West Virginia has ranked high among states in recent years when it comes to the number of medical malpractice lawsuits filed by patients. It beats out many other states in numbers of cases but not in total payouts to victims, which is related to the complex laws governing such lawsuits in the state. These laws can be difficult for patients to understand and put them at a disadvantage against medical professionals and their insurance companies.
This is why patients in the state can and should rely on the advice and guidance of West Virginia medical malpractice lawyers. These experts are able to fight on behalf of harmed patients because they have focused on the study of malpractice laws and have experience in settlement agreements and trials. If you have been hurt and you believe a medical professional was at fault, find a great malpractice lawyer to help you get justice.
West Virginia’s Medical Malpractice Laws
West Virginia medical malpractice lawyers play an important role in guiding patients because they are experts in the complicated, state-specific laws that govern when, how, and if lawsuits against doctors and other medical professionals can be filed and can proceed. Even with the help of a good lawyer, patients should be aware of what the basics of the laws are and what their rights are for justice and recovering damages.
A statute of limitations, for instance, limits when a patient can file a lawsuit, if at all. In West Virginia patients have just two years from the time of negligence to file a lawsuit. Or, a patient has two years from the time he or she discovers the negligence, although in this case it is the burden of the plaintiff to prove that the error could not have been found out any earlier. It is possible that exceptions will be made, but the state has a statute of repose which states that no lawsuit can be filed more than ten years from the time of the negligence.
West Virginia also has a controversial damages cap, which limits how much a patient can recover for non-economic costs, such as pain, suffering, disfigurement, and similar types of harm. There is no limit on economic damages, the costs associated with lost earnings or medical bills. The cap ranges from $250,000 to $500,000 depending on the severity of the injury or harm. Critics believe this cap is arbitrary and harms those patients most severely injured by negligence.
Barriers to Filing a West Virginia Medical Malpractice Lawsuit
In an attempt to reduce frivolous lawsuits West Virginia law includes barriers to filing malpractice lawsuits. While proponents believe they help keep healthcare costs down, critics say they place unfair barriers in the way of patients getting access to a fair trial. The first is the requirement that plaintiffs send a notice to all defendants at least 30 days before filing. This must include an explanation of the case and a screening certificate of merit.
The screening certificate of merit can be a challenge to get for some plaintiffs. It is a signed statement from a qualified medical professional who has reviewed the evidence. The statement must say that the expert believes the case has merit and the opinion that the defendant did fail to provide care that was up to the accepted medical standard, which in turn caused harm to the patient.
West Virginia Medical Malpractice Cases
West Virginia medical malpractice lawyers put their expertise of the law to work for victims in the state who have suffered from medical negligence. The result is that there are many examples of cases in West Virginia that have gone in favor of the plaintiffs. One such case involved a doctor who was found by a jury to be negligent in the death of a patient because of a failure to take steps to avoid an allergic reaction to a medication.
The man’s attending physician knew that he had previously had a bad reaction to the antipsychotic drug Seroquel. A different doctor prescribed the medication while the man was being hospitalized for serious health issues that caused him to develop troubling symptoms like agitation and confusion. His attending physician signed off on using the medication in spite of what she knew about his allergic reaction. The man then developed heart rate problems and died in the hospital.
Two other physicians involved in the incident settled with the man’s family, but the attending physician was taken to trial. The jury found that she was guilty of failure to treat her patient in way that was reckless and dangerous. They awarded the family $500,000 in punitive damages and another $500,000 in compensatory damages.
Another case demonstrates what powerful allies medical malpractice lawyers can be for patients but also how limiting the state’s damages cap can be. In the case of a Bluefield woman seriously harmed by her doctor, the jury awarded her $5.8 million. Because of the cap she will likely only get a small portion of that award that the jury found to be just.
The woman underwent a thyroidectomy, and she and her lawyers made the case that the doctor who performed the surgery failed to take steps that would have prevented nerve damage. As a result of the damage she has vocal cord paralysis and had to have a permanent tracheotomy. The area must be washed several times a day, requires a breathing and suction machine, and causes her a lot of pain. Because of the non-economic damages cap, the woman will only receive between $630,000 and $650,000 for her pain and suffering.
Finding and Working with a West Virginia Medical Malpractice Lawyer
Cases like these are only successful because patients rely on expert malpractice lawyers. These lawyers have a deep understanding of the state laws and experience fighting on behalf of plaintiffs and against powerful insurance companies who want to avoid paying victims. This is why it is crucial to rely on a West Virginia medical malpractice lawyer if you have been harmed and you believe a preventable medical error played a role.
To find a great malpractice lawyer, be sure to narrow down your choices to only those who truly focus on malpractice law and no other types of law. You need a specialist for this very particular type of lawsuit. The state bar association is a good place to start, but also ask questions about experience, previous cases and clients, and the outcomes. Make sure you choose a lawyer who you ultimately feel good about working with, as this could be a years-long working relationship. When you do choose the right lawyer and are open about all the information your lawyer needs to know about the negligent incident and your health records, you have a good chance of a positive and successful outcome.