Physicians and patients have a relationship that requires an incredible amount of trust. Patients trust the medical professionals to successfully perform emergency procedures, review medical history, and accurately diagnose their ailments. In many circumstances, the patient’s life is literally in the hands of their doctors. When this bond of trust is broken, it’s a terribly tumultuous time for patients and their loved ones.
An individual who retains a medical malpractice lawyer and pursues a claim is alleging that they were injured due to the negligence of a healthcare provider.
An act of negligence could be a flaw in diagnosis, treatment, health management, or even failing to act, resulting in the patient suffering an injury or fatality that could have been prevented.
Statute of Limitations in Missouri
Every state has implemented a law that limits the time a patient has to file a medical malpractice civil suit, this is called the statute of limitations. In the state of Missouri, the deadline is relatively short, only permitting the patient two years from the date of which the injury or harm was inflicted to file. The law indicates that if the malpractice case derived from a health care provider “introducing and negligently permitting any foreign object to remain within the body of a living person” – such as accidentally leaving a surgical utensil inside a patient – than the lawsuit must be filed within the two-year deadline that the patient discovered, or could have discovered, the error. Missouri lawmakers don’t intend to penalize victims of malpractice for being oblivious to their injuries. They understand that it may take weeks, months, or even years for symptoms to emerge, hence the reason for the discovery rule.
Nonetheless, a general deadline titled the “statute of repose” hinders malpractice cases from being filed if more than 10 years have passed since the injury occurred. If a patient attempts to file a claim outside the window of time allotted by these statutes, their case will not be reviewed or considered in a court of law.
Missouri implemented specific legislation regarding medical malpractice cases involving minors. The law states that any patient under the age of 18 must file a claim before they turn 20 years of age. The statute of repose mentioned above does not apply to these types of claims.
Roles in a Medical Malpractice Claim
The plaintiff in a medical malpractice case is generally the person who files the lawsuit. In some instances, the person who has been allegedly injured by the defendant becomes the plaintiff, but in cases where a plaintiff can’t represent themselves (like when a fatality occurs), any person who is legally entitled to act on the patient’s behalf can fulfill that role.
The average person probably envisions a malpractice case involving a botched patient going up against an individual, usually a physician, due to a negligent act of the medical professional. Although this is the case in some medical malpractice claims, there are many other people, organizations or entities that can be held accountable for a plaintiff’s injuries.
Missouri defines a health care provider as “any physician, hospital, health maintenance organization, ambulatory surgical center, long-term facility including those licensed under chapter 198, dentist, registered or licensed practical nurse, optometrist, podiatrist, pharmacist, chiropractor, professional physical therapist, psychologist, physician-in-training, and any other person or entity that provides health care services under the authority of a license or certificate.”
Characteristics of a Medical Malpractice Claim
There are a variety of stipulations that must have had to occur to create a viable medical malpractice claim. These elements can make building a claim that will be able to stand in a court of law a trivial act. Solely proving that a health care provider was negligent isn’t always enough to create a workable case. To increase your chances of favorable results, some elements must be proven through evidence and testimonials with the help of a seasoned medical malpractice lawyer.
An Established Relationship Between Physician and Patient
The first step in assembling a viable claim is proving that the physician and patient once had a mutual understanding of the duty owed. The negligent act must have occurred when a doctor was seeing and treating a patient. For example, a plaintiff can’t file a malpractice claim on the basis of hearing a doctor give irresponsible medical advice at a bachelor party. In order to validate a claim, a patient has to affirm the doctor had a responsibility to them. This established relationship is useful in cases when the defendant in question didn’t directly treat the injured patient.
Although a patient may be unhappy about the way a procedure or test panned out, and justifiably so, dissatisfaction still isn’t enough to carry a strong medical malpractice case. A plaintiff, with the help of a medical expert, must demonstrate the way a health care provider acted negligently. To effectively do so, a plaintiff has to succeed in addressing the medical standard of care, and explaining how the defendant’s negligent act (or failure to act) doesn’t meet that standard. The medical standard of care references the quality of service and attention a competent doctor expresses to patients under similar circumstances. The developers of this standard understand that doctors won’t ever be perfect, but they are expected to be “careful and “reasonably skillful.”
Proof Medical Negligence Caused the Injury
A patient is required to prove that the healthcare provider’s negligence caused the injury or fatality, not any other underlying cause. This step is tough considering that most patients who file are already sick or injured. Usually, a medical expert is present to expound on how the health care provider affected the patient’s condition.
The injury resulted in Losses
Determining that negligence led to damages is the factor that qualifies a patient for compensation. There are three types of damages a patient could possibly experience depending on the given circumstances: economic (tangible losses, such as medical bills), non-economic (intangible losses, such as pain and suffering) and punitive (damages which are assessed when the defendant’s conduct was particularly egregious).
Seek an Experienced Medical Malpractice Lawyer
Malpractice cases are rarely simple, it requires a skilled medical malpractice lawyer to help you build a solid case. The attorneys at the Dysart Law Firm are dedicated to getting you the compensation you deserve.