Michigan ranks 19th out of all 50 states for the number of malpractice suits filed. There were over 23 lawsuits filed in 2015 for every 100,000 residents. The total payout that resulted from those 2015 suits was $71.6 million. The laws governing how these suits can be filed and how much victims can recover in damages are complicated and often subject to reform.
To be able to have the best chance of a successful lawsuit in the state, patients need to rely on the expertise of Michigan medical malpractice lawyers. These professionals have knowledge of the many malpractice laws, and they have experience helping victims of medical negligence. If you have been harmed by medical mistakes, find and work with one of the lawyers in Michigan dedicated to malpractice law.
Michigan Medical Malpractice Laws
In Michigan, as in other states, the laws that govern malpractice cases can be very complicated and difficult to understand for anyone who has not studied the law. Malpractice lawyers specialize in just this one area of the law because it is so complex. Patients who have suffered from medical negligence need to have these lawyers on their side because of the expertise they can bring to bear on cases.
Even with a Michigan medical malpractice lawyer, patients should have a basic understanding of the laws that allow or limit their ability to get justice and recover damages. For instance, there is a time limit on when a case can be filed, which not everyone is aware of and that can cause someone to lose the chance to file. In Michigan the statute of limitations is just two years from when the negligence occurred or six months from when the patient discovered, or should have discovered, the negligence and the harm it caused.
No case can be filed more than six years after the negligence occurred, regardless of when the patient discovered it. The only exceptions to this statute of repose are when a medical professional intentionally hid the negligence from the patient and when the harm caused permanent damage to reproductive organs, resulting in infertility.
Michigan also has caps on damages that can be recovered, which is an important factor in determining if a lawsuit should be filed. Damages may be economic, for specific costs caused by negligence, or non-economic, for things like disfigurement or pain. Michigan caps only non-economic damages. The cap is adjusted each year for inflation, and was $445,500 in 2017, or $795,500 in cases in which there is some degree of paralysis, infertility, or cognitive disability that leaves a person unable to be independent.
Affidavit of Merit
In 1993 the state legislature passed a bill that reformed medical malpractice laws in Michigan. The reforms included the non-economic damages cap and other measures designed to reduce frivolous lawsuits and the costs of malpractice cases. The cap on damages is controversial, as is the requirement that came with the reform that plaintiffs file an affidavit of merit before a lawsuit can proceed.
According to the law, a plaintiff or the plaintiff’s lawyer must notify the defendants of the lawsuit 182 days in advance. The lawsuit can then be filed but it has to be accompanied by an affidavit of merit. This is a written statement signed by a qualified medical expert that states the case has merit. This law is controversial because it is seen by many to have created a barrier for victims of negligence actually filing a lawsuit and being able to access the court system.
In addition to the affidavit of merit, plaintiffs must bring evidence in a lawsuit from qualified medical experts. The 1993 reforms set strict requirements for what constitutes a medical expert. Not only does this witness have to specialize in the area of medicine involved in the case, he or she must have been spending most of his or her professional time actively practicing that kind of medicine at the time the negligence occurred. This can make it difficult to find expert witnesses.
Michigan Medical Malpractice Cases
Michigan’s medical malpractice lawyers work hard to fight for their clients in settlement discussions and in court. The results are often positive for victims of medical negligence, and sometimes they are big results. This was the case in a lawsuit for wrongful death due to medical negligence that went to trial in 2017. A young woman was admitted to Detroit Receiving Hospital in 2103 with signs of a pulmonary embolism. Without running any tests, the hospital sent her home saying she had a virus.
The woman ended up back in the hospital the next morning. She was unconscious and soon died from blood clots. The jury in the trial agreed that the hospital staff was negligent in not testing the woman and determining what was really wrong. They awarded her family $40 million, although that is likely to be reduced based on the state’s damages cap.
Another noteworthy case in Michigan demonstrates how important it is to select a good lawyer for malpractice cases. An elderly woman was admitted to the hospital for jaw surgery, and due to a records mix-up, underwent brain surgery instead. This blatant mistake should have been a clear case of malpractice, but the family’s lawyers also blundered.
The trial resulted in a jury award of $20 million, but it was overturned by the Michigan Court of Appeals. The judge stated that the woman’s death after the surgery should have been presented as a case of medical malpractice, but the lawyers brought it as a case of negligence. As negligence there would have been no cap on damages, so it may be that the lawyers were trying to get around the cap. Instead, what they did denied the family any damages at all.
Finding a Michigan Medical Malpractice Lawyer
When looking for a lawyer to represent you in the case of medical negligence it is important to find someone who is both in good standing with the state bar association and has expertise in medical malpractice law. Michigan medical malpractice lawyers are those who specialize only in this type of law, which is necessary because the laws are complicated, more so than other types of personal injury.
You can even find a lawyer in the state who specializes even further, such as those who represent victims of birth injuries or harm caused by anesthesia errors. Be selective as you choose the lawyer who will take your case, and be sure to ask questions about specific experience. You need to know that your lawyer has handled cases like yours before and that he or she got positive outcomes. When you choose the right Michigan medical malpractice lawyer for your case, you have the best chance of winning justice, holding the responsible parties accountable, and recovering damages.
- http://www.ncsl.org/research/financial-services-and-commerce/medical-liability-medical-malpractice-laws.aspx - AL