Many people incorrectly believe that “malpractice” describes conduct that is worse or more serious than simple “negligence,” but that is not the case. The words “medical malpractice” and “medical negligence” are interchangeable because malpractice is just ordinary negligence by a healthcare provider which causes injury. It is no different than negligence by a motorist who does not pay attention and runs a red light causing an injury.
Under Florida law a healthcare provider must exercise that level of care, skill and treatment which is recognized as acceptable and appropriate by reasonably prudent similar healthcare providers under similar circumstances. In other words, the standard of care is often described as doing what a reasonably prudent doctor (or nurse, dentist, etc.) would do under the circumstances. In a malpractice trial, the judge tells the jury about this definition, and after hearing the evidence of what happened the jury decides what they believe a reasonably prudent similar healthcare provider should have done under the circumstances. This decision-making process by the jury is normally aided by the testimony of expert witnesses from both sides, who explain the medical issues during the trial.
Under certain circumstances, in emergency room malpractice cases the doctor and hospital have immunity from ordinary medical negligence mistakes. They can only be held responsible for injuries they cause if the plaintiff can show they are guilty of “reckless disregard” of the patient’s condition, rather than negligence, which is much harder to prove.