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What is willful negligence?

Most of the time, negligence in a medical setting is accidental. A doctor does not check a patient's records because he forgets, for example, or a doctor operates on the wrong site because she got bad information from the prep team. Doctors can still be liable in these situations because they should have worked harder to avoid them, but these things are still accidents.

However, in some rare cases, doctors can be accused of willful negligence. This is when the doctor intentionally makes mistakes or does not provide the proper level of care. For example, a doctor could give a patient the wrong medication - perhaps a medication that the patient is allergic to - because he or she wants the patient to feel the adverse effects.

As you can imagine, no accusation of negligence is more serious in Illinois than this one. It's a step past standard negligence, and it can even bring about criminal charges.

Since it is negligence, this situation often relates to a doctor's failure to do something. The doctor may know that a patient needs a specific type of treatment to save his or her life, but the doctor may just decide not to provide it. A medical professional could also fail to provide proper care after surgery, leading to infection and other complications. These are just two examples, but they show how a doctor, even if he or she takes no action at all, can still be accused of willful negligence.

Though this doesn't come up as often as standard negligence claims, it's incredibly important for people to know what legal rights they have when it is an issue, as the results can be painful, permanently damaging, and even fatal.

Source: Medical Dictionary, "Willful Negligence," accessed Sep. 24, 2015

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