Medical malpractice is much more common than most people realize. According to Johns Hopkins patient safety experts, 10 percent of deaths each year in the U.S. are caused by medical mistakes. Malpractice occurs when patients suffer harm because of the failure of health care professionals to perform their medical duties competently. If you have suffered injuries because of your medical treatment, you might wonder, “Do I have a case for medical malpractice?” Scroll down to determine whether you might have a valid medical malpractice claim.
Do I Have a Case for Medical Malpractice?
Do I have a case for medical malpractice? To answer this question, you will need to consider the basic requirements for proving these types of claims. Medical malpractice cases require you to prove several elements.
First, you will need to prove that you had a doctor-patient relationship with the physician you are filing a lawsuit against. For example, you cannot file a lawsuit against a doctor who you heard giving someone else advice at a social gathering. You must have hired the physician to treat you, and he or she must have agreed to provide the requested treatment.
You will also need to prove that the doctor acted negligently. Simply being unhappy with the results of your treatment does not mean that you will have a valid medical malpractice claim. Instead, you must be able to prove that the doctor’s actions fell below the expected standard of care for reasonable physicians in the same practice area. A doctor is not required to have provided the best possible care, but the care must have been reasonably careful and skillful. To prove medical malpractice, you will likely need to hire a medical expert to review the care that was provided and determine whether the doctor was negligent.
Even if the doctor was negligent, you will not have a case if his or her negligence did not cause your injury. Many cases involve people who were already injured or ill. You must be able to show that the doctor’s negligence caused the injury and harm that you suffered. This can be difficult to prove when a doctor’s negligence caused an existing injury or illness to worsen. You must be able to prove that the doctor’s incompetence was more likely than not the cause of the injury’s exacerbation.
Finally, you will need to present evidence showing that the injury you suffered because of the doctor’s negligence caused specific damages. You can’t sue a doctor for malpractice if you did not suffer any harm. Some of the types of damages that you might be able to sue for include the following:
- Additional medical expenses
- Lost wages and earnings capacity
- Physical pain and suffering
- Mental distress
Statute of Limitations for Medical Malpractice Cases
If you do not file a medical malpractice claim within the limitations period, you will not have a case.
In Arkansas, the statute of limitations for most medical malpractice claims is two years under Ark. Code § 16-114-203. The limitations period starts to run from the date of the wrongful act. In the case of a foreign instrument left in your body, the statute of limitations is one year from the date that you should have reasonably discovered it.
Under 76 Okla. Stat. §76-18, the Oklahoma statute of limitations for medical malpractice cases is two years. If the claim involves a state, municipal, or county agency or employee, the statute of limitations is only one year.
Some states do not have caps on damages for medical malpractice cases. For example, no cap or limit on damages in medical malpractice cases exists in Arkansas or Oklahoma.
Formerly, Oklahoma limited non-economic damages to no more than $350,000 except in wrongful death cases or when a doctor acted with gross negligence. However, this damage cap was declared unconstitutional in April 2019 by the Oklahoma Supreme Court.
Talk to an Experienced Attorney
Determining whether you have a medical malpractice case is not easy. To learn more about your potential claim and your rights, contact The Law Offices of Craig L. Cook to speak to an attorney by calling 479-783-8000 or sending us a message online.