Minnesota ranks low among states for the overall number of malpractice cases filed each year and also for the total payout amounts awarded. In 2015 the state ranked 34th for number of lawsuits, with just 18 per 100,000 residents. The total payout that year was just $48 million. Experts agree that the laws in Minnesota are a big factor in keeping malpractice cases minimal.
Those laws can be very complicated, and it is important that patients in the state who have been harmed by medical errors rely on Minnesota medical malpractice lawyers for guidance. These experts have a deep understanding of the law and are able to advise their clients based on that knowledge and experiences with previous cases.
Minnesota Medical Malpractice Laws
It is important for patients in Minnesota to understand some of the basic components of malpractice laws in the state. Laws regarding damages that can be recovered and limits on when lawsuits can be filed are especially important to be aware of because they impact how, when, and if a patient files a lawsuit. While relying on Minnesota medical malpractice lawyers is essential, it is also smart to know some of the laws.
The statute of limitations puts a time limit on when patients can file lawsuits, if at all. In Minnesota, a malpractice lawsuit cannot be filed more than four years after the negligence occurred. If the patient is a minor the limit is extended to the age of majority, but a lawsuit cannot be filed more than seven years after the negligent act.
Many states cap the damages that a patient can recover in a malpractice case. These states cap the non-economic damages, for factors such as pain and suffering, in order to lower court costs and healthcare costs. Minnesota is unusual in that it does not cap these damages. Patients and their lawyers are free to seek as much in recovering damages as they believe to be warranted.
Minnesota also has a law that requires patients to file a certificate of merit before a lawsuit for malpractice can proceed. This is a law that many other states have begun to institute, but that Minnesota has had since 1986. It is designed to reduce frivolous lawsuits by requiring that patients or their lawyers find a qualified medical expert to review the evidence and agree in a written statement that the case has merit. The expert has to agree that there is a good chance the defendant was negligent and that the patient did not receive the acceptable standard of care.
Loss of Chances of Survival
A case form 2013 that involved a young girl with a rare type of cancer has helped to shape and change Minnesota malpractice laws. The girl developed a lump when she was just two weeks old and was ultimately diagnosed with a rare and aggressive cancer. Initially, though, doctors failed to diagnose the cancer. Her parents sued, but the case was thrown out. The judge found that the malpractice claim was based on the girl’s reduced chance of survival because of not being diagnosed, a claim that is not allowed in the state.
The parents appealed and the case has gone all the way to the Minnesota Supreme Court, which ruled that the parents can sue. This sets a precedent that allows patients to sue for a loss of chance of survival based on timely medical treatment. Previously a lawsuit like this could only proceed if survival was improbable, or less than 50 percent. Those who oppose the ruling say that it will increase medical malpractice lawsuits, but victim advocates say it gives patients the important right to sue in more cases.
Medical Malpractice Cases in Minnesota
With no caps on non-economic damages in the state, Minnesota medical malpractice lawyers are free to seek high recovery amounts for their clients who have suffered because of medical errors. As a result, there are many high-profile cases that have ended in big awards for victims. This was the case in a lawsuit that ended in 2017 with a $20 million jury award for a man who lost his wife to medical errors.
The woman died just a week after giving birth in 2013. She had been discharged from Abbott Northwestern Hospital but returned days later with symptoms including nausea and a fever. A nurse practitioner ignored test results that made it clear she was suffering from a serious infection known as sepsis. She was sent home again, but returned just 12 hours later and died. The family won $20 million for negligence, the largest such award in the state for wrongful death.
Another case was similarly tragic and came after a teenager died following dental treatment. The family filed a lawsuit in 2015 after the girl had surgery to remove her wisdom teeth. The dentist was accused of having administered anesthesia incorrectly and of failing to monitor the girl during the procedure, which resulted in her death from cardiac arrest. The family won $2 million in the case they filed.
Working with a Minnesota Medical Malpractice Lawyer
Victims of medical negligence in the state need to be able to find and work with experienced malpractice lawyers in order to make their cases in the court system. If you have suffered from a medical error, be sure you find a lawyer in the state who truly specializes only in medical malpractice, or possibly even more specifically in one or more types of medical malpractice.
To be sure you are selecting the best lawyer for the job, ask a lot of questions. Find out about specific experiences with negotiating settlements, taking cases to trial, and the outcomes of these previous cases. You have a right to ask these questions, and even to get references from previous clients, and a good lawyer who has your best interests in mind won’t mind sharing information like this.
When you choose the right Minnesota malpractice lawyer to work on your case, you have a better chance of getting the positive result you need. You have a better chance of getting the justice you deserve and of recovering a fair amount of damages for expenses and suffering.