When something goes wrong in a medical setting, it doesn’t necessarily mean that there was malpractice involved – but you should be asking questions. After all, medical errors are thought to be the third leading cause of death in this country.
A medical malpractice claim is a type of personal injury claim, but they’re very different than the typical car accident or slip-and-fall lawsuit. Here are some of the ways they’re unique:
You need to give the medical provider warning
Unlike other personal injury claims, you cannot simply file your lawsuit when you’re ready. Instead, you must give the defendant in the case a chance to settle before anything proceeds further, via a notice of your intention to sue.
You need to provide proof that your claim has merit
In many personal injury claims, expert witnesses don’t get involved unless there are disputes about facts in the case. In a medical malpractice claim, you can’t even file a lawsuit until you have an affidavit of merit from an expert witness – another physician who meets specific criteria – who states that you received less than an appropriate standard of care which led to your injuries and losses.
The statute of limitations is different
If you’re injured in a car wreck or a fall, you have four years to file your claim. If you’re injured by a medical provider, you have just two years to file from the date you either discovered the injury (or should have reasonably discovered it). In all cases, however, you must file a claim no later than four years after the injury occurred (regardless of when it was discovered).
Why are victims of medical malpractice put through so many extra steps and given such stringent rules to follow? It all comes down to the perception that too many “frivolous” malpractice claims were being filed in the past. These measures are designed to make sure that only “good” claims make it to court. With that in mind, it’s wisest to make sure that you have experienced legal guidance from the start.