Medical Malpractice vs. Negligence in Colorado – What’s the Difference? 2024

Criminal Law
Medical Malpractice vs. Negligence in Colorado – What’s the Difference? 2024

Doctors make mistakes, as do nurses and other medical staff. Even whole institutions make mistakes. We might say that they can be negligent in their duty. It can be vitally important to understand at what point mistakes may be considered an instance of malpractice. Anyone who thinks that they may have a malpractice case needs to know what separates these two concepts.

What we find is that negligence is the beginning of malpractice, but it doesn’t always produce malpractice. If you are wondering about your situation, a Denver, CO, Medical Malpractice Attorney can help you understand where your claim stands.


Negligence, a key part of personal injury claims, is failing to provide the care that one is obligated to. It’s often a mistake but sometimes, instead of an error, it’s out of malice. In medical situations, this idea of negligence means not reaching what is known as the “standard of care.” There’s no precise definition of what the standard of care is in each situation. Instead, the standard of care roughly is what a reasonable doctor, nurse, or equivalent medical entity would be expected to do in the same situation. In other words, negligence is a deviation from the “standard” medical approach.

To prove negligence in court relies heavily on the matter of expert witnesses. This means bringing in others with the same role as the defendant and explaining how they would have acted differently. A lawyer needs to bring in credible witnesses and use their testimony to make it clear that:

  1. There is a standard approach given the circumstances.
  2. The defendant was outside the bounds of that approach.

There are many different types of negligence that can occur in a complex field like medicine. Some examples are:

  • Prescribing the wrong medication or dosage
  • Providing the wrong medication or dose
  • Misdiagnosing a condition
  • Delaying a diagnosis
  • Botching surgeries
  • Failing to use proper sanitation methods
  • Misreading tests
  • Failing to order necessary tests
  • Not obtaining informed consent

Causing Injury

Negligence, though, is not enough to have a malpractice claim. It needs to be shown that the malpractice leads to the patient sustaining an injury. Quite often, medical negligence could end up being harmless. For instance, if a nurse is late on her rounds, and fails to change the dressing for a wound a little late, it may be negligent. However, it’s not malpractice if it doesn’t result in an infection.

To take it even further, suppose a doctor misdiagnosed someone. However, the treatment for the misdiagnosis and the actual condition was the same. You couldn’t really argue that the misdiagnosis led to an injury. You couldn’t even argue that it led to it being treated incorrectly or healing differently. Therefore, in a circumstance like that, there is medical negligence, but it’s still not malpractice. The key to a malpractice claim is that it must be negligence that can be shown to be the cause of an injury.

Leading to Damages

The last thing that must be shown is that the injury caused by negligence led to damages. These could be things like increased medical bills, pain and suffering, or missing wages because of being unable to work. If that can be shown, the injured party is due restitution.


Q: What Kinds of Issues Are Considered Negligence in a Medical Setting?

A: Negligence in a medical setting involves any handling of a situation that does not live up to the standard of care. What this means is that, if your medical team doesn’t act as a reasonably careful doctor would act in the same circumstance, they did not live up to the standard of care. There’s a broad range of issues that could fall into that category, but some of them are:

  • Misdiagnosis
  • Delayed diagnosis
  • Testing errors (misreading tests, ordering incorrect tests, failing to order appropriate tests, etc.)
  • Botched surgeries
  • Failure to obtain informed consent
  • Unsanitary practices
  • Leaving surgical items in the patient
  • Medication errors

Q: What Is the Difference Between Ordinary Negligence and Medical Malpractice?

A: For negligence to become full medical malpractice, the negligence must have led to an injury. For instance, consider the case of a hospital nurse giving a patient twice the prescribed dosage of a particular medicine. There may be instances where that does not lead to any kind of injury. However, in other circumstances, that could lead to the patient having a severe reaction. In the first case, it is ordinary negligence because there is no injury associated with the error. The second case, though, is medical malpractice because the patient suffered an injury as a result of the negligent behavior of the nurse.

Q: Can You Sue a Doctor for Malpractice in Colorado?

A: You can file a claim for medical malpractice against a doctor in Colorado. However, it must be within the timing that the law allows. Generally, you must file your claim within two years of the injury occurring. If the injury is not discovered until later, you have a year from the discovery of the injury to file your claim. However, except with a few exceptions, you can never file a claim outside of three years from the injury’s occurrence.

Q: What Kind of Damages Are Awarded in a Colorado Medical Malpractice Claim?

A: Damages in a medical malpractice claim could come from up to three different categories:

  • Economics Damages – These are quantifiable damages you may have suffered, such as medical bills, lost wages, or reduced future earning capacity.
  • Non-Economic Damages – These are unquantifiable damages that you often suffer, such as pain and suffering, which are paid out as non-economic damages. In Colorado, there is a $300,000 cap on non-economic damages in medical malpractice cases.
  • Punitive Damages – If the judge believes that there was something malicious in the intent behind the instance of medical malpractice, they may issue punitive damages to punish that behavior and deter future behavior.

Contact Cheney Galluzzi & Howard

It’s possible for negligence by a doctor, nurse, other medical staff, or a medical institution to not be malpractice. There are harmless mistakes. However, once those mistakes lead to harm and injury, then malpractice has occurred. If you’ve found yourself in a situation where the mistake wasn’t harmless, then you are owed restitution. To get the restitution you deserve, you are going to want a legal team that can show how negligence can become malpractice. Contact us today to get your legal team.

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Kevin Cheney

Attorney Kevin Cheney, an experienced personal injury lawyer based in Denver, Colorado, serves as the Managing Partner at Cheney Galluzzi & Howard, LLC. He specializes in personal injury and auto accident cases. His approach combines deep legal knowledge with a commitment to client advocacy. Education: Graduated from the University of Colorado School of Law, demonstrating early legal prowess and a passion for justice. Professional Associations: Active member of the Colorado Trial Lawyers Association and the Colorado Bar Association, contributing significantly to legislative and community initiatives. Experience: Extensive experience in handling complex personal injury cases, with a track record of securing substantial compensations for clients.

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