Medical malpractice cases in Oklahoma are numerous. In 2015, in fact, the state ranked second for most lawsuits filed with 36 cases per 100,000 people in Oklahoma. Those cases amounted to a total payout to plaintiffs of $32.5 million. Laws governing these lawsuits have changed in recent years as lawmakers attempt to reduce frivolous lawsuits and minimize the amount of damages awarded to victims.
If you have suffered in Oklahoma because of a doctor’s mistake, it is important to understand many of the complex laws in the state. It is even more important to hire the services of a professional, experienced Oklahoma medical malpractice lawyer who can guide your decisions as you seek justice. Only a lawyer who solely focuses on malpractice law can be your best advocate in these situations.
Medical Malpractice Laws in Oklahoma
If you have been injured or harmed because of a medical mistake, the process of filing a lawsuit can be daunting. You need a good lawyer with experience working on these kinds of cases to help you navigate the very complicated legal waters of medical malpractice. You should also, though, have some understanding of the laws so you know what your rights are and how you may be limited.
An important rule to understand is called the statute of limitations. This is the time limit past which a person cannot file a lawsuit for malpractice. In Oklahoma it is set at two years from the time a patient found out about the medical mistake, or should have discovered it. Minors under the age of 12 have seven years to bring a lawsuit against a defendant.
Oklahoma also has a damages cap, which is a limit on how much compensation a victim can get in a settlement or trial. Economic damages are not capped, and include specific costs such as lost wages and medical bills. Non-economic damages are capped at $350,000. This includes compensation for emotional suffering, pain, disfigurement, and similar harm that can’t be quantified monetarily. The cap can be raised in cases of wrongful death, gross negligence, fraud, malice or intent to cause harm, or reckless disregard for others.
There is also a law called comparative negligence in Oklahoma that can restrict a plaintiff’s ability to make a case for recovering damages. It states that a plaintiff cannot recover damages if his or her own negligence in the case is found to be more than that of the defendant. If the plaintiff is found to be partly to blame, but carries less than half the blame, damages can still be awarded but they may be diminished.
Affidavit of Merit Ruled Unconstitutional
One of the laws that the Oklahoma legislature passed as a way to reduce malpractice lawsuits required that a case be filed with an affidavit of merit. This is a statement that the lawyer has gotten the opinion of a qualified medial expert before filing the lawsuit. The expert’s opinion must be that, after reviewing the evidence, facts support the plaintiff’s claim of negligence and resulting harm.
This kind of law is controversial because critics believe that it limits the ability of a patient to file a lawsuit and therefore to get a fair trial and seek justice. The Oklahoma Supreme Court clearly agrees because it has struck down the law three times, in 2006, 2013, and most recently in 2017. The court has stated that the law is a costly and arbitrary barrier to access to the court system. The lawsuit that brought the issue to the highest court for the third time involved a man who had surgery that left him partly paralyzed and hospitalized for months. He filed his lawsuit without the affidavit and was dismissed. His lawyers appealed the way to the Supreme Court.
Medical Malpractice Cases in Oklahoma
Oklahoma medical malpractice lawyers work on behalf of victims of medical negligence. They work to get them justice, to hold doctors and hospitals accountable for their actions and mistakes, and to recover much-needed damages for their injured or sick clients. Often, thanks to the expertise of these lawyers, these cases turn out in favor of the plaintiffs.
In one such case a woman suffered because of miscommunications between doctors and nurses. She was diagnosed with breast cancer and was given an antibiotic that resulted in a serious type of colitis. She told her oncologist that she was taking a medication to treat it, and he ordered the staff not to start her chemotherapy until it was clear. The message was not documented and they went ahead with the chemotherapy. The woman suffered damage and had to have eight surgeries on her colon and had to have her cancer treatment delayed. She won $4.5 million from a jury.
Another case, involving multiple victims, has yet to be concluded. A doctor in Tulsa has had his medical license suspended as a result. Eight plastic surgery patients have accused her of negligence. In one case a woman died after undergoing liposuction, and her family is seeking $750,000 in damages. Although there are these cases outstanding, the plastic surgeon has already paid out a total of $1.3 million to other victims between 2011 and 2015 after their malpractice lawyers successfully proved she was negligent.
Working with an Oklahoma Medical Malpractice Lawyer
When you or someone you love suffers because of what you believe was a medical error, knowing what to do next can be challenging. To find out if you really have a case and to have expert guidance as you take the steps necessary to file a lawsuit in the state, you need to work with a dedicated Oklahoma medical malpractice lawyer. Only settle for a lawyer or legal team that handles just malpractice cases because these lawsuits require specialized knowledge and experience.
You can find a lawyer to work with through referrals from someone you trust. Or, you can contact the state bar association to find a lawyer in good standing with the right specialization and experience. When you have chosen your lawyer, be prepared to provide all your medical records and information and to answer all detailed questions, even some that may be very personal. Your legal team needs to know everything to be able to advocate for you. With a good working relationship with an expert in Oklahoma malpractice law, you have a good chance of a successful outcome.