Medical malpractice is one of the most harrowing forms of negligence. It comes from those we trust with our lives – our doctors, nurses, and physicians. We never imagine those in charge of our health and well-being would engage in negligent or reckless practices that could threaten or even take our lives.
Yet patients become victims of medical negligence every year. These types of legal claims are often complex and difficult to prove. Having a skilled lawyer by your side can help you get the justice you deserve. Contact the Kansas City medical malpractice lawyers at Wendt Law Firm P.C. for a free case evaluation today.
Medical malpractice laws are complex. These laws govern the definition of medical malpractice, when a patient may file, deadlines for filing, and other important rules. Understanding the laws surrounding your particular case can help you avoid missing a statute of limitations or make another mistake that could bar you from recovery. The laws will differ according to the state in which the incident occurred:
You have two years from the date of injury or discovery of injury to file your claim. Exceptions exist to this deadline. For example, child victims have two years from the date of their 18th birthdays, or 10 years from the date of injury, to bring a claim (whichever is later). To file, the plaintiff needs an affidavit of merit or a document that states an expert agreed that the defendant was negligent.
A plaintiff has two years from the date of injury to file a claim in Kansas. However, there is s a four-year statute of repose. This means that regardless of when the patient discovered his or her injuries, the patient has four years maximum from the time the error occurred. Kansas does not require an affidavit of merit to file, but the courts will hold a medical screening panel to review the claim if either party requests this action.
There is a non-economic damage cap on medical malpractice claims in Kansas but not in Missouri. This cap is between $250,000 and $350,000 depending on when the case accrued. Navigating laws can be grueling, especially if you’re also recovering from significant injuries. Working with medical negligence attorneys can make the process much easier for you and your family.
Proving Medical Malpractice
Proving a claim requires gathering certain pieces of evidence, building a strong case, and hiring expert witnesses. You must prove the following four elements as an injured patient:
You and the physician had a doctor-patient relationship at the time of the incident. You may not be able to hold a physician or facility responsible for wrongdoing if you weren’t a patient at the time. For example, if a doctor misdiagnoses you while off-duty at a cocktail party, he or she did not bear the same duties of care to you as a physician in a healthcare setting. You must have hired the physician and he/she must have agreed to the position.
A breach of duty occurred. Physicians, hospitals, emergency rooms, and other healthcare workers and facilities owe patients the highest standards of care. Doctors must be “reasonably skillful and careful” in treating patients. You must show that the defendant breached a duty of care to you to have a malpractice claim. A “breach” can be anything that results in the defendant failing to fulfill his/her/its duties of care to you as a patient.
The defendant’s breach of duty caused your injuries. You must have proof of proximate cause between the physician’s actions and the injuries or wrongful death for which you’re bringing the lawsuit. Proximate cause means that the breach of duty must have “more likely than not” caused the patient’s harms. Having a medical expert in the same field as the defendant testify can typically help with this burden of proof.
The act of malpractice caused real, compensable damages. You must have suffered real damages as a result of the defendant’s actions to have a claim that qualifies. “Real damages” can refer to economic and non-economic losses, including lost wages, hospital bills, pain and suffering, and mental anguish. You can also list damages such as funeral and burial costs if a loved one died from medical malpractice.
You have the foundation for a medical malpractice claim with these basic requirements. However, knowing if medical malpractice or personal injury laws cover your specific case takes looking at the special requirements, discussed below.
Do Medical Malpractice Laws Cover My Case?
More than two years must not have passed from the date you discovered your injuries in both Kansas and Missouri. You have a maximum (“statute of repose”) of 10 years in certain cases in Missouri and a maximum of four years in Kansas. An “Affidavit of Qualified Health Care Provider” is also needed to verify that you have a claim in Missouri. In addition, you may have to undergo a “medical screening panel” in Kansas. The purpose of these requirements is to weed out unfounded claims early in the legal process. A qualified lawyer can help you with all of these tasks and burdens of proof.
Filing a Lawsuit for Medical Malpractice in Missouri
Unlike some other states, Missouri does not uphold any caps or limits on damages a plaintiff may receive in a medical malpractice case. Missouri also has specific laws in the event of joint damages, or cases involving two defendants against one plaintiff. For example, a doctor prescribes the plaintiff the wrong medication for his or her condition, and the pharmacy fills the erroneous prescription incorrectly as well with a larger dosage than intended. In this situation, both the doctor and the pharmacist would absorb some measure of fault for their mistakes if they resulted in harm to the plaintiff.
