Maine has seen a decline in malpractice lawsuits and payouts to victims over the last couple of decades. Some say it’s because of the reduction of frivolous lawsuits, but those who advocate for victims believe that the laws in the state unfairly favor physicians and hospitals. There are laws in place that place barriers in the way of even getting to file a lawsuit.
This is why Maine medical malpractice lawyers are so important for victims of medical negligence in the state. They understand the laws and know how to take the steps necessary to prove negligence occurred and to get justice for their clients. If you have suffered because of a medical error, talk to a malpractice lawyer who can determine if you have a strong case, and if you do, what steps to take next.
Maine Medical Malpractice Laws
Medical malpractice lawyers in Maine have an excellent understanding of the laws governing these cases, and patients can rely on them to guide the process of seeking justice for medical negligence. However, it is also important that patients be aware of some of the aspects of the law so that they are empowered to make the best decisions.
For example, Maine has a statute of limitations on malpractice cases of three years from the time that the negligent act or omission occurred. Most states have a discovery rule that allows for the clock on this time limit to begin when a patient discovers that there was a negligent act, in effect extending the statute of limitations. Maine does not have this rule, and there are only two exceptions to the three-year limit. These include cases in which a foreign object was left inside a patient after surgery and minors, who have six years, or three years after reaching the age of majority.
Maine also has a law regarding contributory negligence. If the patient is found to be equally negligent to the defendant, he or she cannot recover damages. If the patient negligence is less than half, the damages can be reduced by the jury to a degree that is deemed just. Caps on damages are also important to understand. Maine only caps punitive damages and non-economic damages related to wrongful death cases.
Maine medical malpractice law includes a controversial requirement that plaintiffs go through a pre-screening phase before a lawsuit can be filed against a defendant. A three-member panel of experts reviews the evidence of the potential lawsuit and forms an opinion on whether or not medical negligence occurred. The decision is not binding in court and does not prevent a plaintiff from filing.
The panel, according to advocates for victims, including Maine medical malpractice lawyers, creates an undue burden for those who want to file a lawsuit. It costs the plaintiff more money and doubles the time it takes to take a case through the court system. Many critics also believe that the panel is biased in favor of physicians. Those who support the screening process say that it has reduced frivolous lawsuits, reduced court costs, and reduced healthcare costs in the state.
Maine Medical Malpractice Cases
Malpractice lawyers in Maine work hard on behalf of their clients, the victims of medical errors, and try to win them the compensation that will help to cover current and future costs triggered by the negligence. In one recent case a plaintiff’s legal team was able to win a $2 million jury award for his permanently-damaged hand. The plaintiff sued his hand surgeon and Eastern Maine Medical Center after he underwent surgery for a broken wrist. His surgeon inserted a screw improperly, leading to complications, a need for follow up surgeries, and pain and damage to his hand.
The same medical center was sued successfully in 2009. A woman filed a lawsuit against the facility and a specific surgeon after her husband died. In 2005 the man had an accident on his ATV and was flown to the medical center for care. The doctors at the facility did not follow up on evidence of internal bleeding indicated on a CT scan. The bleeding led to a collapsed lung, followed by a heart attack, and then the man’s death.
In this case the jury awarded the widow a near-record amount for the state of $6.7 million. The award included $1 million for the man’s suffering before he died and $4.5 million for the widow’s loss of companionship and suffering. Because Maine has a cap on non-economic damages that can be awarded for wrongful death, the amount awarded by the jury was expected to be reduced.
In 2017, a Maine malpractice case that ended in an award to the plaintiff of $500,000 involved the treatment of a woman and her stillborn baby. The Maine General Medical Center and a specific pathologist were sued after samples of tissue were taken from the baby without the mother’s consent. The finding was that the hospital staff mishandled the stillborn baby. Parents have a right to request that there be no pathology screening, but in this case the request was ignored. The required per-trial screening in this case found in favor of the medical center, but jurors disagreed.
How to Find a Maine Medical Malpractice Lawyer
If you have a medical malpractice case to file in Maine, it is important that you find and work with a good lawyer. You need a lawyer who specializes in medical negligence because he or she will have the most in-depth knowledge of the laws and the most experience helping victims recover damages and get justice.
A good place to start in finding a lawyer in good standing is with the state bar association. Be sure to interview lawyers who are dedicated to medical malpractice. Also make sure you see evidence of a lawyer’s experience. Find out about past clients and the results that the lawyer got for them. You can even ask for references from previous clients so that you feel perfectly comfortable that you have made the right choice of an expert to advocate for you.
Filing and winning a malpractice case in Maine can be a long and complicated process. In order to have the best chance of getting a fair trial and a good result in terms of recovering damages, you need a dedicated Maine medical malpractice lawyer fighting on your side.