If you or a loved one has been the victim of medical negligence in Alaska and have suffered because of it, you need an Alaska medical malpractice lawyer to help you make your case. The laws are complicated and vary by state, so having this professional by your side will ensure you have the best possible chances of successfully getting justice and needed compensation to cover medical and other expenses.
Alaska falls in the middle of all states for number of malpractice suits, with nearly 22 cases per 100,000 residents in 2015 and a total payout of $5.7 million. Laws in the state can make it a little challenging for plaintiffs to prove their cases and get compensation, but the best malpractice lawyers know how to make a case strong and to provide adequate evidence.
Alaska Malpractice Lawyers Are Experts in Malpractice Law
Every state has its own medical malpractice laws, and this is why it is important to work with a lawyer in the state in which you suffered medical harm and to select a legal team that specializes in these laws. For example, a plaintiff may not understand what the statute of limitations is on a malpractice case, and if not working with a good lawyer may miss the opportunity to win damages. In Alaska there is a two-year limit for filing a malpractice lawsuit. It must be filed within two years of the occurrence of the medical mistake, or two years from when it was reasonably discovered.
Other important malpractice laws to understand, and that can be confusing without a lawyer to guide you, include contributory negligence. The state of Alaska limits damages a plaintiff can receive in a malpractice case based on the degree to which he or she was also at fault. For instance, if part of the harm you suffered was the result of not following a doctor’s orders, your damages could be reduced.
Alaska’s 1997 Tort Reform Act enacted damages caps in medical malpractice cases, limiting how much a lawyer could win for a client suffering because of medical negligence. The cap is only for non-economic damages. There is no limit on how much a plaintiff can be awarded for the actual economic losses caused by the medical errors. A patient could potentially win millions in a case in the state if the negligence has caused a lot of economic damages.
The non-economic damages cap refers to compensation for things like pain and suffering, mental anguish, disfigurement, loss of enjoyment or relationships, and other similar factors that don’t equate to dollar amounts. The cap on these losses is $250,000, but can go up to $400,000 for cases in which there is a wrongful death or severe and permanent physical damage.
Alaska’s “I’m Sorry” Law
In 2014 the state legislature passed a bill related to medical malpractice cases and making it a little harder for lawyers to prove negligence against physicians and other healthcare workers. Nicknamed the “I’m Sorry” bill, the law made any kind of apology, compassionate words, or expressions of sympathy made by a healthcare professional to a patient inadmissible in a malpractice case.
Many patients and their malpractice lawyers would see an apology as an admission of guilt, but the court system and juries cannot see it that way now. Lawmakers also passed the bill because of the idea that a doctor who apologizes or is kind to a patient is less likely to be sued. Whether this is true or not is uncertain. The law is supposed to protect doctors and to allow them to sympathize and apologize freely without incriminating themselves. What is still admissible with this law is an actual admission of guilt.
Medical Malpractice Cases in Alaska
Malpractice lawyers in Alaska work hard to ensure that their clients get the justice and the compensation they are owed. Although there are caps on non-economic damages in the state, lawyers can fight to win as much money as needed to cover medical costs for patients who were harmed. One example of a successful case occurred in 2016 when a jury awarded a patient $1.7 million after a neurosurgeon caused irreversible damage during a procedure.
The plaintiff in the case, Marvin Kroener, had been injured at work as a plumber. He went to see the neurosurgeon because of pain in his leg and lower back. The doctor recommended surgery on the spine to relieve the pain. While operating, the surgeon claimed to have found a cyst and did not complete the entire procedure. Kroener continued to suffer with worsening pain and went to another surgeon. After two surgeries, this second doctor found that there never was a cyst and that the original surgeon had left surgical material in his spine.
He now lives with constant pain from an incurable type of inflammation to the nerves in and around his spine. He and his malpractice lawyer filed a lawsuit against the original surgeon in 2011. It went to trial, and the jury agreed that the surgeon was negligent and reckless. They awarded $1.72 million to Kroener for past and future medical expenses and for non-economic damages.
In rare but unfortunate cases, the malpractice lawyer may be found negligent in a medical malpractice case. This happened to a family who suffered when their son born in Anchorage suffered an infection and resulting brain damage and blindness. It took 13 years to get justice and compensation because they worked with a lawyer initially who claimed to have expertise in medical malpractice, but in reality never tried such a case. They ultimately got justice for both medical and legal malpractice.
Finding an Alaska Medical Malpractice Lawyer
While the cases like the one above are rare, they do make it clear that selecting a lawyer for a medical malpractice suit is important. Don’t simply take the word of a lawyer who claims to be an expert. Ask to see evidence of past cases, references from past clients, board certification and specialization, and membership in legal and liability professional groups.
Simply finding a lawyer with expertise in malpractice may not be adequate. In addition to the above questions, ask about specific outcomes of past medical malpractice cases. Find out how much the lawyer has been able to win for other clients and how many cases they have won and lost. Make sure you are truly comfortable with a lawyer or legal team before moving forward.
Working with an Alaska medical malpractice lawyer can be a positive experience if you work with someone who truly has your best interests in mind. Be aware of the laws, have your medical records ready, and ask a lot of questions. When you’re ready, let the lawyer guide you so that you have the best chance of winning the justice you deserve.
- http://www.legis.state.ak.us/basis/statutes.asp - 09.55.510