When we visit a doctor we expect to receive competent medical care, and most of the time we do. But when a doctor fails to exercise the care they should in treating their patients, the results can be catastrophic.
If you were injured by a negligent medical professional, a personal injury lawsuit based on a medical malpractice claim may be your best bet to ensure that you receive the compensation to which the law entitles you and that you’re not overwhelmed by medical debt.
What Is Medical Malpractice?
Any medical professional, not just doctors, can commit medical malpractice. This includes nurses, nurse practitioners, physician’s assistants, anesthesiologists, and pharmacists. Anyone who provides medical care can be liable for medical malpractice.
The legal standard in Nebraska for medical malpractice is when a medical professional fails to use ordinary and reasonable care, skill, and knowledge ordinarily possessed and used under like circumstances by members of the same profession who operate a similar practice in a similar location.
Types of Medical Practice
Many different types of negligence can be considered medical malpractice, including, but not limited to the following:
- Incorrect diagnosis;
- Failure to diagnose;
- Improper treatment or failure to treat;
- Delay in treatment;
- Surgical errors;
- Leaving a foreign object in the body;
- Failure to order necessary tests;
- Rendering services without the patient’s informed consent;
- Improper monitoring of a patient; and
- Prescription errors.
Before Filing Your Lawsuit
If you were injured by a negligent medical practitioner, the law provides you the opportunity to file a lawsuit against that person to recover monetary damages for your injuries.
Retain a competent and experienced attorney to help you through this process. Medical malpractice lawsuits are extremely complicated and you can bet that the defendants will have lawyers, sometimes an entire team of them who are dedicated to fighting these types of lawsuits.
Nebraska law provides plaintiffs a right to present their cases to a medical review panel to review all medical malpractice claims before filing a lawsuit. A plaintiff may waive this right and proceed directly to filing the lawsuit.
The review panel is composed of one attorney and three physicians. The attorney does not have a vote in the final decision; rather the attorney serves in an advisory capacity. Various types of evidence may be presented to the panel, including medical charts, X-rays, laboratory test results, excerpts of treatises, depositions of witnesses including parties, and any other form of evidence allowable by the medical review panel.
Once the panel has reviewed the claim, it must issue one of the following types of expert opinions:
- The evidence supports the conclusion that the defendant failed to comply with the appropriate standard of care as charged in the complaint;
- The evidence supports the conclusion that the defendant involved met the applicable standard of care required under the circumstances; or
- There is a material issue of fact, not requiring an expert opinion, bearing on liability for consideration by a court or jury.
The panel is not to allowed provide any kind of dollar amount or to estimate a disability percentage. The panel’s opinion may be used as evidence in any subsequent lawsuit, but is not to be treated as conclusive. Either party may call any member of the panel as a witness and that person is required to appear and provide testimony.
Filing Your Lawsuit
Contact an attorney as soon as you are able. Nebraska law provides for statutes of limitations that set the time period within which you must file your lawsuit. Failing to file your lawsuit within the statute of limitations will almost certainly result in the judge tossing your lawsuit out of court and you receiving no compensation, regardless of what you could have received through a timely-filed lawsuit.
The statutes of limitations vary based on the injured person’s age and the circumstances surrounding the injury. The law provides the following statutes of limitations:
- Adults who are aware of their injuries have two years from the date of the provider’s negligence to file a lawsuit.
- Children are not subject to any statute of limitations until they have reached age 20.
- If the patient does not discover the negligence until after the two-year mark, the injured person may file a lawsuit up to one year after discovering the injury.
- Regardless of the circumstances surrounding the injury, all patients have no longer than 10 years after the incident to file their malpractice claim.
If a plaintiff presents their case to a medical review panel, during the panel’s review, the statute of limitations “tolls.” This means that the time clock is paused and the plaintiff, in essence, receives that time in addition to the statute of limitations to file a lawsuit.
Maximum Malpractice Damages
Depending on when your injury occurred, the damages you may recover varies. For injuries caused between December 31, 1992, and December 31, 2003, the maximum damages you may receive is $1.25 million. If the malpractice occurred between December 31, 2003, and December 31, 2014, the cap is $1.75 million. The maximum for malpractice occurring after December 31, 2014, is $2.25 million.
Why You Should Contact a Nebraska Medical Malpractice Attorney
Medical malpractice can cause lifelong injuries and extreme financial hardships. If you were injured at the hands of your doctor, contact an experienced and compassionate attorney who can help you recover the compensation you deserve for your injuries.