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Medical Malpractice Claims and Lawsuits

By John Macfarlane on January 05, 2018


What is Medical Malpractice?

            Medical Malpractice occurs when a doctor or medical provider acts negligently or below the standard of care and a patient is harmed. Medical malpractice claims are governed by laws that vary from state to state. While there are sometimes differences between how these are handled from state to state, there are fundamental similarities shared by all jurisdictions.

Two Basic Requirements for a Medical Malpractice Claim:

The Provider was Negligent or Breached the Standard of Care:

In order for a medical malpractice suit to be successful, the provider must have been behaving negligently—or below the standard of care. The standard of care is a legal term that varies from state to state, but it generally means that the provider must behave at least as competently as the other providers in a similar situation. This standard is usually required to be verified by expert testimony. It is important to know that being unhappy with the outcome of your care does not necessarily mean that the provider was negligent. In order to determine whether they failed to meet the standard of care, you should contact a legal professional who can examine your claim.

The Provider’s Negligence Caused an Injury:

Even if the healthcare provider was negligent, the injured party must be able to prove that the provider’s negligence was the actual cause of the injury they suffered. For example, if a doctor is treating a patient with terminal cancer, it might be difficult to prove that the negligent actions of the doctor caused the patient’s death. The cause of death might just as easily have been the cancer. This element is often proven using expert testimony.

Common Types of Medical Malpractice Cases:

Failure to Diagnose:

When a provider has the opportunity to diagnose an illness, fails to do so, and this failure affects the treatment outcome, the patient may have a viable claim.

Improper Treatment:

The two most common types of harm that come from treatment are that the provider chooses a treatment path that other doctors would know to be incorrect, or they administer the correct treatment plan in an inappropriate manner. 

For other types of medical malpractice, please see our other blog posts here

Special Requirements for Medical Malpractice Cases:

            Unlike many other types of injury cases, Medical Malpractice has special rules and restrictions that make cases difficult to win.  Cases are rarely settled without hiring a lawyer and filing a lawsuit.  Almost every case requires expert testimony, which is typically very costly.  However, your attorney will likely agree to be responsible for these costs as part of the fees. The following are some important considerations related to medical malpractice cases:

Claims Must Be Brought Quickly:

In most states, medical malpractice lawsuits must be filed within 6 months to two years after the date of the injury. In Utah, the statute of limitations is generally two years from the date of injury, or from the date that the injury should have been discovered. There is also an overall four-year limitation regardless of whether the injury was discoverable within the four year limit.

Caps on Damages:

In Utah, there is a limit to the amount of damages a party can receive for non-economic harm. In other words, a party can only receive up to $450,000 for pain and suffering, no matter how severe the injury is. This number is entirely independent the amount a party can receive for economic damages, and economic damages are not subject to statutory limits (such as lost wages, medical bills, and other forms of monetary loss).

Notice Requirements and Expert Testimony:

In Utah, before a medical malpractice lawsuit is filed with the court, an injured party must file a notice of intent to sue (NOI). This NOI is reviewed by a “pre-litigation” panel which reviews the details of the case and makes a finding on the merits of the potential case.   If the panel finds no merit in the case, an affidavit or statement from a physician stating that there a reasonable grounds for the case is required before the case can proceed.  In most cases, the panel finds that there is no merit in the case and an expert statement is required to proceed.  The findings of the pre-litigation panel are not binding, and will not be admitted into evidence in the event that the case proceeds to litigation.  

Complexity and Timing:

Medical Malpractice cases are very complex and require experienced legal counsel.  Most cases require multiple medical and financial experts to succeed.  Most cases do not reach a resolution or settlement for at least 2-4 years from the time the case is begun.  This time period is a result of the complex nature of the cases, the fact that healthcare providers vigorously defend all cases, and that there typically many medical providers that need to be deposed to fully investigate the case. 

 

Contact the Medical Malpractice Team at Younker Hyde Macfarlane

For more information about your legal options related to medical negligence that took place because of a doctor’s failure to exercise due caution, please contact our team of medical malpractice attorneys today. The legal team at Younker Hyde Macfarlane will fight diligently for you and your legal needs.

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They were extremely knowledgeable, extremely helpful experts. The team helped me with all aspects of my case, including medical and financial, and understood that it affected more than me but also my family.

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