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Is Medical Malpractice Civil or Criminal?

Published on Jun 11, 2024 at 6:54 pm in Medical Malpractice.

While anyone can make a mistake,  ones that medical practitioners make can have significant adverse consequences for patient health. Fortunately, Louisiana law allows patients who suffer additional injuries, develop further illnesses, or die while under the care of a healthcare provider to take legal action by filing a medical malpractice case against the party whose actions harmed them. 

If you have fallen victim to intentional or accidental negligence, our attorneys at Bianca | Matkins want to help you better understand whether medical malpractice is civil or criminal.

Keep reading, where we’ll explain how these cases are classified and advise you of steps you can take with the assistance of a legal professional, such as those at Bianca | Matkins, to hold those liable for making missteps accountable for their actions. 

How Criminal and Civil Cases Differ 

To understand why most medical malpractice claims fall into the civil case category, you’ll need to learn the primary differences between civil and criminal legal matters, which are: 

Criminal Cases 

Some factors that set these apart from civil matters are that: 

  • Prosecutors, district attorneys, and US attorneys file these cases 
  • The government must prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt 
  • Punishments doled out in cases like these are generally community service, probation, and jail and prison time, along with fines 

Civil Cases 

Aspects unique to civil matters include: 

  • A victim (the plaintiff) brings a case against the person who they allege harmed them (the defendant) 
  • The standard that applies to these cases is preponderance of the evidence, a less stringent burden of proof than beyond a reasonable doubt 
  • Louisiana law allows victims who have successful lawsuits to qualify for financial compensation for their losses from those who harmed them 

Why Do Most Medical Malpractice Cases Qualify as Civil Ones? 

Considering you now have a clearer understanding of the main delineators between civil and criminal cases, we want to address why medical negligence often gets addressed within our civil legal system in Louisiana. 

It generally boils down to how medical malpractice checks off all the proverbial boxes when it comes to the elements of negligence, which include: 

  • A duty of care existed (through the establishment of a doctor-and-patient relationship) 
  • The medical provider (defendant) allegedly breached the duty of care they owed their patient by deviating from a standard, acceptable protocol in treating them 
  • The health care practitioner caused the patient harm (i.e., physical or mental) because of their negligent actions 
  • The patient (you, as the plaintiff) suffered quantifiable or documentable harm (i.e., financial losses) because the medical provider breached the standard of care they owed you 

Individuals who suffer medical malpractice are generally left in a worse health condition and financial position compared to when they initially sought out care. Thus, the aim of civil lawsuits like these is to allow the injured party to recover compensation that will “make them whole” once again. 

When Is a Health Care Provider’s Actions Criminal? 

While most medical malpractice cases are resolved through the civil legal system, a few are prosecuted exclusively or additionally within the criminal courts as well. 

When cases like these do end up in criminal court, it generally occurs because the health care provider did one of the following: 

  • Displayed a complete disregard for human life 
  • Was under the influence of drugs or alcohol when they harmed their patient 
  • Acted deceptively or fraudulently, such as practicing medicine without a license or claiming to have certain certifications they didn’t 
  • Engaged in gross negligence by perhaps taking unjustifiable risks that could endanger patient health 
  • Didn’t act in a timely manner to minimize the potential for harm in critical care situations 
  • Performed unnecessary or ineffective testing or medical procedures 

Your Legal Options as a Victim of Medical Malpractice in Baton Rouge 

As highlighted above, only government employees can pursue criminal cases.

However, that doesn’t mean that you cannot influence them to consider filing charges against the person who harmed you if you have a compelling story to tell and evidence to back up your claims. 

Remember, when it comes to civil matters, you’re more in the driver’s seat when it comes to taking legal action. This is when aligning yourself with a medical malpractice attorney in Baton Rouge, which can be of great assistance to you.

They can evaluate evidence in your case, help you file all appropriate preliminary notices necessary to file medical malpractice claims in our state and take legal action if authorized to do so. 

Just remember, in both civil and criminal matters, very limited statutes of limitations apply. You may lose your chance to seek justice if you don’t act quickly in your case.

So, if you want to understand what course of action is best to pursue in your situation and to better understand what you need to do and when to seek justice, contact us at Bianca | Matkins today.

We’ll put you in touch with one of our medical malpractice attorneys for a free consultation to discuss your rights. 

 

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Call us or fill out the form below to schedule a free and confidential case evaluation where we’ll hear your story and help you understand your legal options, advising you on what steps you can take next. If we can help with the next steps required, we will be happy to do so.

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