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Why is Medical Malpractice a Civil Case, and not a Criminal Case?

Medical malpractice can be defined as any case of negligence in a medical setting that endangers the health and safety of patients. This includes not only the failure to provide patients with the attention they need while staying in a hospital or care facility, but also committing surgery errors, administering unnecessary medication or treatment, ignoring symptoms, and misdiagnosing conditions.

Medical malpractice can severely injure victims or be fatal. Despite the serious consequences of medical malpractice, it is rarely tried as a criminal offense. Any legal action against doctors, nurses, and hospital staff in cases of medical malpractice is usually considered as a civil personal injury case. In these cases, injury victims are entitled to compensation for their medical bills and other expenses, but the defendants often will not face any form of criminal punishment.

Gross Negligence

In order for a medical malpractice incident to be tried as a criminal case, it must be proven that the doctor exhibited gross negligence in their actions. Gross negligence defines cases of negligence in which the defendant was extremely careless in their actions, and continued with the negligent act despite knowing the high rate of risk.

Gross negligence, and therefore criminal litigation, is generally reserved for extreme cases of medical malpractice. It must be proven that medical staff was drastically indifferent to their responsibility to care for patients. In fatal cases, offenders can be charged for involuntary manslaughter.

Instances that involve a doctor purposefully harming a patient would, of course, be tried as a criminal offense. However, it can be difficult to prove a defendant’s intentions, especially in medical malpractice cases. This difficulty in proving that medical staff’s behavior was beyond standard negligence is a reason the majority of medical malpractice cases are civil.

Contact Brown & Barron, LLC for experienced representation in a medical malpractice case. Schedule a free consultation via our message form or call us 24/7 at (410) 698-1717.