Medical malpractice suits are even more complex than many other types of lawsuits. If you want to make a malpractice claim, it is a good idea to contact an attorney right away to discuss the specifics of your case and to find out what rules and limits apply in your situation. In the meantime, here are some of the basics of medical malpractice claims.
What Counts as Medical Malpractice?
There are four simple requirements for a medical malpractice claim:
- There must have been a doctor-patient relationship.
- The doctor must have been negligent in some way.
- That negligence must have been the cause of some injury (that is, the injury cannot be the result of an existing medical problem–it has to be because of something the doctor did or failed to do).
- The injury must have led to specific damages. Damages might be quantifiable, such as the loss of wages due to being unable to work or additional medical bills, or they may be things like physical pain or mental or emotional anguish.
There are many mistakes that can lead to a malpractice suit, but most of them can be sorted into three categories:
- failure to diagnose something or to diagnose it correctly
- failure to warn you of known risks of a treatment
- improper treatment
State-and Situation-Specific Time Limits
The Indiana statute of limitations for a filing medical malpractice suit is two years, starting from the time of the event. If you do not start the suit within that time period, your case will almost certainly be thrown out. However, there are quite a few exceptions. If the injury is not immediately obvious, the two-year limit is counted from the time that it was discovered, although it is not unheard of for a judge to allow a malpractice claim to go forward even if it was filed after the time limit has run out in this case. If the injured patient is six years old or younger at the time, you have until they turn eight to file a malpractice suit on their behalf.
In most cases, you will be bringing the suit either against the hospital or against a doctor. If the malpractice was committed by a hospital employee, such as a medical technician, a registered nurse or another member of the hospital staff, then the hospital is liable for their actions. However, most doctors are not actually employees of the hospitals where they work—they are technically considered independent contractors, so malpractice committed by a doctor means that the hospital is not liable, and you will need to bring your suit against the doctor instead. In addition, malpractice committed by an employee of the hospital who was working under the supervision of a doctor at the time is also sometimes considered the responsibility of the supervising doctor. This is usually the case only if the doctor was present at the time of the event and if the doctor should have been able to prevent the injury from occurring.
There are a few exceptions. Some doctors are hospital employees, though this is not common. Furthermore, if the hospital failed to make it clear that the doctor was not a hospital employee or kept an obviously incompetent doctor on staff, then the hospital may be considered liable.
Before You Get to Court
Medical malpractice cases in Indiana must pass a malpractice review panel before they can go to court. To have your case reviewed by the panel, you must first file your claim with the Indiana Department of Insurance. The results of the panel can be used in court later.
If you suspect that you might have a malpractice case, you should start collecting any documentation you can find relating to the case, particularly medical records. It is possible that the doctor or hospital will deny that negligence or malpractice occurred, so you may need to find another doctor to treat and document your injuries.
Because of the complexities of medical malpractice suits, it is highly advisable to find an attorney quickly. For advice or a free consultation regarding your situation, contact Heuser & Heuser, LLP today.