Criminal & Civil

I am baffled that lawyers don't have a better understanding of this. I called dozens without getting an accurate appraisal of this situation when I first began researching it. Even a judge said I was confusing criminal and civil law when I suggested that liability limitations would protect a healthcare practitioner who committed a crime against a patient.

You, as a private citizen, cannot sue someone for committing a crime against you. No one but the county prosecutor can file a suit for the commission of a crime. The only thing for which you can sue someone is civil damages. And those are subject to liability limitations.

A patient wanting to sue someone for committing a crime against him or her cannot get a lawyer, period. Lawyers do not sue criminals. They defend them. Lawyers only can file suits for the civil damages resulting from the crime. This is the only option for the victim of the crime. And when the victim is a patient, there is a cap on that making it impossible in too many communities.

When your surgeon commits a crime against you, the amount for which you can sue him or her is governed by liability limitations. But there is no limit on the amount for which your surgeon can sue you merely for speaking about it.

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For the matter to come to the attention of the county prosecutor, it must first go through the police. Elsewhere on this site are pages about how the police don't want to "criminalize" medicine and routinely refuse to let patients file reports about crimes committed in health care. If you punch a doctor, they will arrest you. If the doctor punches you, the police won't even let you file a report. Such matters almost never end up in the hands of the only people who can bring suits for committing crimes against patients - county prosecutors. The practical effect of caps is that they protect even criminals in medicine.

Patients have no such protection.