Fighting medical negligence can be challenging, and Delaware has some strict rules that can make it even more difficult for victims in this state. This is why it is so important to find and work with an experienced Delaware medical malpractice lawyer if you have been harmed by a medical error and you believe it to have been negligent. This expert can guide you through the process, to a settlement, or in a court trial.
By the most recent statistics from 2015, Delaware ranks third among the 50 states for number of medical malpractice cases filed, with over 35 cases per 100,000 people. Those totaled just $11.6 million in payouts to plaintiffs, which is much less than total payouts in other states. If you have a malpractice case to make, work with a lawyer who understands the laws and how to maximize the chances of you getting the damages you need to cover associated costs.
Delaware Medical Malpractice Laws
For patients who have suffered harm because of the actions or inactions of medical providers, deciding what to do about it can be difficult. Navigating the malpractice laws, which are different in every state, can be overwhelming. This is why working with Delaware malpractice lawyers is crucial, but it is also important for victims to have a basic understanding of the laws in the state.
For instance, the statute of limitations state how long a victim has to file a medical malpractice lawsuit. Without being aware of this a patient may miss his chance to get justice and compensation for negligence. In Delaware the statute of limitations is two years from when the incident occurred or from when the patient discovered the resulting injury or harm, as long as the total time from the incident is no more than three years. The state has an unusual law that allows plaintiffs to stop the clock on the statute of limitations if they file a “notice of intent to investigate” to each defendant involved.
Another unique law in Delaware, or rather a lack of a law, is that there is no cap on medical malpractice damages. Many states set a cap on non-economic damages, limiting the money that victims can be awarded for things that cannot be monetized, like pain and suffering. Delaware has no such cap, so malpractice lawyers can push to win high awards as justice for their clients.
Affidavits of Merit
In 2003 the state of Delaware passed a law that was intended to reduce the number of frivolous malpractice lawsuits. This law requires an affidavit of merit before a malpractice lawsuit can be filed. This means that before the suit can go anywhere an expert must sign a filing declaring that there is merit to the case and that there is evidence the defendant may be guilty of malpractice.
This expert must be a medical professional and must meet the requirements under the state’s laws for being considered an expert. The affidavit must also include the expert’s curriculum vitae that demonstrates the requirements and medical experience. A lawsuit for malpractice can be rejected without this affidavit. The law is controversial because it may interfere with patients’ abilities to have a fair trial.
Malpractice Cases in Delaware
Medical malpractice lawyers in Delaware are able to fight hard for their clients and win large settlements or awards because the state has no cap on damages. On the other hand Delaware is one of few states that requires the jury to be unanimous in civil cases like malpractice lawsuits. This combination means that there can be some big awards for victims in the state, but that they are not common.
Birth injury cases tend to garner larger settlements or jury awards, as happened in a recent trial that resulted in an award of $3 million to a woman and her baby. The obstetrician that delivered the baby pulled too hard on the head during delivery after the baby’s shoulder became stuck in the birth canal. The pulling damaged nerves that led to paralysis in the arm and a permanent disability.
Another large award and high-profile malpractice case in the state occurred in 2010. A jury found a doctor in New Castle was negligent in failing to treat jaundice in a newborn that resulted in permanent damage and cerebral palsy, a lifelong disability. The jury awarded the family $6.25 million. In 2003 a big case that led to a $6.5 million jury award involved a young child who was released from the hospital only to die a few days later. The family and their malpractice lawyers successfully made the case that doctors were negligent in discharging the child too soon.
A couple of malpractice lawsuits that have not yet concluded in the state could end in big awards. In one case a prisoner had signs of colon cancer, but his symptoms and complaints were ignored for two years. By the time he had served his sentence and went to a doctor he had stage four, terminal cancer. In the lawsuit he is bringing against the healthcare service in the prison, the victim claims that if his cancer had been diagnosed and treated earlier, it would have been treatable.
Another case ongoing involves a woman whose surgeon removed the wrong part of her thyroid, in spite of her telling him before the surgery which side needed to be removed. It was to be removed because it was thought to possibly be cancerous. She now lives with symptoms from having the healthy portion of her thyroid removed and still may be vulnerable to cancer. She is filing a malpractice case in the state.
Finding a Delaware Medical Malpractice Lawyer
To find the right malpractice lawyer for your case in Delaware, start with the state bar association, which lists all the lawyers licensed in the state. You should also look specifically for lawyers who specialize in and have specific experience in cases involving medical malpractice. These are the professionals that have the in-depth knowledge of the complicated laws related to malpractice and the experience working with malpractice clients.
Find out if the lawyer you want to work with has actually settled malpractice cases or gone to trial. It is important to work with someone who has both types of experiences because you can’t be sure where your case will go. Don’t hesitate to ask about actual clients, how those cases have gone, and your potential lawyer’s rates of success. You need to be comfortable with the lawyer you choose to handle your case.
Working with a good Delaware medical malpractice lawyer is essential for making sure your lawsuit has a chance. Without someone who has expertise in these specialized laws, you could make mistakes that jeopardize your ability to win justice, to hold a negligent doctor accountable, and to get the compensatory damages you need.