Over the last decade, Mississippi has seen a drastic decrease in medical malpractice lawsuits. The state now ranks just 35th out of all 50 states after seeing a steady rise in filed malpractice suits up until tort reform passed into law in 2003. In 2015 there were just 17 medical malpractice cases per 100,000 residents and a total payout to plaintiffs of $17.1 million.
The changes to the laws that occurred in 2003 likely made it more difficult for plaintiffs to file lawsuits and to recover damages of any significant amount. This is why it is more important than ever for patients in the state to rely on the expertise and experience of Mississippi medical malpractice lawyers. These professionals know the law well enough to lead their clients through the system with the best chance of a good outcome.
Statute of Limitations and Damages Cap
In Mississippi the state legislature is responsible for setting laws regarding medical malpractice cases. These laws are different from those in others states, and this is why medical malpractice lawyers are available to help patients who have been victims of medical mistakes navigate the system. Even with a good lawyer by your side, you should understand some of the basic malpractice laws that impact your ability to file a lawsuit and recover the damages you need.
One of these laws is the statute of limitations, which limits the amount of time a patient has to file a lawsuit. In Mississippi you have two years from the time the error occurred or from when the mistake should reasonably have been discovered. Patients relying on this discovery rule must prove that they should not have been able to discover the negligence earlier. Even with the discovery rule, a suit cannot be filed more than seven years after the negligent incident. The only exceptions are when the medical professional used fraud to conceal the negligence or a foreign object was left in the patient.
One of the major reforms that the state made to malpractice law in 2003 was to place a cap on non-economic damages. These are the damages related to pain and suffering, not to actual expenses. The cap was initially set at $500,000, but increased to $750,000 for 2011 and $1 million in 2017. These caps limit how much a malpractice lawyer can seek for a client in total, but there is no limit on economic damages, including lost wages, lost future earnings, and current and future medical expenses.
Tort Reform in Mississippi Reduced Malpractice Lawsuits
The laws that were passed in 2003 to reform medical malpractice in the state had the effect of significantly reducing the number of lawsuits filed in the state. This was the goal, and to also reduce the costs of malpractice insurance and healthcare. Critics of these kinds of reforms, though, believe that they place too great a burden on many victims of negligence who cannot file a lawsuit as a result of the changes.
The cap on non-economic damages was one reform, but there were other important changes that placed a hurdle in front of patients and their lawyers in filing lawsuits against negligent medical professionals. One of these is a notice that must be filed by the medical malpractice lawyer before a suit can be filed. It must be sent to defendants at least 60 days before the filing and must contain detailed information about the complaint.
The tort reform also instated a requirement for a certificate of merit. The notification of a complaint must be sent along with this certificate that proves the case has merit. It has to show that the malpractice lawyer consulted with at least one qualified medical expert who agrees that negligence may have occurred. There are some exceptions to this requirement, but generally it places an additional burden on patients and their legal teams.
The reforms also included a new requirement that plaintiffs must file their malpractice lawsuits in the same county where the negligence occurred. This is another burden on plaintiffs and their ability to file lawsuits before the statute of limitations runs out because it limits options. The plaintiff must work with a lawyer willing to work in one particular county.
Medical Malpractice Cases in Mississippi
Mississippi medical malpractice lawyers work every day to help victims of medical errors work within these laws to seek justice and to recover damages. There are many examples of cases that are won by the plaintiff. For example, a man in Natchez underwent knee replacement surgery and suffered pain and damage because the surgeon used a screw that was too long. It scraped and inflamed tissue in the joint. The man’s medical malpractice lawyers won him a jury award of $511,000.
In another case a teenager went to the emergency room with a skin rash. The doctor there prescribed him a medication that caused serious burns all over the boy’s body. In the resulting lawsuit the doctor admitted to breaching the standard of care because he did not inform the boy or his mother of the risks of using the medication. The jury awarded the boy $1.5 million in economic damages and $2 million in non-economic damages for disfigurement and pain and suffering. The latter had to be reduced because of the damages cap.
Working with a Mississippi Medical Malpractice Lawyer
If you find yourself in the terrible position of having been harmed because of medical negligence, you may benefit from working with a medical malpractice lawyer in the state. It is important to find the right lawyer for your needs, which means finding someone who specializes only in malpractice law and cases. Make sure that you find a lawyer in good standing in the state and who has experience both in settling these cases and taking them to trial.
When you do find the lawyer you want to work with, it is important that you share all the information you have that could be relevant to the case. This means telling your lawyer about every detail of the incident and providing all the medical records you have. By being open with your lawyer, and by finding an expert in malpractice law, you ensure that you have the best chance of a good outcome from a terrible situation.