Hawaii ranks last among all 50 states for the number of medical malpractice cases that are brought by patients against doctors and medical facilities. In 2015 there were just less than five cases per 100,000 people in the state with a total payout of only $6.2 million that year. The number of cases and amount of damages paid out has a lot to do with the laws regarding malpractice in a particular state.
In Hawaii, medical malpractice lawyers are experts in these laws. They work with victims of medical negligence to help them file lawsuits, gather evidence, and make a case either in a settlement discussion or a trial, that their clients deserve justice and damages for expenses. If you have suffered because of a medical mistake in Hawaii, be sure you find a good and experienced malpractice lawyer who understands the law and can guide you through the legal process.
Hawaii’s Medical Malpractice Laws
The laws that govern medical malpractice are different in every state. Hawaii medical malpractice lawyers are experts in the laws of the state that guide cases of medical negligence. Patient can rely on these lawyers and their knowledge, but should also understand the law to some degree in order to be able to make smart, informed decisions based on legal advice.
The statute of limitations is important to understand because it places a time limit on filing a lawsuit. If that limit has passed, a patient may not get justice, no matter how much harm was caused by a medical error. In Hawaii victims of medical negligence have two years from the time at which the injury is discovered or should have been discovered with reasonable diligence. There may be some exceptions, such as a wrongful death case in which it is not immediately obvious that negligence played a role, but the statute of repose in the state limits suits of any kind to no later than six years after the event.
It is also important for patients to understand damages caps. Damages may be economic, which cover actual medical costs, lost wages, and other expenses related to the negligence, or non-economic, which cover factors that cannot be given a cost, like pain and suffering. In Hawaii there is a cap, or a limit, only on non-economic damages. Victims can receive no more than $375,000 for this type of compensation.
The Medical Inquiry and Conciliation Panel
In Hawaii no case for malpractice can be filed until the plaintiff submits an inquiry to the Medical Inquiry and Conciliation Panel. This panel includes a qualified physician and a lawyer who review the inquiry. The inquiry has to include names of defendants and facts of the case that the plaintiff and his or her lawyers want to use to prove negligence. The defendants must also be notified. The panel then reviews the evidence and listens to witnesses before deciding if the case has merit and a lawsuit can be filed.
The inquiry also has to include what is called a certificate of consultation that shows the plaintiff has consulted with a qualified, third-party expert on the case and that the expert believes the case has merit. There is a $450 fee to submit the inquiry and this process is supposed to reduce the number of frivolous medical lawsuits. It may be a reason that the number of malpractice cases is so low overall in the state. These aspects of the law may also prevent some people from getting fair access to legal justice. The time, involvement, and cost can be too much for some victims.
Hawaii Medical Malpractice Cases
There are many examples of cases in Hawaii in which the malpractice lawyer or legal team has been successful in winning both justice and damages for medical negligence victims. One very tragic case involved he death of a young girl. She suffered from an infection in a cut on her leg. After three visits to the emergency room for treatment, the girl was given a broad spectrum antibiotic. This medicine treated a staph infection but not the strep infection the girl also had.
The family’s legal team argued that the staff at the Hilo Medical Center should have recognized that the antibiotic wouldn’t treat all of her infections. The girl was just eight years old and died from the infection a day after finally getting treated at the emergency room. The case was settled for $850,000 from the federal government because the medical center is federally-qualified.
A big case against the U.S. military in Hawaii ended with a $24.7 million award to the victim. A woman gave birth at the Tripler Army Medical Center in Honolulu in 2013 and suffered serious health problems later, including losing both of her kidneys. After giving birth she suffered from a serious infection with obvious signs, including a high fever. In spite of these signs, she wasn’t treated with antibiotics. The infection caused organ damage and failure, and she had to be put on a respirator. She had kidney disease, lost both kidneys, and had to have a kidney transplant. The woman and her family won the large award in a malpractice case against the hospital.
Working with a Hawaii Medical Malpractice Lawyer
If you believe you have a valid malpractice case in Hawaii, going through the complicated process alone doesn’t make sense. You need a malpractice lawyer licensed in the state and with actual experience handling cases involving medical negligence. Start your search with your state bar association and ask plenty of questions as you choose the lawyer you want to work on your case. Ask about specific experiences, outcomes of past cases, and about referrals from past clients.
When you find the lawyer you want to work with, continue asking questions and being involved so that you feel comfortable knowing that everything is being done to make your case successful. You also need to be open and honest with your legal team, telling them everything you know about what happened. Have all your medical records ready and available and be prepared to provide information about your doctors and any other health care providers you have worked with.
When you choose the right lawyer with knowledge and experience, and you are open and work well with your legal team, you have a good chance of getting the justice you deserve for the harm caused to you by the professionals you trusted.