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Medical Malpractice

Under RCW 48.140.010, medical malpractice is an “actual or alleged negligent act, error, or omission in providing or failing to provide health care services…” There are many different types and causes of medical malpractice, but usually occurs when a practitioner deviates from a set standard of care. Misdiagnosis, treatment errors, surgical mishaps, medication errors, and anesthesia disasters are all examples of medical malpractice.

Medical malpractice can lead to a spectrum of different outcomes including exuberant medical expenses, physical or mental injury, and even death. According to recent studies, medical errors are now the third leading cause of death in the United States. If you or a family member has been a victim of medical malpractice, you may have the opportunity to file a claim against those who have inadequate or negligent care.

Who Commits Medical Malpractice?

We know that our healthcare industry is home to some of the most dedicated, hardworking individuals in our communities. Our health practitioners commit their lives to making our lives and the lives of our loved ones better. Despite all of their hard work, however, damaging mistakes are made in the field, and you should not be the one to take on the burden and suffering that stems from a healthcare error.

A medical malpractice claim can be directed at a healthcare provider. According to RCW 7.70.020, a healthcare provider is a person licensed by the state to provide health care or related services (such as a nurse, surgeon, dentist, chiropractor, phycologist, pharmacist, etc.), an employee or agent of a state licensed healthcare provider, and an entity, facility, or institution that employs healthcare professions (such as a hospital). In other words, your claim could be directed at an individual, a set group of people, or an entire institution, such as a hospital.

Bringing a Claim

If you feel that you or a family member is a victim of medical malpractice, you may file a claim, or a “demand for monetary damages for injury or death caused by medical malpractice” (RCW 48.140.010), against those allegedly responsible for the wrongdoing. Under RCW 4.16.350, one has up to three years after the alleged medical malpractice, or “one year of the time the patent or his or her representative discovered or reasonably should have discovered that the injury or condition was caused by said act or omission”, to file a claim.

Why do Malpractice Victims Need an Attorney?

Damages caused by healthcare professionals’ malpractice can cause a lifetime of mental and physical distress on the victims and their families. If you or a loved one has potentially been the victim of medical malpractice, it is of upmost importance that you contact legal counsel. Strict statutes of limitations, gathering medical evidence, sorting medical data, and determining financial and other damages are only a few of the many elements that make a medical malpractice case especially difficult.

It is essential that when you take on the entire medical community in a claim you are not alone. Chris Jackman, an experienced personal injury attorney, will work tirelessly to ensure the outcome you deserve while guiding you through the extensive and often stressful maze of a medical malpractice claim.

Collateral Source Rule

When you bring a lawsuit against a doctor, you need to be aware of the collateral source rule. The collateral source rule allows plaintiffs to recover money from the same injury from a different source than the doctor or hospital. The reason this rule is in place is because the courts do not want the jury to reduce a plaintiff’s verdict because the plaintiff received money from someone else.

Presently, Washington State has two important statutes that govern the collateral source rule. The first is RCW 4.22.060. This statute says that if the plaintiff settles with one defendant, the judge must be informed by the plaintiff of the amount. Then the judge deducts that amount from the verdict given by the jury. If the judge thinks the amount is unreasonable, then the judge deducts whatever he or she feels to be the reasonable amount. That amount is what you end up with.

The second statute is RCW 4.22.070. This statute applies when the jury has to decide overall fault with everyone who the plaintiff claims was responsible for his or her injuries, whether they were still in the trial or even if they had been released because the plaintiff settled with one or some of them out of court. The jury has to assign percentages of fault for each defendant. From there, each defendant that is still in the lawsuit only has to pay its proportionate share.

Of note here, under RCW 4.22.070, the defendants would be found jointly and severally liable. This means that if there are two defendants, and one of the defendants does not have the money to pay for his or her proportionate share of fault, the other defendant would have to pay the entire amount, not just the portion he was found responsible for. This might seem unfair, to have one defendant have to pay for the other one, but it is the law.

An example might help understand this rule better. For example, assume that someone goes to a doctor and the person is overprescribed a certain medication that injures the person—i.e. the plaintiff. In this example, it is possible both the doctor, the hospital or clinic that employs the doctor, the pharmacist who prescribed the medication in dangerously high doses, and the pharmacy could all be found negligent under the law for their actions.

When there are multiple defendants, as in this example, and the plaintiff settles with everyone except for the doctor who overprescribed the medication, then at trial the defendant can introduce the amount of money the plaintiff settled for.

The collateral source rule also applies to money received for injuries paid for by other sources, such as insurance, but it does not apply to future medical care. The collateral source rule does apply to past medical care received if the plaintiff is seeking reimbursement for those expenses. If a plaintiff is not seeking monetary reimbursement for past medical bills, however, any collateral source would be inadmissible under RCW 7.70.080.

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