Patients who are suffering from medical mistakes may ask, “How do I know if I have a medical malpractice case?” For a claim to be viable, patients must show that the doctor or hospital owed, but failed to meet, the duty of care. Additionally, they need to prove that the medical provider’s action or inaction caused them to suffer an injury. Doctors and hospitals owe their patients a duty to act with the reasonable skill and care of that of a knowledgeable doctor under the circumstances.
Indiana has special laws about when and how you need to bring a medical malpractice claim. There are additional laws in place that limit the amount victims can receive in a medical malpractice lawsuit.
Basic Requirements for a Medical Malpractice Claim
The four basic requirements (or “elements”) of a medical malpractice claim are:
- The medical professional or hospital owed you a duty of care
- The medical professional or hospital breached the duty of care
- The breach of duty caused your injuries
- You suffered damages or injuries
Duty of Care
You must show that the doctor or medical provider owed you a duty of care. Medical providers owe patients a duty to act with reasonable skill and care when seeing, diagnosing, and treating them. Your lawyer can show that the provider owed you a duty of care by showing that a doctor-patient relationship existed. A doctor-patient relationship may exist if the doctor treats you for an illness or provides you with medical advice.
Doctors, hospitals, nurses, pharmacists, and other medical staff owe a duty of care to their patients. Typically, the duty of care involves following rules and regulations about practicing nursing, running a hospital, or communicating with patients.
Breach of Duty of Care
To have a successful medical malpractice claim, you must also show that the doctor did not meet his or her standard of care. You need to show that he or she failed to follow generally accepted principles of medicine or act with reasonable skill and care under the circumstances.
To prove this, your attorney can ask other medical professionals to testify in your case. Medical experts can assess the situation and say what they believe would have been the reasonable choice under the circumstances. Some errors – like leaving a surgical sponge in a patient’s body – do not require much additional evidence to prove that a breach occurred.
The Breach Caused Your Injuries
Once you establish that your doctor breached the duty, you will need to prove that the breach caused your injuries. You can do this by showing that his or her actions directly caused your injuries or that they led to your injuries. You have to prove that the provider’s actions (or inaction) “more likely than not” caused your injuries.
One of the most difficult aspects of medical malpractice cases is often proving that the doctor caused or worsened the patient’s condition. One main reason for this is that victims sometimes have an underlying condition for which they were seeing the medical provider. Medical providers and their insurance companies frequently try to undermine a patient’s claim by saying that his or her pre-existing condition is to blame.
For this reason, it is important to hire a medical malpractice attorney in Indiana who has extensive experience handling these cases. You need an attorney with a trained eye and an unwavering command of the case to keep unscrupulous defendants at bay.
You Suffered Injuries or Damages
Finally, you have to show that you suffered financial or physical harm because of the doctor’s actions. This could involve, for example, you showing that your cancer got worse or you developed a permanent injury or impairment.
A medical malpractice lawyer can help you gather the appropriate evidence to calculate and prove the true measure of your damages.
Common Types of Medical Malpractice
Medical malpractice can occur in a variety of situations. That said, there are types of medical malpractice that are more frequent than others. Common types of medical malpractice include:
- Failure to properly diagnose
- Performing surgery on the wrong patient or at the wrong site, or performing the wrong surgery altogether
- Medication or anesthesia errors
- Failure to get informed consent from the patient
- Failure to take steps to prevent hospital-acquired infections or diseases
A medical malpractice lawyer can thoroughly review the evidence and help a patient decide if he or she should move forward with the case. The attorney can help the patient understand what his or her legal rights are and provide an informed opinion about the patient’s chances of recovering. A good attorney knows the facts about medical malpractice and what to look for when evaluating and bringing a medical malpractice claim.
What Laws Does Indiana Have About Medical Malpractice Lawsuits?
When considering filing a medical malpractice lawsuit against a doctor, nurse, or hospital, it is important for victims to understand Indiana’s medical malpractice laws.
Commencing a Medical Malpractice Claim
Indiana’s malpractice victims (plaintiffs) have special rules to follow about filing a medical malpractice lawsuit.
Before filing a case in State court, Plaintiffs must file a proposed complaint with the Medical Review Panel. The Plaintiff may skip the Medical Review Panel process if they are claiming less than $15,000 in damages or if all parties consent. If plaintiffs file a lawsuit and ask for less than $15,000 in damages, they cannot ask for more money unless they get permission to do so.
A Medical Review Panel consists of an attorney licensed to practice law in the State of Indiana and three healthcare providers who are licensed to practice medicine. It is the Panel’s job to review complaints against medical professionals, review the evidence, and issue its opinion. After the Panel issues a decision, the plaintiff can file or continue the lawsuit. The Panel gives its opinion about the plaintiff’s allegations in the complaint, but the opinion is not conclusive.
If the Panel says that it believes that the doctor’s actions deviated from the standard of care, this does not guarantee a favorable outcome for the plaintiff. It is still important for the plaintiff to hire a qualified and experienced medical malpractice attorney to advocate for him or her.
Deadline to File a Medical Malpractice Claim
Indiana law requires that victims or victims’ representatives file the medical malpractice claim within a certain amount of time. This deadline is called the statute of limitations.
For most malpractice actions, patients (or patients’ legal representatives) must file the claim within two years after the medical professional (or hospital) committed the act that led to their injury. This could be the date on which you told your doctor about the severe chest pain and he or she ignored it. Or it might be the date of the surgery that the doctor performed negligently.
In many cases, the opposing party and his or her insurance company may attack a claim on the basis that it was not brought in time. If the negligent conduct was an omission, it can be particularly difficult for patients to gather enough evidence to prove when the turning point was in their care. A medical malpractice attorney can help plaintiffs gather the evidence that they need to prove that the claim is timely.
If the malpractice occurred to a child under the age of 6, then you have until the child’s eighth birthday to file a claim.
Two years may sound like a long time, but it can go by fast – especially if you are suffering a physical, financial, or emotional injury. That is why it is important to act swiftly and to contact a medical malpractice attorney as soon as you suspect that a medical error took place.
Limits on Damages in Medical Malpractice Cases
Indiana law places limits on the monetary awards that plaintiffs can receive in medical malpractice cases. For malpractice occurring after June 30, 2019, the plaintiff’s total compensation cannot exceed $1.8 Million. For malpractice occurring after June 30, 2017, and before July 1, 2019, the total amount of damages that a plaintiff can receive is limited to $1.65 Million. For malpractice occurring after June 30, 1999, and before July 1, 2017, the total amount of damages that a plaintiff can receive is limited to $1.25 Million. Indiana law places additional damage caps on the compensation that plaintiffs can receive in general and from individual providers.
Because of the limits that Indiana law places on the compensation victims can receive, it is important for them to have an advocate on their side. The insurance company and the providers may try every trick in the book to save money and keep their licenses active. In some cases, they can prioritize their own self-interest over fairness and justice. Maximize your chance of recovering damages for nursing malpractice by having a fierce advocate to fight for you.