Vermont ranks 20th out of the 50 states for the number of medical malpractice cases filed on a yearly basis. It sat at number 20 in 2015 when there were 23 lawsuits filed per 100,000 state residents. The cases filed that year resulted in $5.3 million in total payouts, a small number in spite of the fact that Vermont does not cap damages that patients can recover.
The issue of damages is just one that is addressed by multiple medical malpractice laws that can be confusing for patients to understand, especially those suffering because of negligence. Patients should be aware of their rights and of the laws, but they should also be prepared to rely on the expertise of Vermont medical malpractice lawyers to help guide them through the process of filing a lawsuit and seeking justice.
Medical Malpractice Laws in Vermont
The laws that govern malpractice cases and how and when they can be filed and may proceed vary by state. Each state is responsible for setting its own laws for this purpose, and those laws can be difficult to navigate and to understand. Patients need to have a basic understanding of the laws so that they know what their rights are in the even they are harmed by a negligent act. This is important even with the advice and guidance of a good malpractice lawyer.
An important law to understand so that patients don’t miss out on the chance to file a lawsuit is the statute of limitations. This is the time limit placed on when a lawsuit can be filed. In Vermont it is set at three years from the time of the negligent act or two years from when the patient discovered it. In the latter case the patient and his or her lawyer have to prove that the mistake could not have been discovered any earlier by reasonable means.
There may be some cases that are allowed to be filed past the statute of limitations, but even for these exceptions there is a final limit of seven years past the time of the negligent act. The only situation in which there can be an exemption is when a person discovers that a foreign object has been left inside the body. This discovery may occur many years after the incident.
Another law that patients need to understand is the requirement of a certificate of merit. The initial complaint that is filed has to be accompanied by this certificate, which is a way of weeding out cases that have no merit or are frivolous. The certificate of merit must show that a qualified expert reviewed the evidence and determined that it is likely the standard of care was breached, which caused harm to the patient. This requirement can be waived in some cases, such as when the evidence overwhelmingly shows the defendant was negligent.
No Damages Cap in Vermont
Plaintiffs in medical malpractice cases may recover damages to compensate them for the harm they suffered. Damages may be economic, calculated to cover actual costs like medical bills and future expenses, such as lost wages or earning potential and ongoing care. Lawyers for harmed patients can also seek non-economic damages, which cover things that don’t have a fixed cost, like pain and suffering.
Many states cap the non-economic damages in an attempt to keep down the costs of trials and medical malpractice insurance. Vermont is one of the few states that has nog legislated a cap on any type of damages. This means that victims of negligence and their lawyers can pursue and potentially win any amount of non-economic damages depending on the severity and repercussions of the harm caused by the medical mistake.
Vermont Medical Malpractice Cases
Vermont medical malpractice lawyers fight hard on the side of victims in the state, making sure each patient has the best opportunity to win justice and recover damages. Payouts can sometimes be big when the lawyer is able to do his or her best for a patient, which was the case when a woman won $3.5 million from a surgeon and hospital.
The woman underwent surgery for a type of tibial fracture that put her at risk for compartment syndrome, a dangerous complication involving internal bleeding. A second surgery was scheduled for a few days later, and nurses noticed signs of compartment syndrome in the patient’s leg and foot. And yet there were no tests or interventions by a doctor or the surgeon. She ended up with permanently damaged nerves and muscles. There was no agreement in the case on actual negligence, but the defendants did agree to settle for the multi-million dollar award.
In another case the worst happened after alleged negligence and a 44-year-old man died. He was being treated in the emergency room at the University of Vermont Medical Center because of extruding spinal discs. He needed emergency surgery but the staff at the hospital also made a mistake with the use of a compression device to prevent blood clots. A clot formed and moved to his lungs, causing him to die from pulmonary embolism. The man’s family is suing the hospital with the assistance of a Vermont medical malpractice lawyer.
Finding a Vermont Medical Malpractice Lawyer
If you or a loved one has been hurt by a medical mistake that could have been prevented, you may be able to hold those responsible accountable and recover damages. But, to have the best chance of succeeding with a lawsuit, you need a Vermont medical malpractice lawyer. Don’t settle for a lawyer who practices general or other types of law; you need someone who only focuses on malpractice cases so that you get the expertise and deep knowledge of the law that these specialists have to offer.
You can find the right malpractice lawyer in the state by contacting the bar association or by getting a referral from someone you trust. If you have a few options, you should feel comfortable asking questions so that you can select the best lawyer for your needs. You can ask about past trials, experiences in settlement agreements, outcomes for previous clients, and anything else that will help you make the choice. Only by making a careful decision can you have the best chance of a positive outcome for your case.