In 2020, 42% of physicians acknowledged that they were suffering from burnout as the result of unresolved stress related to their job. That means a significant number of those who the rest of us rely on to deliver quality care did not want to show up for work that day. Most people experience burnout, but most are not prescribing medication, diagnosing illness, and performing surgery.
Statistics are readily available about the cost of malpractice claims to physicians and the companies that insure them. However, you hear little about the often devastating cost their patients incur when they are negligent.
If you have suffered injuries as the result of medical malpractice by a healthcare provider, you may be able to hold them legally accountable for the damages you have incurred as a result. If your spouse or loved one no longer has the mental capacity to file a claim, you may be able to do it for them.
At The Thomas Law Firm, PLLC, I represent victims of medical malpractice and their families in North Chesterfield, Richmond, Petersburg, and Henrico, Virginia. I treat my clients with compassion and those whose negligence caused their injuries with aggressive persistence. I hope victims hold negligent healthcare providers accountable.
Virginia law defines medical malpractice as:
[A]ny tort action or breach of contract action for personal injuries or wrongful death, based on health care or professional services rendered, or which should have been rendered, by a healthcare provider, to a patient.
Note that medical malpractice includes both actions the provider took as well as those they should have but did not. Prescribing the wrong medication, leaving foreign objects inside a surgical patient, missing a diagnosis or diagnosing the wrong one, ignoring a patient’s medical history, or failing to provide the necessary and appropriate care during treatment are all examples of malpractice.
The time allowed to settle a claim or file a lawsuit, called the “statute of limitations,” is two years from the date of the injury. In many states, the clock does not begin ticking until the injury is discovered, which could be much later than when the injury occurred. After all, not all injuries are immediately apparent. There are exceptions under Virginia law in cases when an object was left in a patient during surgery or when there was an intentional effort to delay discovery.
Virginia also has a “statute of repose,” which prohibits any claim if 10 years have passed since the incident that caused the injury. Exceptions to this time limit exist if the patient was a minor or legally incapacitated.
The two-year clock stops ticking upon expiration of time, settlement of a claim, or when a lawsuit is filed in court.
Of course, doctors can be sued for medical malpractice, but they are not the only healthcare providers who are required to deliver a duty of care. Nurses, pharmacists, therapists, and other professionals, as well as the hospitals, clinics, nursing homes, and other institutions that employ them, can also be sued.
Virginia requires the testimony of a medical expert for every medical malpractice case filed in the courts. The expert must bear the proper credentials and offer sworn testimony that a standard of care exists and how the healthcare provider violated that standard.
Medical malpractice claims must include evidence of the following:
The existence of the provider-patient relationship
The provider violated the standard of care and was therefore negligent
The negligence caused injuries to the patient
The patient suffered damages as the result of those injuries
There are special, general, and punitive damages under Virginia law.
Special damages are economic damages easily quantified, such as the cost of medical treatment and lost wages.
General damages are non-economic harms including pain and suffering, loss of life’s enjoyment, loss of consortium, and reduced future earning capacity.
Special and general damages in medical malpractice cases are currently capped at $2.5 million for July 1, 2021 through June 30, 2022. This amount will increase by $50,000 each year.
Punitive damages are intended to punish the defendant and discourage such behavior in the future and can be awarded in cases in which the negligence is wanton, willful, and reckless. These damages are limited to $350,000.
Medical malpractice claims in Virginia face significant challenges, from proving breach of the standard of care, through quantifying damages to presenting a case in court. These cases are expensive and take time to litigate. For people harmed by negligent healthcare providers, the investment is worth being able to pay off or be reimbursed for medical expenses, repay lost income and advance future earning potential.
No healthcare provider wants to admit to making mistakes, and their insurers are loath to pay expensive claims and judgments. They will aggressively fight victim claims with their own medical experts and attorneys. Put an attorney of your own on your side to pursue the outcome you deserve.
At The Thomas Law Firm, PLLC, I work on behalf of individuals and families as they seek justice. My justice is to recover fair compensation for what my clients have endured when those they trusted with their health fail their duty of care. If you’re in North Chesterfield, Henrico, Richmond, or Petersburg, Virginia, call today to schedule a free consultation.