If you intend to file a lawsuit for a medication error or any other kind of medical malpractice in Kansas City, you will need an affidavit of merit signed by a medical professional, as mentioned above. This affidavit will essentially act as sworn testimony from the practitioner that your claim has merit. Experienced attorneys can help you build a strong case for your medication error claim. If you succeed in your claim, you can recover compensation for any expenses resulting from the error as well as compensation for your pain and suffering.
Our Kansas City personal injury lawyers and the Wendt Law Firm team has helped many clients secure compensation for their damages in a variety of civil claims. We understand the damage a medical malpractice situation can cause and we want to help: our lawyers are not afraid to handle complex medical malpractice claims. Contact our team today to schedule a free consultation with one of our medical malpractice attorneys in Kansas City. We’ll review your claim and see how our firm can help during a free consultation.
Who Is Liable in a Medical Malpractice Suit?
It can be difficult to assign liability in a medical malpractice lawsuit. A single case could involve the liability of a physician, nurse, surgeon, health care center, manufacturer, and/or other defendants. Understanding your right to file a claim as an injured patient may take a case review from a qualified personal injury attorney. A lawyer can look at the facts of your case and identify the party that failed to fulfill the reasonable standard of care for the situation. Then, your lawyer can help you bring a case against that party/parties.
A doctor or surgeon could be individually liable for your damages if he or she was an independent contractor, not an employee of the health care center. Most hospitals in Missouri hire contractors rather than keep doctors as employees, meaning the negligent physician could be personally liable for the malpractice.
If an employee of the hospital or other health care center contributed to your injuries, the center could be vicariously liable as an employer is over its employees. An attorney can help you find out if the person who caused your injuries was a contractor or an employee of the facility. A hospital could also be liable for injuries it causes, such as injuries due to unsafe premises.
Emergency Room (ER)
Emergency room malpractice could lead to injuries that likely would not have happened in a safer ER setting. ER malpractice may take the form refusing patient care, misdiagnosing conditions, ignoring complaints, keeping unsafe premises, and misreading test results.
If you suffered an injury because of a condition misdiagnosis, the lab that mixed up or misread your test results could be liable for your damages. It is a lab’s duty to avoid mixing up patients or test results, as well as to behave in a manner that is reasonable and prudent.
Medical Product Manufacturer
Companies that create and distribute medical devices, medications, and other medical industry goods have very high standards of care. They must adequately design, test, and market their products to be reasonably safe for patients. Failure to do so could result in an injury and product liability lawsuit.
Holding someone liable for your damages after alleged medical negligence may take a thorough investigation of facts. Your lawyer may have to revisit the hospital, interview its employees, gather evidence, and hire medical experts to attest to the fact that the defendant breached a duty of care within the medical industry.
Missouri Fault Laws
The fault and negligence laws in Missouri give injured patients the right to pursue claims against hospitals and doctors allegedly guilty of medical malpractice. Filing a claim as a victim could be the first step toward achieving financial compensation for your damages. Your attorney can help you seek justice by navigating medical malpractice laws and patient rights. A claim based on medical negligence will have to establish that the defendant owed a duty of care to the patient as his or her doctor, breached this duty and caused the patient’s injuries.
Missouri’s fault laws also involve comparative negligence, meaning a courtroom could find you partially responsible for your injuries and reduce your compensation award. In comparative negligence states, the courts will diminish a plaintiff’s award by an amount equivalent to the plaintiff’s degree of fault. If the courts find you 30% responsible for your injuries, for example, you would receive a settlement or verdict award minus 30% of your claim’s total value. Minimizing your percentage of fault with help from an attorney can help you maximize your award amount.
Medical Malpractice Statistics
Medical malpractice happens more often than most patients want to believe. Mistakes happen every day that put patients’ lives at risk, despite federal laws holding physicians, caretakers, and healthcare facilities to the highest standards in terms of patient care. A John’s Hopkins 2016 study showed that medical errors are the third-leading cause of death in the United States, taking an estimated 251,454 lives each year (accounting for almost 10% of all deaths nationally). Millions of others suffer nonfatal injuries and other damages from medical negligence.
For example, misdiagnosis affects an estimated 12 million patients in the U.S. each year. Studies show that about half of these misdiagnoses have the potential to cause serious patient harm. The National Practitioner Data Bank shows that the state of Kansas recorded 528 medical malpractice claims in 2016. Claimants received 131 payments for medical malpractice claims in Kansas that year. Missouri reported 942 medical malpractice claims in 2016, resulting in 161 payments to patients.
