Is Medical Malpractice Criminal or Civil?

Is Medical Malpractice Criminal or Civil?

medical malpracticeAfter any injury, it is normal to feel a wide range of emotions anger, confusion, and discontent. But when your injury is at the someone you entrusted to provide you care, it is hard to know what to feel. When we go to the doctor, the one thing we expect from them is to treat our ailment. When they fail to do so or make it worse, what comes next?

If a doctor or other healthcare provider makes a mistake, they may be guilty of medical malpractice. But does this mistake fall under civil or criminal jurisdiction? You have rights if you or someone you love suffers after a medical error. To learn more, contact an experienced medical malpractice attorney.

Medical Malpractice Claim Guide

Understanding Medical Malpractice

You may have a medical malpractice case if you believe your doctor made a mistake that led to your injuries. But, first, it is essential to understand what does and does not constitute medical malpractice.

To have a medical malpractice case, you must meet four criteria:

  1. You have an established relationship with your care provider.
  2. The provider acted outside of the expected standard of care.
  3. The provider’s actions (or inaction) directly led to your injuries.
  4. Your injury resulted in financial damages.

The following generally do not fall under the classification of medical malpractice:

  • An experimental treatment did not work
  • The patient did not get the results they were looking for
  • The patient’s doctor was rude or in a hurry
  • The patient’s condition does not improve with treatment
  • The patient’s treatment had unexpected side effects

Common Examples of Medical Malpractice

Every case is different, and only an experienced medical malpractice attorney can determine whether you may have a legal claim for medical malpractice. With that being said, we can provide a basic outline of cases that often fall under the medical malpractice umbrella.

This includes:

  • Delayed, missed, or misdiagnosis
  • Inadequate follow-up care
  • Surgical errors
  • Surgical instruments left in the body
  • Misread or ignored lab results
  • Birth injuries
  • Medication errors
  • Anesthesia errors
  • Hospital infections

If any of these apply to you or you believe that your doctor made an avoidable mistake that led to your injuries, contact an experienced medical malpractice attorney immediately.

Medical Malpractice: Civil vs. Criminal

There are two main differences between a civil case and a criminal case. First, for civil matters, the issue is usually between two parties, the plaintiff and the defendant.

According to Cornell Law, a civil complaint arises when one party believes the other party did not live up to their legal obligation. On the other hand, a criminal case is between a private party and the government. The government will file criminal charges against a defendant if they believe there is enough proof to show the party broke the law.

The second difference between civil and criminal cases is the potential consequences. In a civil matter, the plaintiff generally seeks financial damages for the loss incurred due to the defendant’s actions. On the other hand, when someone is facing criminal charges, the consequences can include jail time, community service, or fines.

Medical malpractice cases are almost always civil cases. The law understands that practicing medicine requires skill and precision, but in most cases, when a mistake is made, it is not out of malice or ill intent. For this reason, medical professionals are generally allowed the benefit of the doubt and do not have to stand up to criminal charges.

What Happens to a Healthcare Professional Facing a Medical Malpractice Claim?

If you file a medical malpractice suit against your doctor or healthcare provider, they will have to defend the charges. In some cases, they may agree to a settlement. In others, you may have to take the case to court. As a plaintiff, the purpose of a medical malpractice claim is to recover financial damages.

Aside from your civil suit, the provider may face additional repercussions from their employer. Depending on the severity of the claim and the provider’s history, they may receive counseling, discipline, or termination. In addition, in some cases, the medical review board may look into the claim to see if further action is necessary.

When Medical Malpractice Becomes Criminal

Medical malpractice claims are usually a civil matter, but not always. If the doctor’s actions were especially egregious, the state might choose to pursue criminal charges.

Examples of when this may happen to include:

  • Fraud: We expect doctors to care for their patients, not serve their own interests. When a doctor prescribes medication, performs unnecessary procedures, or recommends alternative treatment in the hopes of making a profit, they may be guilty of fraud. Further, if your care provider made a mistake and attempted to cover it up to avoid a medical malpractice claim, the court may pursue fraud charges. In some cases, your statute of limitations may reset.
  • Gross negligence: When a medical professional makes a mistake, it is generally not out of malice or disregard for the patient. But in some cases, it might be. Examples of gross negligence include providing medical care while under the influence of drugs or alcohol and failing to provide medical care when obviously necessary. If the patient dies due to the provider’s gross negligence, they could face criminal manslaughter charges. 
  • Intentional injury: Intentional injury cases are rare, but they can happen. There are many well-known cases of nurses acting as “angels of mercy,” killing innocent victims. In these matters, the nurses would most certainly face criminal charges.
  • Practicing without a license: Practicing medicine without a license is a crime. If a provider misrepresents themselves as a licensed professional, you may have a case for financial damages, and the person may face charges for practicing without a license and fraud.

The Case of Dr. George Blatti

In 2018, a New York man named George Blatti opened a medical office. From his office, he allegedly prescribed opiates to patients clearly suffering from addiction. Unfortunately, five patients between the ages of 31 and 55 later died.

