Medical malpractice cases are important because they provide an opportunity for victims of medical mistakes to get justice and because they encourage better practices by medical professionals. But, it can be difficult for a patient in Washington D.C. or anywhere else to file these suits without professional guidance.
Washington D.C. medical malpractice lawyers are the experts and professionals who provide this guidance and help victims of medical negligence file suits against doctors, large medical facilities, and their insurance companies. They help patients and their families navigate the complex laws associated with malpractice cases and ensure that victims have the best possible chance of getting justice and recovering damages.
Medical Malpractice Law in the District of Columbia
Like the 50 states, D.C. has its own set of laws for regulating and guiding medical malpractice cases. The laws can be complicated and difficult to understand, especially in legal language. This is why it is crucial that you work with a Washington D.C. medical malpractice lawyer if you think you have a case in the city. Even with this expert on your side, it helps to understand the basics of malpractice law where you live.
Statute of limitations is a legal term that refers to the time you have to file a lawsuit. In the case of malpractice in D.C. this limit is set at three years from the time that the patient discovers that a mistake was made and resulted in harm or injury. For wrongful death cases, though, the statute of limitations is just one year from the time of death.
In D.C. a malpractice lawsuit filing must be preceded by a notice of intention. This document has to be sent to each defendant involved in the case at least 90 days before filing. It has to include information about what the patient is alleging, the injury or harm, and the extent of loss involved. The statute of limitations can be extended by 90 days to accommodate this notification requirement.
Unlike many states, D.C. does not have a cap on damages at all. Most states put a limit on non-economic damages, the compensation that a victim’s lawyer can win for factors that cannot be quantified, like pain and suffering or disfigurement. There are no economic or non-economic damages caps in D.C.
D.C. does have a law for malpractice cases regarding benevolent gestures. These are expressions of sympathy given by a doctor, hospital, or other medical provider to the harmed patient or patient’s family. These gestures are deemed inadmissible as evidence of negligence in D.C. malpractice cases. In other words, an apology or word of kindness for what happened to a patient is not considered an admission of guilt.
Medical Malpractice Cases in the District of Columbia
One location in D.C. that has faced more malpractice cases than other facilities is Howard University. The hospital at this historic university has had serious problems in the last decade or so, including layoffs, physicians leaving, sexual harassment lawsuits, and financial issues. The hospital has also faced a number of malpractice suits. Since 2006 there were 675 malpractice and wrongful death suits filed against six hospitals in the city. Howard had more death-related lawsuits per bed than any other hospital.
Howard has paid out $27 million in malpractice settlements since 2007, although the details for amounts in specific cases are often not made public. In one high profile case, a former New York Times reporter ended up at Howard’s emergency room after being mugged. He was left on a gurney, injured, for hours before being assessed and treated. He died two days later and his family filed a suit against the hospital.
In another case the family of a victim who died at the Howard hospital was awarded an undisclosed amount in a malpractice settlement. The woman had been discharged while still sick, wearing nothing but a hospital gown. She was put in a taxi by staff and ended up in the hospital again the next day. She collapsed and died in the lobby.
Another high-profile case in D.C. was a malpractice suit filed against the Major League Soccer club, D.C. United. It was filed by a player who claimed that the medical care he was given after suffering a concussion was negligent and responsible for ending his athletic career. His suit claimed that the coach and medical staff didn’t properly assess the injury he sustained during play and sent him back in to play too soon. He has since suffered brain damage and permanent symptoms like headaches and insomnia. His case is ongoing, but he is seeking $12 million with the assistance of his D.C. malpractice legal team.
Finding a Good Malpractice Lawyer in Washington D.C.
The laws relating to medical malpractice can be complicated and confusing. And defendants in these cases are backed up by large insurance companies with whole teams of lawyers who are experts in defending against lawsuits. They have a single goal of not paying victims of medical negligence or of paying as little as possible.
For these reasons it is important that if you believe you have suffered from medical errors caused by negligence that you find and work with an expert in malpractice law. There are plenty of Washington D.C. medical malpractice lawyers, but you should choose the one that you feel most comfortable working with and who you feel is on your side no matter what.
To do that, start with the basics. Make sure you find a lawyer in good standing with the bar association and who has genuine expertise in medical malpractice law in D.C. Then get into more specifics, like asking about actual experience with cases. Find out how many cases your lawyer has settled or gone to trial over, and how they ended. Ask for references from past clients too. A good lawyer will be happy to provide this information so you can make the best decision.
Filing a medical malpractice lawsuit can be daunting, overwhelming, and even frightening. Before you sign any agreement offered by your doctor, hospital, or their insurance company, consult with a D.C. malpractice lawyer. You may be entitled to much more than they are offering and you need legal experts to advocate on your behalf.