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

Legally Reviewed and Edited by: Terry Cochran

If you believe you have suffered an injury at the hands of your healthcare provider, a medical malpractice lawyer can help you receive compensation. The first step in this process is to file a claim in civil court.

Why medical malpractice claims are civil offenses

In the United States, there are two types of legal cases under which all legal matters fall. When someone breaks a law, it is a crime, and the case will be heard in a criminal court of justice. A civil case, on the other hand, is a dispute between individuals or entities and will be heard in civil court.

Most medical malpractice cases are decided in civil court, although it is possible for the case to be both a criminal and a civil offense.

Differences between civil and criminal cases

In Michigan, the criminal court system will prosecute individuals who violate state and federal laws. Often committed against an individual, these crimes are egregious enough to be considered a threat to society and a crime against the state. In such instances, the state prosecutor will file charges with the court.

Civil cases, on the other hand, are disputes between individuals. These cases revolve around potential legal and financial responsibility between the plaintiff and the defendant. The victim, or the victim’s legal counsel, must file the claim.

Another difference between a civil and criminal case is how culpability is decided. In a criminal case, the defendant’s guilt must be proven “beyond a reasonable doubt.” The outcome of a civil case, however, is dependent upon a “preponderance of the evidence.”

While the defendant in a criminal case is guaranteed a trial by jury, a civil case may be settled out of court. If an agreement cannot be reached, a jury or judge will consider the evidence presented by the medical malpractice lawyer and decide if it is likely the allegations are true.

Types of civil cases

The most common civil cases are contract disputes, property disputes, torts, class action cases, and complaints against the city. A “tort” is a wrongful act that results in an alleged physical or emotional injury. Medical malpractice cases are considered torts.

Common medical malpractice cases

Civil cases generally seek monetary damages or injunctions against another party. The most common medical malpractice claims are those in which a patient was misdiagnosed or not diagnosed in a timely manner. Other types of medical malpractice claims include childbirth injuries, medication errors, anesthesia errors, and surgical errors.

Gross negligence

In the case of medical malpractice, negligence is the cause of injury. Therefore, it is negligence a lawyer specializing in medical malpractice will attempt to prove. The court will award compensation to the plaintiff based on the degree of injury sustained as a result of the medical negligence.

In most medical malpractice cases, the cause of injury was simple negligence and does not rise to the level of criminal misconduct. Gross negligence, on the other hand, is punishable under the criminal justice system.

Gross negligence is extreme indifference, or reckless disregard, for the patient. It is a willful carelessness for the safety of the individual that is likely the cause of the injury. In the case of gross negligence, the recklessness of medical personnel is so obvious it is apparent even to those with no medical training.

Four elements of a medical malpractice case

In Michigan, a top medical malpractice attorney at Cochran, Kroll & Associates, P.C. will investigate your claim as it relates to the four elements of a medical malpractice case. Their team of medical malpractice experts will establish the duty, or legal obligation, of the defendant, and show how the defendant breached this duty. Furthermore, they will demonstrate how this breach of duty caused harm to the plaintiff in terms of pain and suffering.

For a free consultation with Eileen Kroll, an attorney and registered nurse, call our firm toll free at 1-866-MICH-LAW.

Disclaimer : The information provided is general and not for legal advice. The blogs are not intended to provide legal counsel and no attorney-client relationship is created nor intended.

Tim is a writer and editor who earned his Bachelor of Arts in Journalism from the University of Maryland and calls Washington, D.C., home after spending most of his adult life in the country's capital. Although Tim spent most of his post-college years in the restaurant industry, he became interested in writing about legal matters after he recently moved to Colombia. Today, Tim writes professionally about medical malpractice, drug policies, and workplace injuries. Tim is focused on curating his freelancing career and plans to work remotely for as long he can.



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