Prosecutors decided Blatti had a “depraved indifference” to what happened to the patients to who he prescribed the opiates. Therefore, he was charged with second-degree murder. The court later changed the charges to manslaughter. As of this writing, the charges are still pending.

What to Do if You Suspect Medical Malpractice

If you suspect medical malpractice, the first thing you should do is contact an experienced medical malpractice attorney. They will be able to review your case and outline the next steps moving forward.

A few things your attorney will likely suggest:

  1. Start keeping records: Your medical records will be one of the most critical components of your legal case. Gather any information and write down any care providers who have treated you, any medications you are on, and any medical procedures. Keeping a journal of ongoing or new symptoms is also a good idea. Try to be as detailed as possible.
  2. Do not talk to your former doctor: If you suspect medical malpractice, the last thing you want to do is inform your provider. Not only does this give them a jump start on the case, but they may try to get you to say things they can later use against you. Therefore, it is always best to leave any communication with your former care provider between you and your attorney.
  3. Do not discuss your case: One of the best things you can do for your case is to stay quiet. Do not talk about your case on social media or with friends. Doctors and hospitals have expensive attorneys on staff who will start digging into your history and try to discredit you.
  4. Continue with your medical care: A poor experience can leave you weary. But this does not mean you should put off important medical care. Doing so could be damaging to your case. Find a doctor you trust and be open about your past experiences and concerns. Follow all medical advice and attend any scheduled appointments.

Financial Damages in a Medical Malpractice Case

When you file a medical malpractice case, you aim to recover financial damages. These costs are intended to make you whole and cover any losses incurred. While these can vary from case to case, there are standard costs that are typical, including:

Economic Damages

Economic damages cover reimbursable expenses.

Typically these are costs that you have or would pay for out of pocket, including:

  • Medical Bills: If your treatment worsened your condition, or you needed to pursue alternative options from a different provider, you should not have to cover these costs. A medical malpractice suit aims to recover all medical expenses associated with your injuries. This may include testing, imaging, doctor visits, surgical procedures, medication, and therapy services.
  • Lost Wages: A severe injury can leave you out of work. When you cannot earn an income, it can make you worry about how you will pay your bills and survive. Thankfully, a medical malpractice claim can help you recoup lost wages, beginning on the first day you had to miss work, and ending when you can return to work. If you cannot return to work in any capacity, you may be eligible for future lost wages.
  • Supplementary services: A severe injury can make it difficult or impossible to do tasks that were once easy. If you need outside help for housekeeping, lawn care, and food preparation services, your case may include these costs.

Non-Economic Damages

Non-economic damages cover the costs people do not typically see but hold value nonetheless.

This includes:

  • Pain and Suffering: Besides the physical pain of an injury, the emotional distrust you feel can be devastating. It is not uncommon for victims of an accident to have a hard time moving on from the incident. Pain and suffering can cover many symptoms, including chronic pain, immediate pain, phantom pain, emotional distress, anxiety, depression, and PTSD.
  • Loss of Enjoyment: Physical and emotional trauma can make it challenging to do the things that once brought you joy. When this happens, this is a cost that the court needs to consider.
  • Wrongful Death: Sadly, medical mistakes can lead to the death of a loved one. When this happens, the victim’s family may be eligible for financial compensation, including loss of companionship, loss of guidance, pain and suffering, funeral and burial costs, lost wages, and outstanding medical bills.

The Statute of Limitations for Medical Malpractice Cases

If you plan to file a civil claim for medical malpractice, you need to understand the statute of limitations and its role in your case. The statute of limitations determines how long you have to file a legal complaint with the court.

In Pennsylvania, the statute of limitations for medical malpractice matters is two years from the injury, the date you discovered your injury or the date you should have discovered your injury.

While this may seem like a lot of time, in reality, it is not. Medical malpractice cases are complex, so it is vital to allow your attorney enough time to prepare your case properly.

Protect Your Rights. Get Started Today.

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Gabriel Levin | Medical Malpractice Attorney

A medical malpractice case can be an intense, complicated, emotional rollercoaster. Now, more than ever, you want an experienced professional by your side who can help you fight. Because of the high burden of proof and the legal forces, you will face, it is not advisable to attempt to take on this case alone.

Most malpractice attorneys take on these cases on a contingency basis, so cost should never prevent you from pursuing the justice you deserve. Do not wait to get help.

For more information about your legal rights or to get started on your medical malpractice case, contact an experienced medical malpractice attorney.

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Gabriel Levin - Attorney

Gabriel Levin is a highly experienced and credible attorney with over 10 years of practice in Pennsylvania. Known for his tenacity, he has represented clients in a wide range of civil matters, trying hundreds of cases. He prepares each case as if it will go to trial, ensuring meticulous attention to detail.

Unlike many firms that delegate tasks, Levin personally handles every aspect of a case and maintains open communication with clients throughout. He has secured millions in compensation, making him a reliable choice for those seeking legal representation.

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