Medical malpractice occurs when a patient is harmed through the wrongful act or omission of a healthcare provider (typically a doctor or a hospital). An act, or a failure to act, is wrongful when it fails to meet the minimum professional standard of care. A cardiologist, for example, would likely be held to a higher standard of care than a general practitioner would be. The precise application of the standard of care is usually where the conflict lies in a medical malpractice claim.
What Exactly is ‘Medical Malpractice’?
To win a medical malpractice claim, you must prove the following four elements:
- The existence of a doctor-patient relationship, the details of which establish the professional standard of care that applies to the claim. An off-duty doctor rendering first aid at the scene of an auto accident he happened upon would not be held to a medical standard of care; for example. The standard of care is determined on a case-by-case basis using the testimony of expert medical witnesses.
- The health care provider failed to meet the applicable standard of care, either by act or omission (prescribing the wrong medication, for example, or failing to diagnose an obvious condition). Not every undesirable medical outcome constitutes medical malpractice — some misconduct on the part of the healthcare provider must be proven.
- Causation. The doctor’s failure to meet the standard of care must have actually caused the damages complained of. If, for example, a doctor fails to diagnose a condition that probably would have killed the patient just as quickly even if it had been diagnosed in time, the defendant may dispute whether causation exists.
- Damages. The patient (or survivors, in the case of a wrongful death lawsuit) can only be awarded those damages that he can prove.
Medical Review Panels
You may have heard that a medical malpractice lawsuit cannot be filed in Kentucky until the patient receives a favorable opinion from a Medical Review Panel consisting of three healthcare providers and one lawyer. This is not true anymore, because the Kentucky Supreme Court recently struck down the law that required medical review panels.
Medical malpractice damages might include:
- Economic damages: Past, present and anticipated future medical expenses; lost wages; etc.
- Non-economic damages: Pain and suffering, mental anguish, etc. These amounts often far exceed the amount awarded for medical expenses.
- Punitive damages : Punitive damages might be awarded if, for example, a surgeon operated on the patient while intoxicated, or some similar outrageous behavior.
- Wrongful death damages for survivors and for the victim’s probate estate, if the patient died from the malpractice.
The Statute of Limitations Deadline for Filing a Medical Malpractice Lawsuit
Every state applies its own statute of limitations deadline for filing q lawsuit. In Kentucky, the general deadline is one of the strictest in the nation — a medical malpractice lawsuit must be filed, if at all, within one year of the date that the malpractice occurred or, in the case of a wrongful death lawsuit, within one year after the date of death of the victim.
In some cases this deadline can be delayed — if you reasonably failed to discover the malpractice until later, for example. In any case, the deadline cannot be delayed for longer than five years. Once you miss the deadline, even an out-of-court settlement will be impossible for all practical purposes.
We Can Help You Make it Happen
The sooner you act, the better your chances of winning full compensation. Schedule an appointment with a skilled Kentucky medical malpractice attorney today to learn more about how we can help you. Cal 606-437-7777 or complete our online contact form.