Georgia malpractice lawyers are experts in the complicated laws that guide how medical negligence cases are filed and processed in the state. They understand all the complexities of the laws and keep up to date on changes in the laws. Patients in Georgia who have suffered from medical negligence can rely on these professionals to guide them and help them make their cases.
The state ranks low in number of cases filed, 48th out of the 50 states with only 11 cases per 100,000 residents in 2015. However, recent changes to how damages are awarded meant that the payout from these cases amounted to more than $111 million. If you have been harmed by a medical professional, you have the right to make your case and to seek the damages you think you deserve.
Georgia’s Medical Malpractice Laws
Georgia malpractice lawyers are well-versed in the complicated laws governing medical negligence, and this is why it is important for patients who have suffered from doctors’ mistakes to rely on them for guidance in filing a case. It is also important for patients to be aware of some of the basics of the law so that they can feel empowered to make big decisions about if, when, and how to file.
Laws regarding medical malpractice vary by state but all states set a statute of limitations, the time limit on filing a lawsuit over negligence. In Georgia the limit is two years from the time that the negligence occurred. Georgia also has a statute of repose, which says that even if the harm from the negligence is not discovered until later, no case can be filed more than five years after the event, even in cases of death that results from negligence. The only exception to this is if a foreign body is left inside a patient. In this case, the patient has one year from its discovery to file a case.
Georgia malpractice law also has an expert affidavit requirement. This means that a patient and his or her malpractice lawyers must submit an affidavit signed by a qualified medical expert attesting to the merit of the case before filing. This requirement makes filing more complicated and time-consuming, so having a good lawyer and being aware of the statute of limitations is important.
Cap on Non-Economic Damages
When medical malpractice lawyers negotiate a settlement or seek an award in a trial for a client, they try to get as much money as the victim deserves. This means seeking economic damages, for past and future medical bills and any lost wages, but also non-economic damages for things that can’t be monetized, like trauma, loss of enjoyment in life, or being disfigured.
Lawyers are limited in what they can seek for their clients when states place a limit, or a cap, on those damages. This is the case in Georgia where non-economic damages are capped at $350,000 when there is one medial entity involved, or $700,000 when there are two or more, with the absolute total capped at $1.05 million.
Many states have instituted these non-economic damages caps in order to cut costs of healthcare and malpractice insurance, but many state supreme courts have also ruled the caps unconstitutional. This occurred in Georgia in 2010. The law still includes the cap, but it is not likely to be applied because of the ruling against it. The case that went to the Supreme Court involved a woman whose plastic surgery was botched. A jury awarded the woman nearly 900,000 for her permanent facial disfigurement, but it would be reduced because of the cap. The woman and her lawyers took the case to the Supreme Court, and the justices ruled the cap unconstitutional because it interfered with the right to a fair trial.
Medical Malpractice Cases in Georgia
One case that went to trial in Georgia involved a 58-year-old woman from Savannah who won a verdict from the jury worth $18 million. Joan Simmons went to the emergency room in 2014 suffering from bad back pains. The staff treated and released her the same day, but she ended up back there ten days later and was suffering from severe sepsis. She was found to have an abscess on the spine and a severe infection throughout her body. She was treated but left paralyzed. The case Simmons’ lawyers made was that the staff at the hospital delayed diagnosing her and that her paralysis could have been prevented.
An even larger award was given by a jury to the plaintiff in 2017. The award amounted to $26 million for Sandra Williams who was left disabled after a neck surgery that was performed at St. Francis Hospital. Williams returned to the hospital the day after surgery complaining about difficulty swallowing. She was sent back home but came back again two days later. She couldn’t swallow at all and had a hematoma in her throat but was left waiting six hours to be seen. In the end she was left disabled—with brain damage and blindness—and needing constant care.
Sometimes the state laws complicate malpractice cases. In March, 2018 a $22 million medical malpractice was thrown out by a judge, who ordered a retrial, over the question of medical versus ordinary negligence. Ordinary negligence is a lower standard of negligence, which means anyone, even without medical training, would have recognized an error or negligence. The retrial was ordered because the jury was not clear as to which standard it had held the doctor in determining negligence.
The case involved Gwendolyn Brown, a woman went to a pain specialist and anesthesiologist for back pain treatment. During a treatment session, her oxygen levels dropped and the doctor failed to treat her adequately or on time. He didn’t call 911 for several hours, by which time she had suffered severe brain damage. She died six years later.
Finding a Georgia Medical Malpractice Lawyer
If the unthinkable happens and you or a loved one is the victim of a medical mistake that causes lasting harm, you can file a lawsuit to hold the responsible doctor accountable and to get compensation to help with your expenses. To find a good lawyer to work with, look for someone who is in good standing with the bar and who has evidence of experience with malpractice cases. Make sure you see proof of this experience and do not simply take a lawyer’s word for it.
Also feel free to ask questions about that experience and what kinds of cases the lawyer has worked on and in what capacity. Ask for references from past clients and find out how many cases the lawyer has one and the amount won for previous malpractice victims. This is important information, and any good lawyer will be happy to provide it. When you select the best lawyer to help with your particular case, you have the best chance of getting justice for your injuries.