A Medical Review Panel in Indiana, which consists of three healthcare professionals and one attorney, plays a significant role in malpractice litigation. This panel renders a non-binding opinion as to whether the panel believes that the health care provided complied with the appropriate standard of care and whether that conduct resulted in injuries or death. The panel’s opinion is not final. The plaintiff still maintains the right to proceed in court. Likewise, the defendant has the right to defend the accusations.
In Indiana, the Medical Malpractice Act normally requires that the claimant in a malpractice action present his or her complaint before a medical review panel before proceeding in court. A plaintiff may file the claim in court before the opinion is given if the complaint does not contain information that provides the identities of the defendants. However, the defendants’ names must remain anonymous until the medical review panel issues its opinions.
Requesting a Medical Review Panel
The request to form a medical review panel can be submitted by malpractice lawyers 20 days after the malpractice claim is filed. These panels are not formed automatically. They must be requested by one of the litigants.
Process of Selecting a Panel Chair
The parties will select a panel chair. If they cannot agree upon a panel chair, a request can be made to the Clerk of the Supreme Court to randomly choose one from a list of five qualified attorneys who are on the rolls of the Indiana Supreme Court. To make this request, the party doing so must make a remittance of $25 to the Clerk along with the names and addresses of all involved parties and attorneys and a complete caption of the case. Upon choosing the panel chair, the Clerk will notify all the parties involved. The panel chair acts as an advisor and will not be a voting member.
What Does the Panel Base Its Decision Upon?
The Medical Malpractice Act allows evidence to be submitted to the panel in written form only. Evidence may include:
- Medical records
- Results of lab tests
- X-rays or MRIs
- Depositions from parties and/or witnesses
- Excerpts of treatises
- Additional evidence allowed by the panel
How a Panel is Convened
After the evidence has been provided to the panel, either party can request that the panel convenes at an agreed upon location at an agreed upon time. During this meeting, either party can ask panel members questions. The meeting itself is informal with the chair presiding over the meeting.
Reaching a Panel Opinion
The medical review panel is charged with rendering an opinion to determine if there is evidence to support the claim that the defendant(s) failed in their duty to provide an adequate standard of care. Within 180 days of selecting its final member, the panel will render its expert opinion in written form and signed by panel members.
After the Opinion is Rendered
Generally, the plaintiff of a medical malpractice claim must file his or her claim within two years of the malpractice incident. But when a proposed complaint is filed with the Department of Insurance, the statue is tolled for 90 days after the panel has issued its opinion for the plaintiff to file his or her medical malpractice complaint.