What Kind of Court Oversees Medical Malpractice Lawsuits?

What Kind of Court Oversees Medical Malpractice Lawsuits?

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What Kind of Court Oversees Medical Malpractice Lawsuits?

Medical malpractice is a term that refers to an injury, harm, or death of a patient that is the result of substandard treatment given by a medical professional or provider. It also covers failure to provide the proper treatment for a patient or failure to take appropriate action. Medical negligence can occur at any phase in treatment, such as diagnosis, medication dosage, treatment, aftercare, and health management. 

Medical professionals are legally responsible for harm when they deviate from the quality of care expected from their profession. Medical malpractice occurs when another reasonable doctor or health professional would have handled things differently under the same circumstances. Medical malpractice is a "tort" in common law jurisdiction, which is a civil wrong leading to civil legal liability. Suppose you're wondering what kind of court oversees medical malpractice lawsuits. In that case, the answer is the same court that handles all types of civil lawsuits. However, there may be a few hoops to jump through before you can proceed with a medical malpractice lawsuit. 

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Get answers to commonly asked questions about our legal services and learn how we may assist you with your case.

Morgan & Morgan

  • What are the four elements of malpractice?

    When looking at a medical malpractice claim, our lawyers will look to see if the following exists before pursuing compensation for you:

    Duty - A "duty of care" is one of the first things that needs to be established in a medical malpractice claim. This means you had a doctor-patient relationship and were harmed while actively in that relationship. A duty of care is usually the easiest part of a medical malpractice claim because there is usually documentation readily available in the form of medical and appointment records as well as receipts.

    Dereliction of duty - If a medical professional causes harm because they failed to uphold the standard of care which would be expected in the customary practices of the average doctor in their specialty, this is a dereliction of their legal duty to patients.

    Direct cause - The medical professional's breach of duty is directly linked to your injuries. 

    Damages - To win compensation in any civil case, you must be able to prove that you sustained damages. In a medical malpractice lawsuit, damages may include additional medical expenses to correct the injury, additional medication, lost pay, and pain and suffering.

  • How long do I have to file a medical malpractice case?

    The window of time in which to file a lawsuit is limited, so to pursue a claim, one of the first things your lawyer will do is to make sure you are permitted to do so. This will depend on which state you live in since all states have their own statute of limitations for medical malpractice. A statute of limitations is a deadline to file a lawsuit. The clock starts ticking once you have been injured or, in some states, when you discover your injury. These are known as the "discovery rule."

    In the U.S., generally, you will have at least one year no matter where you live. Still, it's best to discuss this with one of our medical malpractice attorneys, especially if you were injured as a minor. 

  • Who can be held responsible for a medical malpractice case?

    In the U.S., any licensed healthcare provider can be sued for medical malpractice if they were negligent and caused injury or harm. Healthcare providers include:

    • Hospitals
    • Doctors
    • Nurses
    • CNAs
    • Dentists
    • Technicians
    • Healthcare employees

    The burden of proof for medical malpractice lies with you and your lawyer, and the evidence must be clear and convincing to be successful. We must demonstrate that the healthcare provider failed to exercise a degree of care expected of a reasonable healthcare provider in similar circumstances and that failure caused you harm. 

  • What if I have some blame for my medical malpractice case?

    Thirteen states recognize the doctrine of pure comparative fault. Any court award for damages will be reduced by the percentage of fault assigned to your own actions. For example, say you lied about your alcohol consumption and your doctor prescribed medication that should not be used in combination with alcohol, and you suffered serious health consequences because of it. In that case, the court will find you have some liability for your own injuries and will adjust your compensation accordingly. 

    The doctrine of pure comparative fault even allows people who have been substantially responsible for their own injuries to collect, so some states have adopted modified systems. Under these modified systems, if the patient was responsible for 50 or 51% of their injuries as calculated by the court, they will not be able to recover anything.   

  • Are there medical malpractice recovery caps in the U.S.?

    Medical malpractice claims have been on the decline for the past few years. Still, the payouts have increased dramatically, which has been the cause for some states to put caps on the amount that can be recovered. Most of the caps limit the amount that can be awarded for non-economic or general damages.

    However, some of the most significant losses from medical malpractice come from non-economic damages such as a loss of enjoyment of life or wrongful death. If you lose your spouse due to medical malpractice, you lose not only their income but also their companionship. Children have to grow up without a parent that would offer them support and guidance throughout their life. 

    Regardless, damage caps have been enacted because of the risks associated with the availability and affordability of medical liability insurance. Some even say that damage caps reduce unnecessary treatments and tests that doctors may issue as a defensive practice to protect themselves from lawsuits.

