Wyoming ranks high among states for the number of medical malpractice lawsuits filed, although the overall payouts to plaintiffs are generally low. The state faced a crisis in malpractice cases and costs in the 1970s and instituted laws that made it more difficult for harmed patients to begin lawsuits against the medical professionals they held responsible.
Because of these stricter laws, and because the laws can be difficult to understand and tend to favor defendants, patients in the state need to depend on Wyoming medical malpractice lawyers. These professionals have studied the laws, kept up to date on changes and reforms, and have experience in settling and trying cases of medical malpractice. They have the expertise and experience to help victims of medical negligence see results from their lawsuits.
Medical Malpractice Laws in Wyoming
Wyoming medical malpractice lawyers are crucial in helping patients understand the laws in the state and how they may apply to their individual situations. Even with this expert guidance, it is helpful for patients to have some understanding of the laws that most impact them, like the statute of limitations. This law limits the time a plaintiff has to file a lawsuit to two years after the time the negligence occurred or two years from when it was discovered, as long as it can be shown that the negligence couldn’t have been discovered sooner. The law also states that if the discovery is made in the second year after the negligence, the tme limit can be extended another six months.
Another important law, or lack of a law in this case, is regarding damages caps. Victims of medical malpractice can seek to recover economic and non-economic damages. These cover actual costs, like medical bills, and intangible costs like those of pain and suffering. Most states put a cap on non-economic damages to limit the costs of court cases and malpractice insurance. Wyoming has no limits on any type of damages. This means the malpractice lawyers in Wyoming can help their clients seek any fair amount of damages to recover.
Wyoming’s Medical Review Panel
Another important, and controversial, malpractice law in Wyoming is the requirement that plaintiffs go through a medical review panel before being able to file a lawsuit. This is not uncommon in states but it is controversial because critics see it as a barrier to victims getting full access to a fair trial. The first step plaintiffs must take is to file a claim with the state’s review panel.
The claim has to include a full description of the alleged malpractice, names of all physicians involved, those being named as defendants, and authorization for the panel to access the patient’s medical records. If none of the defendants answer the claim within 60 days, the plaintiff may file a suit. If they do answer, the plaintiff then has 60 days to file a statement from a qualified expert that says the case has merit and the opinion that negligence occurred.
The review panel goes over all the evidence and the signed statement and comes up with an opinion. The decision of the panel is not binding, but it can be used in court as evidence. There are a couple of instances in which the review panel can be skipped. These include in cases when both parties agree to waive it or when both parties have decided upon arbitration.
Wyoming Medical Malpractice Cases
To have a case that is successful in the state it is important to rely on a Wyoming medical malpractice lawyer. These professionals know the laws well and work hard to ensure the best possible outcomes for their clients. They will even push past dismissals and appeal to make sure that patients who were harmed get access to a fair trial and a chance at winning justice and recovering damages.
In one example of this, a legal team was able to fight back against the state’s strict statute of limitations on malpractice cases. In 1976 Wyoming passed a law that limited all cases to two years either from the negligent act or when it was reasonably discovered, but left no exception for minors. The case that challenged this was filed on behalf of a boy whose surgical complications for a simple appendectomy required more surgeries.
His parents filed the lawsuit in 2011, four years after the surgery and well past the statute of limitations. One court dismissed the case on those grounds, but the family’s legal team kept fighting for the boy’s rights, taking it all the way to the Wyoming Supreme Court. The court found in favor of the boy and ruled the limit on minors unconstitutional. The court agreed that it was unfair to children who rely on their parents to know when to file a lawsuit. The court stated that children should have within three years of the age of majority, or until the age of 21, to file.
Another, more tragic case demonstrates how important a good malpractice lawyer is for helping victims get justice and compensation for harm caused by medical professionals. The plaintiff in this case was the widow of a man who died after care at Geisinger Wyoming Valley and Clinic. The case didn’t go to trial but was settled between lawyers. Because of this, not many details were released about what happened, but the widow and her lawyers were able to get the medical centers to agree to a payout of $4.5 million for the man’s death.
Another recent case against Geisinger also ended in a settlement, highlighting the varied roles that malpractice lawyers can play, either arguing a case in court or recovering damages in a settlement agreement. In this case from April 2018 the victim was just a baby. He died after suffering from intestinal issues that turned into septic shock. The medical staff failed to diagnose his condition in time. The family was able to get $6.5 million in compensation for their tragic loss.
Working with a Wyoming Medical Malpractice Lawyer
If the worst happens, and you or a loved one is irreparably harmed by a medical mistake, you need to rely on a Wyoming medical malpractice lawyer to help you navigate the state’s medical negligence laws. The laws are complex and are not always in favor of victims. Look for a lawyer in the state who not only focuses on malpractice cases but who has a positive track record of helping patients and winning cases and settlements.
You can start with a referral from a previous client or you can turn to the state bar association to find a lawyer you trust and feel you can work with well. Be sure to be open with the lawyer you choose. He or she can only do the best work for you if they have all the information, no matter how uncomfortable it may be. When you do choose a lawyer, you may be working with that person for years, so be sure you have someone on your side who you know has your best interests in mind and will continue to fight for you over the long haul.