We put our trust in the doctors, nurses, hospitals, and other healthcare providers to correctly diagnose and treat us when something is wrong. However, there are times when that diagnosis or treatment doesn’t go as planned. A patient may be injured by failure or negligence by a medical professional.
Like heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and other chronic illnesses, medical malpractice is a serious health issue in West Virginia as well as the US. As the third leading cause of death nationwide, the problem has become increasingly worse.
But unlike other personal injury cases, a medical malpractice claim must rely on both advanced legal and medical expertise, which will likely include expert witnesses on both sides. As complex as such a case may be, it’s generally not considered a crime, but a civil matter. Here, we’ll explain the difference.
What Medical Malpractice Means
In layman’s terms, “medical malpractice” means that a patient was harmed by a healthcare provider. In extreme cases, it can mean serious or debilitating injuries or even be fatal to a patient.
Medical malpractice can take any number of forms. It could be a doctor who makes a misdiagnosis or a surgical mistake, or a nurse who administers an incorrect medicine. Perhaps a patient with an imminent health problem left untreated or mistreated leading to disability, birth injuries, or other chronic problems they wouldn’t normally have.
Causes can include:
- Ignoring patient history or failing to take one
- Failing to recognize symptoms
- Ignoring or misreading lab results
- Failing to order correct testing
- Incorrect medication or dosage
- Failing to diagnose or diagnose correctly
- Substandard aftercare or follow-up
- Knowingly ordering needless or unwarranted surgery
- Surgical errors, such as surgery at the wrong place
- Discharging a patient prematurely
- Other deviations from a known standard of care
Medical malpractice is generally a civil case, and the plaintiffs can receive compensation for their injuries and expenses. The defendants do not face criminal charges.
Criminal Negligence As Medical Malpractice
There are occasions where medical malpractice can cross over into the realm of criminal law. This would require proof of the intentional negligence of a doctor or other provider. These cases are uncommon, and usually stem from a doctor who is intentionally harming a patient, or profiting from their “mistakes.”
In order for medical malpractice to become a crime, the state would have to demonstrate successfully the doctor’s or provider’s gross negligence, or otherwise intentionally harming a patient. A case with patient fatality could result in charges of involuntary manslaughter or even homicide—if it can be proven beyond a reasonable doubt.
The difficulty in proving a doctor or other healthcare provider’s intent is why most cases of medical malpractice are pursued as a civil personal injury case. Like any criminal case, a criminal medical malpractice case will require a higher standard of evidence than a civil case.
Medical Malpractice? Call The Love Law Firm
This is just a brief overview of a difficult legal subject. An experienced personal injury lawyer is your best ally when you’re faced with such a situation.
A medical malpractice case in Charleston, West Virginia is a very complex undertaking. Filing a claim against a medical professional or other healthcare provider is very complicated. You need sound legal representation to help with a case that may directly affect the rest of your life.
Call The Love Law Firm today at (304) 344-5683 and schedule your appointment with one of our medical malpractice attorneys. We’ll discuss your case with you, explain your options and what to expect. Our contingency fee arrangement means you won’t owe a fee if we don’t win your case.