Suffering from a disease or injury is always difficult and upsetting. Patients entrust medical professionals with the responsibility of treating injuries and illnesses of all kinds. Sometimes, however, a medical professional will make an unreasonable choice of a treatment that leads to serious problems. If you think you have experienced medical malpractice in Montana, contact the medical malpractice attorneys at Kovacich Snipes Johnson, P.C. for advice and possible representation.
What Is Medical Malpractice?
Medical malpractice occurs when a medical professional makes a decision or acts in a way that is unreasonable and not what another equally qualified medical professional would have done in the same circumstances. It could range from making a mistake in surgery to misdiagnosing a patient, or to prescribing someone the wrong medication. Any medical action that does not meet the high standard of care due a patient could be medical malpractice. Some of the most common types of medical malpractice include misdiagnosis or failure to diagnose, surgical errors, pharmaceutical errors, and birth injuries.
To win a medical malpractice claim, you must prove certain things to the court. First, you must prove that there was a doctor/patient relationship between you and the medical professional. You also need to show that the medical professional made an unreasonable choice or an error. You will need statements from other doctors who are in the same field to prove that the defendant acted in a way that was not appropriate treatment in the specific situation. If other professionals assert that they would have acted differently, it can be strong evidence that the defendant committed medical malpractice. You also need to show the court that the defendant’s actions that directly caused the damage you sustained and that there is in fact damage.
Types of Medical Malpractice
There are many types of medical malpractice. While almost any unreasonable decision or action on a doctor’s part could warrant a medical malpractice lawsuit, there are some that are more common than others.
One of the most common types of medical malpractice is a birth injury. Birth injury medical malpractice occurs when the doctor makes a mistake while delivering the baby and injures the baby as a result. A delivery mistake could be failing to respond to the baby’s distress, failing to perform necessary operations such as a C-section when needed, using medical tools incorrectly, or applying too much force during the extraction process, causing physical injury to the baby.
Misdiagnosis is another common type of medical malpractice. Misdiagnosis alone is not enough to be medical malpractice. The misdiagnosis must lead to improper medical care. One of the most important parts of medical treatment is identifying the ailment or injury. A medical professional will not be able to treat you if he or she has incorrectly diagnosed your ailment. Though doctors do make mistakes sometimes, they must meet a certain standard of care demanded by their profession. They should have the knowledge to accurately diagnose many diseases. If they misdiagnose something that they should have known, and it results in improper care, they may be guilty of medical malpractice.
Failing to diagnose an illness is another type of medical malpractice. Like misdiagnosis, failing to diagnose an illness does not warrant a medical malpractice claim unless the failure led to improper care, resulting in damages to the victim.
Medical malpractice can also occur during surgery. Most surgeries are complex and difficult procedures. Patients sign a release before surgery accepting that the surgeon could make a mistake and that there are risks to the procedure. Because of the possibility of errors, surgical mistakes alone are not enough to qualify as medical malpractice. The mistake that the surgeon made must be something he or she should have been able to do competently, considering his or her specialty and training. Additionally, the mistake must have directly caused the damage that you suffered. If the surgeon makes a mistake but it did not harm you, you are not eligible for a medical malpractice claim.
The last common type of medical malpractice is a pharmaceutical error. A pharmaceutical error does not only occur when a doctor prescribes a patient the wrong medication. A pharmaceutical error could happen at any point in the process of getting a medication (prescribing the medication, ordering the medication, or dispensing the medication). A doctor or nurse could also instruct a patient to take the wrong dosage, which could lead to serious physical damage.
What Is the State Law on Medical Malpractice in Montana?
Montana has medical malpractice regulations that are different than many other states. The first medical malpractice law that is unique is the statute of limitations. A statute of limitations is how long you have at the time of the incident and the time that you file your case. The statute of limitations for medical malpractice cases in Montana is two years.
To file a medical malpractice claim in Montana, you first need to go through the Montana Medical Legal Panel. The panel holds a hearing where its members listen to both sides and then decide whether the case should continue in the proceedings. They make the decision based on whether there is enough evidence and whether it seems as if the plaintiff suffered damage because of the medical error. The panel can make a recommendation about the financial reward, but the decision is not final.
Who Is Liable?
For medical malpractice cases, one person or multiple people can be liable. You can file a claim against a single doctor, several doctors, or an entire hospital. If more than one person was responsible, the concept “joint and several liability” comes into play. Joint liability is liability that two or more defendants share. For example, if two doctors decide on a course of action together and it is the incorrect treatment plan, the court could find them both jointly liable. With joint liability, each party is responsible for paying the entire amount in damages.
“Several liability” is when multiple people are liable but have different levels of responsibility for the incident and are treated separately by the court. Several liability applies if multiple negligent actions occur or if medical professionals had different roles in the incident. With several liability, the court determines how responsible each party was and what percentage of the damages each person should be responsible for paying. Each medical professional needs to pay only for the damage that he or she personally caused. For example, if your primary doctor was almost completely responsible, you could choose to collect 85% of the damages from him or her.
Joint and several liability combines the two types of liability assignments. The court can either spread out the blame depending on each person’s fault or assign the blame to everyone who was involved.
What Damages Can I Recover?
The court can award you many different types of damages if you win your case. The first, most foundational type of damages that the court can award you are general damages. General damages are meant to compensate for things that the victim lost that the court cannot specifically quantify. General damages that the court awards include loss of enjoyment of life and physical and mental pain and suffering. Determining amounts for general damages can be difficult because there is no way to quantify emotions and suffering. To decide how much to award in general damages, the court will usually hear testimony from various people about the victim’s state before and after the incident.
The court can also award you special damages. Special damages are the fees that are easier to quantify. Special damages could include medical expenses and missed income. Special damages could also cover future medical expenses if you suffered an injury that will require ongoing attention.
Sometimes, the court determines that the medical professional made a mistake by behaving recklessly or intentionally. Punitive damages focus on punishing the defendant for egregious errors, as opposed to helping the victim recover. If the court believes that the defendant acted intentionally, it could assign punitive damages along with general and special damages.
Call Our Montana Medical Malpractice Attorneys Today!
If you or a loved one experienced medical malpractice in Montana, you deserve compensation. Medical professionals have a responsibility to provide a reasonable level of care. The medical malpractice lawyers at Kovacich Snipes Johnson, P.C. are experienced and knowledgeable about medical malpractice laws in Montana. We have a strong record of winning difficult and complex cases and have gone up against big businesses and companies to fight for our clients. Other Montana legal associations respect us and they often ask us to work with them on particularly challenging cases. We are passionate about helping as many Montana people as we can. Our firm can offer you a free strategy session, so you can get to know our team. You will not pay any legal fees unless we are able to win your case, so you do not need to worry about paying for an unsuccessful outcome. Contact Kovacich Snipes Johnson, P.C. for dedicated, determined representation in your medical malpractice claim.