Arkansas ranks high among all 50 states for the number of medical malpractice cases filed and the payouts made to plaintiffs. According to records of cases and damages awarded, Arkansas had 32 cases per 100,000 people in 2015 and $19.6 million. In terms of number of cases brought that year, the state ranked sixth, although the total amount is lower than for many states.
Bringing and trying to win a malpractice case is very serious and difficult. With different laws in every state, it is important to work with an Arkansas medical malpractice lawyer if you suffered from negligence in this state. An experienced malpractice lawyer knows the laws and has experience with other cases. This is the professional you need at your side to help you make your case and win justice.
Arkansas Malpractice Laws
Every state has its own laws for medical malpractice, including laws regarding statute of limitations, providing expert testimony, contributory negligence, damages caps, and more. These laws can be very complicated, for non-lawyers, and even for lawyers who don’t specialize in medical negligence. This is why it is so important to hire the right kind of lawyer when you want to file a malpractice case.
There are many malpractice laws in Arkansas, but some stand out as particularly important for patients to understand. These include the statute of limitations, two years, which is the time patients have from when the medical error occurred to file a suit. In Arkansas this can be extended to one year after the negligence is discovered by the patient. For children who are victims of negligence at the age of nine or younger, they have until they are eleven to file a suit. The statute of limitations on wrongful deaths is three years after the death.
Arkansas also has laws about comparative negligence. If the patient is at least part to blame for the harm caused, he or she can have damages reduced accordingly but is still entitled to damages. In Arkansas, plaintiffs can make a case against multiple defendants. The degree of fault between each of them can be determined by a court or jury. Most states have laws for vicarious liability, which allows a medical center to be proven negligent for the acts of an employee, but Arkansas does not allow this.
Arkansas Medical Malpractice Law Found Unconstitutional
In early 2018, part of the state law regarding medical malpractice trials was ruled unconstitutional by a state judge. The law says that physicians or other healthcare providers do not have to give expert testimony at a trial against them. According to this law, a plaintiff and their lawyers cannot ask the defendant physician about the standard of care the patient should have received or about whether or not that physician failed to provide it.
The judge ruled that this law, which protects doctors and other medical providers, is unconstitutional because violating the standard of care is the entire point of malpractice and proving negligence. If a plaintiff can’t ask the doctor about it, he or she is unable to secure a fair trial.
Arkansas Medical Malpractice Case
There are many examples of malpractice cases from Arkansas, and while most of them are small, or don’t result in awards to the plaintiff at all, there are also larger, notable cases. One of these cases ended in 2017 with a jury award of $46.5 million to the young victim of medical negligence, one of the largest awards in the history of the state.
The plaintiff, Kara Smalls, was born in Arkansas by cesarean section in 2014. The family’s physician did not follow up on blood test results that showed the baby was at risk for severe jaundice. In infants this condition is life-threatening and can cause brain damage if not treated. The mother and Kara were released from the hospital after a nurse noticed slight jaundice, and were told to come back in ten days.
Three days later she had severe symptoms. After calling the doctor’s office, the mother was unable to get an appointment for another few days. By then the child was severely jaundiced, and even with treatment suffered permanent brain damage. She will likely be in a wheelchair for the rest of her life and need constant care. The mother and her malpractice lawyers claimed that the doctors ignored an early blood test that indicated jaundice and that they should not have been discharged. They also claimed the medical center did not follow national patient safety guidelines for newborns.
The $46.5 million award included $3.5 million to the parents and the rest to the child. The amounts included factors such as the fact that the child will need serious and expensive medical care indefinitely and also that she may not be able to work as an adult, or her earning potential may be reduced. Because there are no caps on economic or non-economic damages in Arkansas, Kara’s family was able to win a substantial amount to ensure she would be cared for throughout her life.
Finding an Arkansas Medical Malpractice Lawyer
If you have suffered from medical negligence, or a loved one has, it can be a difficult situation to handle. You may not know what to do or what your rights are, but a malpractice lawyer in Arkansas can help. These professionals are experienced and knowledgeable in malpractice laws in the state and can guide you through determining if you have a case, and if so, what to do next.
When looking for an Arkansas medical malpractice lawyer, the state bar association is a good place to start. This is where you can look for a lawyer with the expertise and experience you need as well as one that is in good standing. Before hiring a lawyer or team, ask about specific experiences in malpractice cases, and ask to see references from past clients. You can even ask about success rates in malpractice suits. Above all, choose a lawyer that you feel comfortable working with and that you really feel is interested in winning for you.
Medical malpractice cases can be difficult and long, but if you live in Arkansas there are laws on your side and lawyers who have the expertise you need to ensure you have a good chance at winning. Your or your loved one’s future may depend on this, so take care and choose the best lawyer for your needs.