When you have to undergo surgery, you hope for it to help you in some way, whether to fix a problem, alleviate pain or even deliver a baby. You do not expect it to end up causing you more harm, yet that can be the case for some patients, and it happens more often than the medical community would like to admit. U.S. News and World Report reveals that medical errors of all types are responsible for a third of American fatalities. That number may be even higher due to under-reporting and inconsistent record keeping.

If a surgery has negatively affected you, you might have a medical malpractice case. However, before you start planning on how you are going to spend the awards, be aware that just because the surgery went badly does not mean it qualifies as medical malpractice. First, understand the difference between the two.

What is a bad surgical result?

The field of medicine is ever evolving and improving, and it relies on so many variables. Some surgical techniques have a very low rate of success. Sometimes unforeseen complications occur with the patient. This factor of unpredictability in medicine can lead to an unintentional bad result. The fault lies with the innate imperfections of health care and the human body, not with the specific surgeon who performed on you.

What is medical malpractice?

Medical malpractice specifically refers to when your surgeon acted negligently or made an unacceptable error or omission, directly leading to your injury. For example, the surgeon may not have followed the standard procedure, missing a step or making a mistake. Or the surgeon may have come into work impaired from alcohol or drugs. The surgeon may have overlooked important details, such as patient name and surgery site to prevent cutting into the wrong person or area. Maybe he or she forgot about health conditions you have that affect your care during surgery.

The possibilities are endless, but the point is that the action must be something that was clearly inappropriate or that another doctor would not have done under the same circumstances.