Malpractice Accidents and Injuries
Medical malpractice law allows patients who are injured by the negligent care of a medical professional to seek compensation for their injuries by filing a medical malpractice lawsuit. If the claimant wins their medical malpractice claim they may be entitled to payment for pain and suffering, lost wages, and medical care. In some cases, if the doctor’s actions were especially egregious, they may also win punitive damages.
Proving medical malpractice
Although state laws dictate the amount of time an injured party has to file a medical malpractice case and other issues related to the claim, all states require claimants to establish certain elements of their medical malpractice lawsuit.
First, the court will expect the injured party to prove the doctor or medical professional owed them a duty of care. For example, if you are choking in a restaurant and a doctor who is dining next to you fails to come to your aid, you may not be able to file a claim against him because they did not owe you a duty of care. If, however, you have established a relationship with the doctor they have an affirmative duty to assist you and provide care.
After duty is established, the injured party will need to prove they have been injured due to a breach of duty. Breach of duty is based on the concept that the doctor did not provide a reasonable standard of care, which means their treatment and actions were not performed with the same level of skill that another doctor would have provided in the same locale, in the same profession, with the same equipment, etc. Breach of duty can be established with medical or expert testimony from other practicing doctors in the same field with the same level of expertise.
Next, the plaintiff must prove that it was this breach of duty that was the proximate cause of their injuries. Given that many patients have serious injuries, some which may be caused for a variety of reasons, proving proximate cause can be difficult.
Finally, the plaintiff must prove that they did, in fact, suffer loss or injury from the breach of duty. If you have not suffered injury or loss you will not win a medical malpractice case, regardless of whether the doctor breached their duty of care.
Filing a medical malpractice claim
All states have established a statute of limitations for filing medical malpractice claims. The statute of limitations is between one and four years and varies by state. Note, however, the time limit may not start until the medical malpractice is discovered rather than when it is performed (referred to as the discovery rule).
Medical Malpractice statutory caps on damages
Highly controversial legislation has been passed in many states which caps the amount of medical malpractice damages which can be awarded in a medical malpractice lawsuit. Most states which have passed medical malpractice caps have only capped non-economic loss such as pain and suffering. For instance, California medical malpractice laws only allow plaintiffs to recover $250,000 in non-economic damages. Other states, such as Colorado, however, cap non-economic damages at $300,000 and total damages at $1 million dollars.
Filing a medical malpractice case
If you have been injured due to the negligence of a medical professional it is important to talk to an injury lawyer. Injury lawyer can answer questions, review your medical malpractice injuries, and determine if you have a valid medical malpractice claim. As mentioned above, failure to file your medical malpractice lawsuit within the specific statute of limitations may eliminate your right to compensation.