    Unfortunately, damage caps don't work in favor of injured patients. Currently, the following states have damage caps for medical malpractice lawsuits:

    Alaska, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.

  • What parties are immune when it comes to medical negligence?

    All states have their own laws regarding who can be sued for medical negligence, but in some instances, specific entities cannot be sued at the local level. For example, a 2004 Supreme Court ruling made it impossible to sue an HMO in local state courts for pain and suffering. Instead, claimants had to sue in federal court, which does not award non-economic damages. 

    Additionally, healthcare providers may not be held legally liable under other circumstances, such as if the provider didn't comply with a decision or direction that went against their conscience. In this scenario, the healthcare provider would have to promptly make their objections and transfer the patient to another provider that had no such objection to the decision or direction. 

    Healthcare providers that work as employees of the federal or state government are generally immune from being sued. Instead, you would have to sue the government directly, which adds a considerable layer of complexity to any medical malpractice claim.

  • How do I initiate my medical malpractice lawsuit?

    Some state laws require mandatory arbitration or mediation as a method to resolve a medical malpractice claim out of court. Others require that you submit your medical malpractice claim to a screening panel before pursuing a lawsuit. Speaking directly to one of our medical malpractice lawyers will ensure that you follow the correct steps for your specific claim.

    If we intend to litigate, a claim will be initiated by preparing and serving a Complaint and Summons to the defendant. In turn, the defendant must file a document called the Answer, which is a response to your claims of medical malpractice and the defenses they will use. At any point, both parties can decide to settle out of court, but if negotiations fail, we will file a complaint with a clerk of the court and include the facts of the case, and demand the court award compensation. The court will then produce a civil summons to the defendant, informing them that the lawsuit has been filed.

  • What happens during the litigation process?

    The next step is to disclose the factual basis of the claim and the legal theories that support it, along with a list of all witnesses and documents that will be produced in court. From there, the discovery process begins, which is a phase where both parties share things like your medical records, and depositions will be held where both parties can ask questions of witnesses under oath. Most likely, you will be required to be examined by a physician to ensure that your injuries do, in fact, exist. 

    At trial, your case may be heard by a judge, or it may be a jury. When we represent you as a plaintiff, we will begin with an opening statement that provides an outline of the facts and evidence that will be presented. Then we call witnesses and expert witnesses to be questioned. In turn, the defense will likely have their own questions for the witnesses. Once everything has been presented, we rest the case, and the defense begins their arguments. 

    Finally, closing arguments will take place, again outlining the facts and evidence we believe prove the defendant's medical malpractice. At this point, instructions are given to the jury, and they will deliberate until they come to a finding.

  • What is the role of an expert witness in medical malpractice lawsuits?

    The role of an expert witness in a medical malpractice lawsuit will be to explain what the standard of care is to a layperson. They also need to demonstrate why there is a causal link between the defendant's breach of duty of care and the plaintiff's injuries. Expert witnesses could include physicians in the same specialized field of medicine of which the negligent healthcare provider is a member. Essentially, they can argue that being a reasonable person with the same education and experience as your doctor, they would have done things differently and competently.  

  • Can I appeal the court's decision?

    Typically, the losing side of a medical malpractice lawsuit will choose to appeal the case to a higher court. The Court of Appeals does not review witness testimony and does not determine facts. But instead, they look to see if the lower court made any errors of law or came to conclusions unsupported by evidence. An appeal is something that your lawyer will handle for you.

  • Will my medical malpractice case settle out of court?

    The chances are that your medical malpractice claim will settle out of court because lawsuits are lengthy and expensive for both parties. Often, a settlement is a more attractive solution for all involved. However, even if we settle, there still may be some court proceedings. 

    The defendant may want to avoid negative press and limit the damage awarded since juries often grant more significant awards. You, as the plaintiff, may prefer settling too because you get paid faster, and a settlement is a sure thing while a trial can go both ways. 

  • Why choose Morgan & Morgan for my medical malpractice claim?

    Now you understand what kind of court oversees medical malpractice lawsuits and the process. Still, you may be unsure of which lawyer to choose. At Morgan & Morgan, we have hundreds of medical malpractice lawyers to choose from with extensive experience and impressive success rates. When you take on a healthcare provider, it can be an overwhelming experience. You've already suffered and would rather focus on regaining your health instead of worrying about deadlines, paperwork, and court proceedings. We take the burden off your shoulders and take on the high-powered doctor or hospital that caused your injuries and hold them accountable. 

    You deserve to be compensated for their negligence, and that's our primary goal. Making them pay so you can move on with your life. Contact us for a free case evaluation when you're ready to talk. We don't cost a dime unless we win for you. 

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