Medical malpractice laws in Wisconsin are complicated and difficult for patients to understand, which is one important reason that those who have been harmed by a medical mistake need to rely on the advice of a Wisconsin medical malpractice lawyer. These professionals are dedicated to helping patients seek justice and attempt to recover damages for the harm caused to them.
Some of the laws that have been enacted in Wisconsin have been restrictive to patients and have also reduced the overall number of malpractice lawsuits filed in the state. The number of cases brought has dropped significantly, from 294 in 1999 to just 84 in 2014. These restrictive laws make it even more crucial for patients to be guided by experts in these laws, the state’s medical malpractice lawyers.
Wisconsin Medical Malpractice Laws
It is crucial that patients in Wisconsin rely on experienced malpractice lawyers to help guide them if something goes wrong and they want to seek justice. However, it is also important for patients to be empowered by understanding at least some of the basics of the state’s laws. These include a statute of limitations that restricts patients to filing a lawsuit within three years of a negligent act or from the time it was discovered. No lawsuit can be filed more than five years after the negligence occurred, unless the issue was a foreign object left in the patient’s body.
Unlike many other states, Wisconsin does not have a certificate of merit requirement as a prerequisite for filing a lawsuit. It does, however, have another restrictive law that critics say is even more of a violation of a person’s right to a fair trial. In Wisconsin, only the spouse or minor children of the victim of a wrongful death can file a lawsuit to sue those responsible. That means a parent cannot recover damages for a lost child and adult children cannot sue for a lost parent.
Wisconsin Damages Cap Ruled Unconstitutional
Wisconsin is not unusual in capping the damages that a plaintiff can recover for non-economic factors. Many states have capped damages for things like pain and suffering or disfigurement, but not for economic costs like medical bills. The purpose of the cap is to reduce the costs of lawsuits, malpractice insurance, and healthcare overall.
But, critics of these caps say that they limit a patient’s rights to a fair trial and that they arbitrarily set limits that punish the victims hardest hit by negligence. In Wisconsin First District Court of Appeals agreed with the critics and recently ruled the damages cap unconstitutional. At the time of the ruling in 2017 the cap was set at $750,000. The cap restricted some patients from being able to file a lawsuit at all because many malpractice lawyers were forced to turn them away. With the amount of money and time that has to be put into a case, the damages award is not enough for many lawyers to earn a living.
Wisconsin Medical Malpractice Cases
The case that brought the damages cap to the Wisconsin First District Court of Appeals involved a tragic incident in which a patient lost all four of her limbs. The woman, a mother of four, suffered from a Strep A infection in 2011. Her doctors failed to detect the infection and it worsened until it turned into potentially-fatal septic shock. The resulting damage from the infection meant she had to have all her limbs amputated to save her life.
In a jury trial the woman was awarded $25.3 million, including $16.5 million for pain and suffering for her and her husband. With a cap of $750,000 the defendants asked the court to reduce her damages award accordingly. She and her legal team fought back against the cap and the case went to the Appeals Court where the judge decided the cap was not constitutional and that the victim and her husband could collect the full jury award. A big part of the problem with the cap, according to the judge, is that it reduces jury awards for the most severely injured patients, while allowing for full awards for those who are more mildly injured. The defendants are appealing and the case is set to go to the state Supreme Court.
Another recent case in Wisconsin highlights the importance of having a good malpractice lawyer on your side. These cases can often go on for years, with defendants appealing and fighting back against decisions that go in favor of plaintiffs. In the case of a man who fell after having surgery, the jury found comparative negligence of 40 percent attributable to the patient and 60 percent to the defendant.
The man had been given a sedative and undergone a procedure. After, the nurse helped him to the bathroom and told him to call her when he was ready for help getting back. He felt a pain, jumped up and hit his head, and then fell again trying to make his way back to the bed unaided. The jury decided he was partially to blame but still assigned him damages for the fact that he was left alone. After an appeal, a jury found the man to be only 25 percent to blame and awarded him even more damages. The defendants appealed again, but were denied.
Looking for a Wisconsin Medical Malpractice Lawyer
Not only are laws regarding malpractice complicated, and defendants working with big insurance company legal teams, but cases like these can go on for appeal after appeal. Without a Wisconsin lawyer who specifically works on malpractice cases on your side, you can quickly lose out in the legal system, even if you have a genuine case with real merit.
It is essential that you choose a lawyer, not only whom you trust, but who has the specific experiences needed to win a malpractice case. Try starting with the state bar association to find an attorney in good standing who only takes on medical malpractice cases. You need this specialized knowledge on your side. As you make your final choice, find out important details like how many cases he or she has tried, settlements and awards won, and what previous clients think about their experiences. When you take some time to make a good legal choice, you will have the best possible odds of winning against the negligent medical professionals.