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Medical malpractice is a serious problem in America and is now the third highest cause of death, according to data provided by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Malpractice is usually the result of negligence related to errors in diagnosis, treatment, or aftercare. It could also involve failure to recommend or perform certain important screenings or testings.

Doctors and other healthcare professionals must adhere to strict standards of care. When they do not, they are negligent and could cause harm to their patients. Fortunately, injured patients could find legal help by meeting with a knowledgeable personal injury attorney. A Hammond medical malpractice lawyer could pursue compensation on their behalf.

What Makes a Malpractice Claim Valid?

Not all patients who are injured while under the care of a physician will have a valid malpractice claim. Speaking with an experienced medical malpractice attorney could help them determine if their case has merit. Successful malpractice claims prove three key elements in the case:

  • A physician-patient relationship between the plaintiff and defendant
  • The defendant was negligent
  • The medical professional’s negligence harmed the patient

If the plaintiff’s local medical malpractice attorney has the evidence to support these elements, a settlement or a jury verdict in the plaintiff’s favor is more likely to occur.

Pre-Suit Requirements for Medical Malpractice

To deter unnecessary lawsuits, Indiana requires plaintiffs who are seeking more than $15,000 in damages to submit their case to a medical malpractice review panel before filing the complaint. The panel is made up of three physicians who vote, plus one attorney who acts as the chair and does not vote. One of the physicians is of the plaintiff’s choosing.

The statute of limitations tolls for 90 days once the review panel has the case. They examine the facts to determine if the legal claim has merit. The jury will typically consider the panel’s decision if the case goes to trial.

The Doctrine of Comparative Negligence

Even if the three key elements of a malpractice case are proven, someone’s financial recovery could be impacted by the shared negligence doctrine. Every state applies its own standards for how compensation is granted if the claimant bears some percentage of the blame for their own injuries.

If someone files a medical malpractice case in Indiana, but the court finds that they were partially responsible for the injuries they suffered, the judge can lessen the claimant’s award by their percentage of blame. If the claimant’s percentage of blame is 50 percent or below, they can still get compensation. If they are more than 50 percent to blame, they are barred from receiving damages.

Damages in a Medical Malpractice Case

Several types of compensatory damages might be achieved in a medical malpractice claim, depending on the types of losses the victim has suffered. Compensatory damages in a medical malpractice case fall into a few main categories.

The two main types of damages are economic damages and non-economic damages. A patient’s economic damages resulting from a medical provider’s negligence could include:

  • Hospital bills
  • Medication costs
  • Physician expenses
  • Follow-up surgeries
  • Wage loss (past and future)

Non-economic damages are the intangible losses associated with someone’s injuries that do not have a defined monetary value. Common examples of non-economic damages include:

  • Pain and suffering
  • Mental distress and emotional anguish
  • Disability
  • Scarring or disfigurement
  • Loss of consortium
  • Loss of enjoyment of life

Punitive Damages

The final category of damages that could be awarded in a medical malpractice case are called punitive damages. However, punitive damages are usually only awarded if the actions of the accused medical provider constituted egregious negligence or a gross breach of conduct. Therefore, the granting of punitive damages is often at the judge’s discretion. The law states that punitive damages may not exceed $50,000 or be more than three times higher than the other compensation awarded. The greater of the two amounts will serve as the maximum level of compensation to be awarded.

Meet with a Dedicated Hammond Medical Malpractice Attorney

If you or someone you love suffered from medical malpractice, you should seek legal assistance immediately from a local medical malpractice lawyer. Your legal rights to pursue compensation under Indiana laws will expire if you do not act in time. Call today to schedule your case consultation.