Medicine is not always an exact science, and neither are most medical malpractice cases. Mistakes can be made, but unfortunately, these mistakes can impact our lives. When an error is made by your healthcare provider – whether it be your nurse, doctor, therapist, or whoever within the field – you likely have grounds to request compensation.
It is the job of malpractice lawyers to help those who have been injured move forward with their lives and to keep hospitals and staff accountable for the services they provide. Though criminal medical malpractice cases can exist, the majority fall under a civil offense.
State confidentiality laws make it difficult to research a doctor’s background information, including if they have been convicted of medical malpractice at any point during their career. Fortunately, most doctors are good doctors, and there is only a small percentage of those responsible for medical negligence.
Civil Cases for Medical Malpractice
When a healthcare provider does not follow the standard of care designated for the situation and that is followed by other practitioners, the patient has an argument for a medical malpractice case. These cases are defined by the negligence of the care provider. Whether a surgical tool is left inside of a patient or an incorrect diagnosis is made, they are responsible for any injuries that result from the mistake.
Medical malpractice cases are usually considered a civil offense. This means that the victim is fighting for compensation with no intention of punishing the defendant with jail time. The goal of the case is to gain financial help for medical bills, lost income, disability, and pain and suffering.
Though they do happen, a criminal medical malpractice case is incredibly rare. For a case to be considered criminal, the negligence of care would need to be life-threatening. Rather than a medical mistake, a case would become criminal because of a blatant disregard of information or treatment that results in loss of life, being intoxicated at work, or the abuse of a patient.
When a Case Becomes Criminal
If a medical malpractice case falls under extreme circumstances, it can be considered criminal. The doctor in question will need to be accused of gross negligence, deemed incompetent, or indifferent towards the patient’s care.
These cases are handled by government prosecutors who work on behalf of the victim and the state. Unlike civil cases, where the goal is to gain compensation for the victim, the goal of a criminal case is the punishment of the defendant. These cases can be tricky, as prosecutors will need to prove that the medical professional is guilty. While even the best doctor can make an honest mistake, it is incredibly hard to prove that poor or lack of care was done intentionally or maliciously.
If you are unsure if your case would be considered civil or criminal, a medical malpractice lawyer can help you navigate through the details during this stressful time. An expert opinion is the best way to determine how to move forward with your medical negligence claims.
How Often Does Medical Malpractice Occur?
Over 13,000 doctors have been disciplined for medical negligence. Negligence in the healthcare industry is also the third leading cause of death in the United States. Due to the nature of civil cases, many of these practitioners are able to retain their licenses and return to work once the case is resolved.
One thing to note about cases for medical malpractice is that they can earn huge punitive damages. In reality, a large damages payout is awarded to less than one percent of cases. Another misconception is that hospitals and doctors are being sued left and right. The reality is that only one in eight medical errors ends up resulting in a lawsuit. Regardless of these misconceptions, medical negligence comes in a variety of forms and it is important to bring these issues to light when you think you may have been the victim of an error.
Patients rarely expect medical negligence to occur when they visit a hospital or physician for care. Your health and well-being are essential, and working with an experienced lawyer will help you receive the compensation you deserve. I just wish I had known the right kind of lawyer to call back in 2012 when I had surgery that went awry.