Utah has one of the lowest numbers of malpractice suits filed in any state, and saw just 15 cases per 100,000 people in 2015. The laws in the state tend to favor medical professionals, which may be why the total payout to victims in those cases was just $16.4 million, a significant drop from the previous year.
Because the laws can be complicated, difficult to understand, and don’t favor patients, it is important for victims of negligence to consult with a Utah medical malpractice lawyer before attempting to file a lawsuit. Long before trying to prove negligence and harm in a trial, there are multiple hoops to jump through, and a victim needs an experienced, knowledgeable professional for guidance and advice.
Utah Medical Malpractice Laws
Every state has its own malpractice laws and they can be complex and confusing to anyone without a law degree. Navigating the system is complicated enough that it really requires a professional who specializes only in this type of law. Even with a Utah medical malpractice lawyer on your side, in the event that you have been harmed by medical negligence, you need to understand some of the basic rights you have in the state.
For instance, you have a right to file a lawsuit, but you also are limited as to when you can do so. The statute of limitations on medical malpractice lawsuits in Utah is two years from the time when a patient could have reasonably discovered that negligence occurred. There may be some exceptions, but the state also has a statute of repose that states no case can be filed more than four years from the time the negligence actually occurred. The only exceptions to this final limit are when a medical professional was fraudulent or left a foreign object inside a patient’s body.
Also important for patients to understand is the cap that the state laws place on the amount of damages that can be recovered in a medical malpractice lawsuit. Utah caps non-economic damages only, those costs related to intangible factors like pain and suffering. The cap is $450,000, which was set in place for all cases that began after May 15, 2010. In some states a cap like this has been found unconstitutional, but it still stands in Utah.
Pre-Lawsuit Requirements in Utah
The damages cap is controversial, and it has been challenged in many states, but it is not the only type of malpractice law that patient advocates believe favor doctors and harm patients. Utah also has a couple of requirements for patients wanting to file a medical malpractice lawsuit. These have to be met before the case can be filed, and critics say that this limits a person’s right to have a fair trial because it sets up unreasonable barriers.
The first such requirement in Utah is that a patient must first send a notice of intent to each medical professional being named in the case. This has to occur at least 90 days before starting the lawsuit and must include specific information about the alleged negligence and how it harmed the patient. Within 60 days of starting the lawsuit the patient also has to officially request a pre-litigation panel review.
The panel review looks at the evidence and patient medical records to decide if the case has merit. If it does, then the lawsuit can begin. Alternatively the patient can file an affidavit of merit, a statement from a qualified medical expert that the case has merit. This can be used to start the lawsuit if the panel rules that the case does not have merit. These hurdles can be difficult to get over and tough for patients to understand, making it more important than ever to rely on a Utah medical malpractice lawyer to wade through all the steps.
Medical Malpractice Cases in Utah
Utah medical malpractice lawyers work hard to win positive outcomes for patients who are victims of medical negligence. Their expertise and experience in settlement agreements and trials makes them the best advocates for patients. Some of the cases these lawyers have won in Utah are sad and tragic, such as a case in which a veteran died because of inadequate care at a VA hospital in Salt Lake City.
The young man injured his back and was medically discharged from the army. In 2010 he died after having back surgery at the VA medical center. According to the man’s parents who filed the lawsuit, he was discharged too soon and was not given care that meets the required standard for the medical profession. The parents requested non-economic damages, challenging the state’s cap, but the lawsuit was never completed. The lawyers for the plaintiffs were able to settle with the VA out of court for an unspecified amount.
In another case in Utah a plaintiff successfully sued a surgeon and won $167,000 in damages. The surgeon was performing a gallbladder removal and severed the wrong duct. This led to more surgeries and continuing medical issues. The man’s lawyer argued for negligence and that the standard of care was breached and the jury agreed, granting the monetary award.
It isn’t always doctors who are negligent in malpractice cases. In another lawsuit involving a Utah patient, a nurse practitioner was found guilty of negligence in prescribing medications. The patient was given steroids, antidepressants, and other drugs, and later shot and killed his wife. A guardian for the children sued the clinic, the nurse practitioner, and the supervising doctor, but only the nurse practitioner was found to be negligent and settled with the family.
Choosing a Utah Medical Malpractice Lawyer
If you have suffered because of a medical error in Utah, you need a medical malpractice lawyer on your side, fighting for your right to seek justice, hold medical professionals accountable, and recover damages for the costs incurred. Going through the process of filing and proceeding with a medical malpractice lawsuit is complicated and long. You need the right lawyer on your side to help you through the process.
Start by narrowing your search down to only those lawyers in the state who focus solely on medical malpractice law. You can contact the state bar association to get a list of qualified lawyers and then narrow the list down further by asking the right questions. Ask about specific experiences both in settlements and trials, what the outcomes of these cases were, and whether or not previous clients were satisfied with the results. When you take a little bit of time to select the right lawyer you will have a better chance of working with someone who can get you the justice you deserve.
- http://www.ncsl.org/research/financial-services-and-commerce/medical-liability-medical-malpractice-laws.aspx - AL