According to the Civil Justice Resource Group, about 1% of the total number of patients can become victims of malpractice. While that is a small percentage, imagine how many people land in hospitals annually. Thousands can still die or suffer debilitating injuries because of this negligence.
The prevalence of medical malpractice can vary between states. In Utah, in 2017, there were 15 per 100,000 residents, according to Diederich Healthcare data. Because the effects can be expensive, patients and their families can sue with the help of a personal injury attorney. So far, the total payout in 2017 reached $16.4 million.
But suing a physician for what one thinks as medical malpractice isn’t straightforward or easy. Knowing the basics will help people evaluate their chances of winning a lawsuit.
What Constitutes Medical Malpractice?
Medical malpractice is negligence, and thus, it is still subject to the four Ds:
- Direct cause
All these elements need to be present for an act to be considered as negligence. Let’s define each.
- Duty – The fundamental question is whether the defendant owes a duty to the plaintiff. If the person is a patient of the respondent, then that’s one point toward negligence.
- Dereliction – It means a breach of duty. Medical malpractice is anything that arises from the failure of practicing due diligence, gross negligence of duty, or omission of processes. For example, a doctor misdiagnosed an illness because it didn’t request the correct lab tests. Another instance is when a medication packet didn’t list down adverse side effects or contraindications.
- Direct Cause – Even if the doctor or a company failed to provide a standard of care, the plaintiff still has to prove that negligence is the direct reason for the injury.
- Damages – Lastly, the plaintiff has to show that this injury led to considerable harm. For instance, it might have resulted in long-term disability and loss of income.
In Utah, the state exercises comparative negligence. It compares the plaintiff’s contribution to the injury and that of the defendant.
Unlike other states, the Beehive State uses a 50% threshold. The plaintiff’s participation in the injury should be less than such percentage so they could sue.
Why One Needs a Personal Injury Lawyer
Many healthcare professionals and companies nowadays own medical malpractice insurance, which pays for out-of-court settlements. The problem is the amount quoted by the adjuster might not be sufficient or fair.
The role of a Utah personal injury attorney in medical malpractice cases is to ensure the plaintiff can receive just compensation in the form of economic and non-economic damages. The latter can then refer to pain and suffering.
In Utah, certain types of damages have caps. For non-economic damages, the maximum amount the plaintiff can receive is $450,000. However, the law doesn’t limit figures for economic damages, which can cover medical expenses, long-term care, and income loss.
Another reason is the complexity of the process. The statute of limitations is only two years. Also, according to the rules, the lawsuit needs to have merit to proceed. This stage is called the prelitigation panel review.
Having a personal injury lawyer can help see to it that the plaintiff meets the requirements and passes the review to have a day in court. Otherwise, the same professional can assist during the out-of-court settlement.