Understanding Medical Malpractice Law
Medical malpractice is classified as a negligence claim, and falls under the larger category of tort law. Negligence claims are based on the premise that people owe others a duty of care that accords to a reasonable standard, and that they should be held accountable for injuries resulting from behaviors that deviate from this standard. In order to win a medical malpractice case, an attorney must prove that the victim’s injuries resulted from inadequate medical care. This generally involves the following:
- Determining Harm – It is up to the patient to determine whether the injuries sustained were the direct result of substandard care. Physicians and other medical care providers are usually not legally required to disclose to patients that they have been injured by treatment that was below industry standards. In other words, an attorney or other third party will likely need to make the determination for the patient.
- The Statute of Limitations – A medical malpractice claim must be filed within a certain amount of time after the incident. This period of time, known as the statute of limitations, is determined by the laws of the state where the incident occurred. After this period of time has passed, victims waive their rights to filing a claim.
- Establishing a Patient-Physician Relationship – The victim must prove that he or she was under the care of the defendant.
- Proving Negligence – The plaintiff must show that the health care provider did not provide medical care that was in accordance with reasonable professional standards. Additionally, the plaintiff must prove that this negligence was directly responsible for the injuries sustained.
- Establishing Damages – The final step in a medical malpractice claim, and all personal injury claims with our Oklahoma City firm, is determining the amount of monetary compensation that is due to the plaintiff.
A typical medical malpractice case at Tawwater Law in Oklahoma City proceeds as follows:
- A prospective client suffers harm believed to be the result of negligence on the part of a healthcare provider.
- Our attorneys conduct an initial investigation to determine whether negligent health care is the likely cause of serious or fatal harm to the patient.
- Detailed evidence is gathered to support the claim and the client’s damages, and we then negotiate a settlement from an established position of strength.
- If settlement negotiations prove unsatisfactory, a lawsuit is filed in civil court.
- After careful trial preparation, we argue the evidence before a judge and jury to attain a favorable verdict and award.
Damages in Medical Malpractice
Similar to any personal injury case, medical malpractice damages can be awarded in several categories. The Oklahoma courts allow for recovery of economic, non-economic, and punitive damages. These damages pertain to losses the plaintiff has already experienced, as well as future losses expected.
Awards of non-economic and punitive damages depend upon the severity of injury and the degree of malpractice established. Conduct determined to be flagrantly disregarding of patient safety results in higher settlement or jury awards. Cases of catastrophic injury, such as quadriplegia or irreversible brain trauma, warrant higher compensatory awards. In cases of wrongful death, family members can be compensated for their losses.
Economic damages include:
- Medical expenses – Medical bills related to the injury and ongoing medical costs for treating the injury and it’s symptoms, including physical therapy, in-home care, medical equipment, medications, etc.
- Loss of earnings – Loss of wages directly attributable to the malpractice incident. If the plaintiff will continue to be unable to work or earning capacity has been limited, loss of earnings extend into the future. The age of the victim is relevant to an award for future financial losses. Loss of earnings can also apply when the victim dies, leaving his or her family with diminished financial support.
Non-economic damages pertaining to malpractice include:
- Pain and suffering – There are many aspects to these type of damages. In addition to physical pain, there may be emotional trauma and need for extended counseling. Loss of enjoyment of life, disfigurement, and reduced capacity are other examples of pain and suffering. These damages can apply to family members also, for example in loss of companionship and consortium experienced by a spouse if the victim is permanently disabled or killed.
- Punitive Damages – Negligence alone will not result in an award of punitive damages.To receive punitive damages, there must be knowing, willful acts on the part of a health care provider. In Oklahoma, punitive damages are generally limited to $100,000, but can raise as high as $500,000 in cases involving malicious conduct.
Establishing damages is the work of an experienced medical malpractice attorney. At the TawWater Law Firm in Oklahoma City, we work closely with experts, including forensic accountants, to establish our client’s monetary losses. Investigation includes reviewing hospital records and interviewing medical providers treating the patient. We have a reputation for results, including high dollar awards for our medical malpractice clients.
Our attorneys are experienced in this complex area of law, and can help you establish your claim, conduct the necessary research, and obtain an out-of-court settlement or a trial verdict that recovers the compensation you deserve.