Frequently Asked Questions in Massachusetts Medical Malpractice Cases
What Is Medical Malpractice?
Medical malpractice falls within an area of law known as “tort” law. A tort is simply a wrongful act against another party leading to civil legal liability (i.e., money damages). Medical malpractice occurs when a doctor, or other medical provider fails to provide appropriate care. Specifically, a patient must show that the defendant medical provider (or providers) failed to follow the “standard of care” required for their particular medical specialty. The “standard of care” is defined as what a “reasonable prudent” doctor or medical provider would do under the same or similar circumstances. For example, let’s say that a patient goes to the emergency room with a deep would from a cat bite or cat scratch. Because cats (and other animals) are known carriers of certain harmful forms of bacteria, it is essential that individuals receive a proper course of antibiotics in order to fight off potentially deadly infection. The standard of care in this case would be for the doctor to prescribe an appropriate course of antibiotics so that an infection does not spread. If a physician fails to adhere to the standard of care by failing to prescribe the antibiotics and the patient develops such an infection, the patient has the right to bring a claim for medical malpractice.
How Much Can I Recover for My Medical Malpractice Claim?
As with any claim for personal injuries, there are many factors that affect the potential settlement “value” of a case. To borrow from the example above, let’s say that an individual receives a deep scratch in their leg from a cat and visits the emergency room, but instead of prescribing antibiotics (which is required under the circumstances) the patient is sent on their way and develops a nasty infection that spreads into their joints requiring multiple surgeries and extensive hospital care. The value of case such as this would be higher than if the patient had only developed a more minor infection that was easily treated and did not require the same level of care or medical expenses.
In each case, factors such as: the severity of the injury or harm; the length, or the type of medical treatment involved; the amount of past and future medical expenses, and; the extent of any future disability or physical impairment are all part of any analysis when determining an appropriate settlement value of a case.
Potential damages recovery in a Massachusetts medical malpractice case may include:
- Damages for pain and suffering
- Damages for past and future medical expenses
- Damages for loss of earning capacity or reduced earning capacity
- Damages for negligent infliction of emotional distress
- Damages for the loss of companionship or care of a loved one
Do We Have to Go to Trial?
As medical malpractice attorneys, we treat every case as if it is going to trial. This is because even though the vast majority of cases do settle before a trial is necessary, there is always a chance that a case will not be resolved and therefore, we tell all of our clients that they too must be prepared to fight in court if necessary. That being said, there are many ways in which a case can be resolved which includes participating in voluntary mediation or arbitration. As an experienced Massachusetts medical malpractice attorney, Attorney Joseph Curran has successfully resolved numerous claims through mediation, arbitration and trial and knows which cases to bring in each forum.
How Long Will My Case Take?
Medical malpractice cases are usually more complex than other types of negligence claims as they typically require the opinion of multiple experts across several medical specialties. That being said, the time frame of a medical malpractice case is not much different from the average personal injury case. Assuming a settlement is not reached either through direct negotiations or through mediation, it is not uncommon for a case to take up to three years before the case is presented to a judge or jury.
How Long Do I Have to File a Lawsuit?
Every state has set deadlines for filing a medical malpractice case as well as other types of claims. In legal terms, these deadlines are known as “statutes of limitations.” However, these deadlines can be complex depending on a number of factors involved including, when the harm was first discovered, the age of the patient when the injury or harm occurred among other things.
As a general rule, any victim of medical malpractice in Massachusetts must file a lawsuit within three (3) years of when the malpractice occurred. If you fail to file your lawsuit within those three years, you could be barred forever from bringing a claim UNLESS you fall within a recognized exception to the rule.
The Discovery Rule. One of the exceptions to bringing a claim within three years of the alleged malpractice is called the discovery rule. The Massachusetts discovery rule provides that if the injured person did not – and reasonably could not – discover the harm or injury within the standard three year window, then the lawsuit may be brought three years from when the injury or harm was actually discovered.
The Statute of Limitations for Children. This is another exception to the standard three year timeframe and extends the timeframe to bring a lawsuit within three years after the child parents’ had knowledge, or sufficient notice of the medical malpractice. One further exception to the rule is that if the minor child is less than six (6) years old, the child has until their ninth (9th) birthday to bring a claim.
The Statute of Repose. Despite the above mentioned exceptions, in every case, there is what is referred to a “statute of repose” which sets a final deadline to bring a case forward regardless of when the harm was discovered. In Massachusetts, the law provides that a medical malpractice case must be filed in court within seven (7) years of when the malpractice occurred regardless of any of the listed exceptions above.
Hiring a Massachusetts Medical Malpractice Attorney
Medical negligence can take many forms and may include:
- Failures to diagnose
- Delays in diagnosing medical conditions
- Adverse drug reactions or drug interactions
- Surgical mistakes
- Anesthesia errors
- Delays in treating
The Massachusetts medical malpractice lawyers at Curran Law Group, P.C. in Weymouth represent victims of medical negligence from all over the Commonwealth of Massachusetts including clients in Boston, Dorchester, Brookline, Newton, Milton, Quincy, Weymouth, Braintree, Randolph, Brockton, Hingham, Plymouth, Rockland, Abington, Cohasset, Natick, Dedham, Norwood, Canton, Norwell, Avon, Pembroke, Kingston, Hanover, Scituate, Marshfield, Bridgewater, Hanson, Whitman, and else ware. We will immediately begin working on your case and will first begin by gathering all medical documents and records in order to analyze and identify any possible errors or deviations from the standard of care. We will then retain and secure the opinions of any experts we need to prove negligence and will aggressively pursue your claim against any and all responsible parties.
The consultation is always FREE and we do not get paid unless we are successful in recovering compensation on your behalf either through settlement, mediation, arbitration or trial. CALL TODAY 781-331-3811.