The state of Washington has many laws in place that govern how medical malpractice cases can be started and how and when they can proceed. These laws have been reformed and changed many times over the years, and this can make it very difficult for patients to understand their rights and limitations when they are victims of medical negligence. The laws often favor defendants and doctors over patients who have been harmed.
For these reasons, it is important that patients in the state are able to rely on the advice and expertise of Washington medical malpractice lawyers. These experts have an extensive understanding of the laws regarding malpractice cases, and they only focus on these kinds of lawsuits. They advocate for patients in the state and help those who have been harmed by mistakes that could and should have been prevented with a better standard of medical care.
Washington Medical Malpractice Laws
As in many other states Washington began to see a spike in malpractice cases and awards to plaintiffs in the 1970s and responded by reforming the laws. Washington’s reforms included instituting a statute of limitations and better defining negligence and informed consent. The state again reformed the laws in the 1980s, 1990s, and finally in 2006 and instituted laws that restricted the rights of patients further. This was done in an effort to lower the costs of medical malpractice insurance and healthcare, but critics believe many of the laws harm patients.
The laws can be difficult to understand, especially with so many changes being made. This is why it is crucial that patients rely on Washington medical malpractice lawyers to guide them and to advise them on what steps to take. It is also important for patients to know what their rights are in malpractice cases and how the laws may limit them.
For instance, in Washington there is a statute of limitations that requires a patient file a lawsuit within three years of the occurrence of negligence, or within one year of discovering the negligence, as long as it is no more than eight years from the incident. Exceptions are for cases of fraud or an object being left inside a patient’s body. Minors are also exempted and have until one year from their 18th birthday.
Also important for patients to be aware of is the fact that there is no cap on damages in Washington. Many states have limited the amount of money patients can be awarded for non-economic factors like pain, suffering, or disfigurement. Washington law put a cap on this in 1988, but in 1989 the state Supreme Court ruled it unconstitutional. This is one aspect of the law that is more in favor of plaintiffs and allows lawyers to seek any amount of damages for their clients.
Mediation in Washington
The state of Washington requires that plaintiffs and defendants engage in mediation before a lawsuit and trial can begin. This is supposed to help more cases be settled before going through a costly court trial and allows for an extension of the statute of limitations in the event the mediation is not successful. Going through mediation does not restrict a plaintiff from going on to file a lawsuit and getting access to a jury trial.
Medical Malpractice Cases in Washington
Washington medical malpractice lawyers fight hard on the side of victims of negligence. With their understanding of the laws and experience in settlements and in court, these lawyers often get positive outcomes for their clients. One example of this occurred in 2013 when a plaintiff won $813,000 in new trial after a previous trial had been dismissed.
The patient was a woman who had pneumonia but was diagnosed with terminal cancer. As a result of treatments she didn’t need, she suffered damage that required one foot to be amputated. The jury agreed that the doctor was negligent, but the initial trial was thrown out because several jurors had made racist comments about the plaintiff’s malpractice lawyer. Fortunately in the next trial the jury also agreed and awarded the woman an amount to recover economic damages.
Another example of a case that was successful for the plaintiff resulted in an even bigger jury award of $1.2 million. The plaintiff, a woman aged 42, had surgery for scoliosis performed at Cascade Neurological Associates in 2011. The surgery left her spine in an abnormal position and resulted in severe pain. She and her lawyer alleged that she did not get adequate care during surgery and that follow up care was also insufficient.
The woman struggled with pain for three years after the surgery, although the surgery was supposed to help reduce pain. The damage caused by the surgery was finally corrected with additional surgery in 2014. Her award as a result of the malpractice lawsuit included $1 million for non-economic damages, and just over $200,000 to cover medical bills.
Working with a Washington Medical Malpractice Lawyer
If you have suffered harm, injury, or pain from a medical mistake, you may be able to prove that negligence caused it, and you may be entitled to recover damages for medical costs, lost wages, or pain and suffering. But, to have a chance of succeeding at a malpractice lawsuit, you need the expertise and the experience of a Washington medical malpractice lawyer. Don’t settle for a lawyer who works in other areas of the law; you need a specialist.
To find a lawyer who only takes malpractice cases, you can do an online search, get a referral from someone you trust, or contact Washington’s bar association. Once you have a list of potential representation, make your choice based on several factors: experience with malpractice cases, outcomes from past cases, and references from previous clients.
You should also select someone you feel comfortable with, as you may be working with this lawyer for years. Malpractice cases can take a long time to be resolved, so choose a lawyer who you feel will stick it out with you for the long haul, making sure you have the best possible chance of getting justice for the harm caused to you and of recovering damages.