Indiana ranks in the middle of states for the number of medical malpractice cases filed each year. In 2015 it had nearly 21 cases filed for every 100,000 people living in the state, which amounted to a total payout of $53.3 million. This amount is less than in many other states, which is related to the maze of laws that govern malpractice cases and the damages victims can recover from those responsible for causing them harm.
Laws that govern medical malpractice cases can be complicated and difficult for non-legal professionals to understand. They also vary by state, so victims of medical negligence in Indiana need qualified and experienced malpractice lawyers who understand the law and how to work with it to win justice. If you have been harmed by a doctor’s mistake in Indiana, look for a knowledgeable Indiana medical malpractice lawyer to be your advocate.
Statute of Limitations in Indiana
All states have some limitation on when patients can file lawsuits against doctors and medical facilities for negligence. This is called the statute of limitations, and in Indiana it is two years. Patients have two years from the time the negligent act or omission occurred, although exceptions can be made in cases in which the patient could not reasonably have discovered the error within that two-year period. In that case the patient has a burden of proof that there was no way to discover the harm sooner. Children who were six or younger when negligence occurred have until their eight birthday for a lawsuit to be filed on their behalf.
Indiana’s Medical Review Panel
A unique law in Indiana regarding medical malpractice cases is that in order for a lawsuit to be filed, there first must be a complaint filed with the state’s medical review panel. The panel consists of three medical experts, with expertise in fields related to the subject of the case, and one lawyer who leads the panel.
The panel takes the claim, listens to expert testimony, reviews the medical records, and gathers and investigates any other necessary evidence, and then has 180 days to form an opinion as to whether or not the defendant or defendants failed to meet the standard of care for the plaintiff. If the case is filed, and the panel found the defendants were likely negligent, it can be admitted in court. It is not, however, considered to be conclusive or definitive evidence.
Controversial Damages Cap
It is not unusual for states to limit the amount of money medical malpractice lawyers can recover for their clients. However, most states only limit non-economic damages, placing a cap on what a person can recover for intangible factors, such as pain and suffering or being disfigured. These caps are intended to save money, and in some states have been ruled unconstitutional, but do not impact the amount of money a victim can recover for economic damages, like medical expenses.
Very few states place a cap on damages that is not specifically for non-economic damages. Indiana’s medical malpractice damages cap covers the entire amount of money that may be recovered, including economic and non-economic costs together. Currently the total cap is $1.25 million for negligence that occurred between 1999 and July 1, 2017. From that point on the cap goes up to $1.65 million, an adjustment intended to compensate for inflation. Individual medical providers cannot be liable for more than $400,000 in damages. Any additional amount is paid to the plaintiff through the Indiana Patient Compensation Fund.
Increasing the cap, which is set to increase again in 2019, is helpful for victims of serious medical negligence, but it is still controversial to cap total damages. It limits how much individuals or families can recover for valid economic costs. These include past and future medical bills, lost wages, and lost future earnings, which in some cases can far exceed the cap.
Medical Malpractice Cases in Indiana
Indiana medical malpractice lawyers fight for their clients, trying to hold those guilty of negligence accountable and also to recover damages for victims who really need the money to cover medical and other costs. There are many examples in the state of cases in which the lawyers have fought hard and won, but some cases go on longer than others.
In one case, which has been going on for more than ten years, the Bobbitt family is fighting both for justice for their paralyzed daughter and against the damages cap instituted in Indiana. In 2013 the family was awarded $15 million by a jury. Their daughter was born at St. Mary’s Hospital in 2003. The family claims that the mother was not provided with adequate care and as a result the baby was born premature. She suffered brain damage and now has cerebral palsy, is quadriplegic, and must be fed with a tube.
The Bobbitt’s malpractice lawyers hired an expert to give testimony that estimated the young girls lifelong costs would amount to between $8 million and $10 million, much more than the state’s damages cap. The $15 million awarded by the jury was reduced based on the cap, but the family and their lawyers are continuing to fight through the court system, hoping to have the damages cap ruled unconstitutional.
Another case concluded satisfactorily for the plaintiff when a South Bend orthopedic surgeon was found guilty of negligence. The jury awarded the family of a boy harmed by the doctor $744,000. The boy was injured in a wrestling match and went to the doctor for treatment. The surgery performed left him with chronic and permanent pain, and the family claimed the surgery was unnecessary. They said the doctor told them that the boy, who was 16 at the time, could have surgery or live with pain forever, which was not necessarily true. The jury agreed this was negligent and awarded the boy and his family the damages in a greater amount than they had sought.
How to Find an Indiana Medical Malpractice Lawyer
It is important to be able to navigate the complicated laws associated with medical malpractice in Indiana for victims of medical negligence, which means finding an experienced malpractice legal team or lawyer. If you need this professional to help you file a lawsuit, start with the state bar association and look for someone who specializes in malpractice law.
When choosing the lawyer to work with, ask about specific experiences taking on cases for clients who suffered from medical negligence. Find out about cases won, damages awarded, settlement experience, and trial experience to get a full idea of what kind of expertise a lawyer has. Only choose a lawyer to work with when you feel comfortable that he or she has experience, knowledge, and your best interests in mind. In that case you will know that you have the best chance possible of winning your case and recovering damages.