Examples of Medical Malpractice
Comparing your case to other similar legal scenarios can give you an idea of what qualifies as malpractice. It can also help you determine whether or not a physician or health care center in KC has wronged you or a loved one. Medical malpractice can take many forms. Anything that falls outside of the medical standards of care, resulting in patient harm, can qualify. However, certain types of malpractice tend to result in lawsuits more than others. The following are a few frequent examples:
Surgery or Anesthesia Error
Mistakes during surgical procedures, such as administering too much anesthesia or leaving a cotton swab in the body, can easily be fatal. A patient might have a malpractice claim if a surgeon or operating room staff member makes a mistake that a reasonable, prudent party would not have.
As stated above, medication mistakes are some of the most common in the industry. Prescribing the incorrect medication, giving the wrong dosage, or mixing up patients can lead to adverse outcomes and even death.
Misdiagnosing a condition, diagnosing a condition too late to help the patient, or failing to diagnose a condition at all can result in the patient not receiving the treatment he or she needs. Diagnosis errors can worsen a patient’s prognosis, exacerbate injuries and illnesses, and lead to wrongful death.
Malpractice during pregnancy, labor, and delivery can result in a birth injury that can harm the mother and baby. Common mistakes during childbirth include failing to monitor vital signs, delaying cesarean section, and failing to diagnose and treat emergencies, resulting in harm to the baby such as brain damage.
Negligent Patient Care
Some forms of medical malpractice aren’t as glaringly obvious as a surgical error, yet still cause significant patient harm. Patient neglect can lead to a lack of sanitation, bedsores, infections, worsened outcomes, and preventable post-surgery complications.
A patient may have grounds for legal action any time a healthcare professional or facility falls short of professional duties, resulting in patient injury, death, or other damage. Contact a qualified medical malpractice lawyer when in doubt to schedule a free consultation about your case.
Medical malpractice comes in many forms, and medication errors can be some of the most damaging cases. Although many prescription medications share similar names, it’s vital for doctors and pharmacists to accurately write and fill prescriptions. Doctors must carefully examine a patient’s medical history before prescribing a medication. They must check for allergies or potentially dangerous interactions with other prescriptions. Pharmacists must accurately fill prescriptions and provide customers with instructions for proper use.
When medication mistakes happen, victims can suffer extreme or even deadly consequences. A patient who takes a drug that interacts poorly with other prescriptions could face severe medical complications or die. Additionally, if a patient receives the wrong medication, the medical condition will continue to worsen since he or she isn’t receiving appropriate treatment. When these errors result in patient illness and injury, victims can file medical negligence claims to recover compensation.
Types of Medication Errors
Any error resulting in patient harm from medication could constitute a medical malpractice claim. A few examples of medication errors that might justify a lawsuit include:
Prescribing the wrong medication to a patient.
Confusing the name of prescribed medication for another and filling a prescription incorrectly.
Prescribing the wrong dosage.
Filling a prescription with an incorrect pill count, dosage size, or other inaccurate variables.
Failing to warn a patient of potential side effects and dangerous interactions.
Failing to instruct the patient on proper dosage (taking the pill with food, etc.)
Prescribing a medication to which the patient is allergic.
In some cases, a medication error may not manifest noticeable symptoms for some time. In other cases, the issue will be immediately apparent. Missouri allows for a two-year statute of limitations on medical malpractice claims, beginning on the date of injury or the date the patient discovered the damage from the medication error. Such an error could cause the patient’s condition to worsen, necessitating further medical intervention or corrective procedures and further expense. Patients may also experience negative reactions to the wrong medication, causing pain and suffering as well.
Why You Need a Kansas City Medical Malpractice Lawyer
Medical malpractice lawsuits are notoriously complex and difficult to win. Working with a qualified lawyer to prove your medical malpractice claim, even though the law permits you to represent yourself, can help secure the financial compensation you deserve. Only a legal professional has the resources, knowledge, and prowess to prove malpractice and your damages. Hiring an attorney comes with the following advantages, any of which could make the difference in your claim:
A thorough investigation of your claim
Easily gather evidence and documentation
Skillful navigation of state medical malpractice laws
Filing your claim on time and according to requirements
Assertive negotiation with major insurance companies
Using the law to your advantage during negotiations
Experience and success with similar claims in the past
The ability to take your claim to court if necessary
The power to maximize your compensation award
Peace of mind during the entire legal process
The qualified team of medical malpractice lawyers at Wendt Law Firm P.C. can review your case for free. We can help you file your claim in the correct courts right away, if so. We have everything you need to start and finish a medical malpractice lawsuit right here in Kansas City; contact us today to schedule your appointment.