What is the difference between a poor medical outcome and medical negligence?

Doctors Performing an Evasive Medical ProcedureMedical procedures—particularly invasive surgeries—always carry a certain amount of risk. Anything could go wrong, and the patient could be seriously injured or killed as a result. However, unless the doctor, hospital, or other medical professional was negligent in their actions, you will not have a claim for medical malpractice. We explain the difference between an unwanted outcome and medical negligence.

Mistakes Happen, and Procedures Don’t Work—but That’s Not Negligence

There are no guarantees when it comes to medical treatment, and sometimes the outcome a doctor is hoping for isn’t achieved, despite everyone’s best efforts. When this happens, the patient does not have grounds to sue the healthcare provider. Even when certain kinds of mistakes are made, such as not knowing about an allergy or misreading a test result, a medical malpractice lawsuit is probably not appropriate.

The Divide Between an Error and Negligence Is the Standard of Care

Healthcare professionals are expected to meet an acceptable standard of care with every patient. When a doctor fails to meet that standard and makes a mistake that a similarly skilled professional would have avoided, they might be considered to be negligent. To prove medical malpractice, you will have to show all of the following:

  • You had an official relationship with the healthcare provider, meaning they agreed to treat you, and you agreed to their treatment.
  • The healthcare provider failed to meet the accepted standard of care in a given situation.
  • You suffered some kind of measurable harm or loss resulting from the healthcare provider’s failure to meet the standard of care.

If a medical procedure did not have the outcome you expected, but the doctor or hospital explained what went wrong and offered to fix it, you probably don’t have a claim for malpractice. However, if you suffered a serious injury or permanent disability and discovered that you were billed for unexpected procedures or treatments, you should talk to a medical malpractice attorney about what happened.

In New Mexico, Contact Keller & Keller

If you suspect that an avoidable and significant mistake was made in your or a loved one’s treatment by a medical professional, contact our medical malpractice lawyer in Albuquerque for a free case evaluation. We don’t take medical malpractice claims lightly, and we will be honest about the strength of your case.


James R. Keller
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Partner at Keller & Keller