & Burnette Attorneys At Law
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Ordinary Negligence Or Medical Malpractice? Here’s Why It Matters


Let’s say that you go to the hospital for a scan or a diagnostic test of some kind. You go into the room, and the nurse that is doing the test tells you to get onto a table or examining bench so that you can be scanned. As you are getting onto the examining bench, you cut yourself on a large, protruding piece of metal.

Are you the victim of medical malpractice? Or just a victim of what is commonly called “ordinary negligence?”

A Tough Question

The scenario above poses tough questions. On the one hand, a nurse can be sued for medical malpractice. You are in a hospital, getting a medical procedure. So the case sounds like a medical malpractice case. But on the other hand, getting onto a table is not a medical procedure, the nurse was not giving you any medical treatment, and being injured on a defective bench has nothing to do with the care or treatment of any illness or disease.

As you can see, in many cases, it may be vague or unclear whether your injury is one that is caused by malpractice, or by ordinary negligence. Many injuries may fall into a gray area. This can be especially true in facilities that are both medical and non-medical.

For example, nursing homes are not hospitals. However, many patients need continuing, ongoing medical care in the homes, the nursing homes deliver medicines and often, therapy to patients, and nurses and doctors make up some of the staff of nursing homes.

Laws Can Differ

It makes a big difference whether your case is one for malpractice, or one for ordinary negligence, because the laws can be somewhat different for both. This is especially true for a statute of limitations problem.

The statute of limitations for a medical malpractice case is only one year, much shorter than that for ordinary negligence (it is longer for minors).

That means that if you file your case 18 months after your injury as an ordinary negligence case, and later it turns out you should have filed it as a malpractice case, you could be too late—your initial filing was past the one year, and thus, as a malpractice case, you have now missed the statute of limitations deadline.

Unlike regular negligence cases, malpractice cases often recognize a delayed discovery doctrine. This can, in some cases, extend the statute of limitations, where you didn’t know and couldn’t have known of malpractice. This generally doesn’t exist in ordinary negligence cases.

Courts Provide Some Guidance

Generally, courts say that if the injury arises out of the exercise of specialized, technical medical skill or training or from the application of medical knowledge it is a malpractice case. Still, this is a vague guideline, making it important to get your case reviewed immediately, if you suspect you have been a victim of medical malpractice.

Call the Knoxville personal injury lawyers at Fox Farley Willis & Burnette, PLLC, today if you have been a victim of medical malpractice.


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