According to the Medical Malpractice Center, anywhere from 80,000 to 100,000 Americans die each year due to a diagnostic error, and another 195,000 die due to mistakes made in hospitals. That equates to about 800 individuals dying each day from what most people would consider medical malpractice — making it the third leading cause of death in the U.S. Perhaps even more startling, one out of every three patients will be the victim of an error during a hospital stay.
If you believe you’ve suffered from a misdiagnosis or physician or hospital error in the greater St. Louis metro area, including Clayton, St. Charles, or Jefferson County, contact the Law Offices of Joe Phillips immediately for a free consultation. Since 1990, Attorney Joe Phillips has been helping countless individuals exercise their rights to receive just compensation for injuries and losses related to medical malpractice.
Regarding the definition of medical malpractice, the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services states: “The courts define malpractice as the failure of a professional person to act in accordance with the prevailing professional standards, or failure to foresee consequences that a professional person, having the necessary skills and education, should foresee.”
The website also notes that medical malpractice and negligence are similar accusations, but for medical malpractice to apply, the person or entity committing the negligence must be in the health care profession.
Missouri places a two-year statute of limitations on filing a medical malpractice lawsuit. The two-year clock starts ticking either from the date of the medical malpractice or from the date of its discovery (or the date when it should have been discovered). There is an overall cap of 10 years from the causative date. For minors injured before 18 years of age, the statute for filing runs out after age 20.
As for examples of medical malpractice, we’ve all seen in TV shows and movies where sponges and medical instruments are left inside a patient after surgery. But medical malpractice is much broader, encompassing all of the following:
Failure to diagnose or misdiagnosis
Misreading or ignoring laboratory results
Surgical errors or wrong-site surgery
Improper medication or dosage
Poor follow-up or aftercare
Premature discharge from the hospital
Disregarding or not taking appropriate patient history
Failure to order proper testing
Failure to recognize symptoms
While we popularly associate medical malpractice with individual doctors, anyone involved in the medical profession can be held liable if their negligence leads to adverse effects on a patient. The anesthesiologist is one prominent example, but anyone assisting in the operating room can make a mistake that leads to injury or even death. The hospital itself can also be held responsible for things like poor hiring decisions, lack of training and oversight, and ill-equipped facilities.
Missouri employs a special rule on “joint damages.” If more than one party is responsible for the malpractice and its results, all involved might be responsible for paying a share of the compensation awarded unless one party is found to be more than 50 percent at fault. In that case, the party with the majority blame can be held responsible for the entire claim.
Missouri also uses a pure comparative negligence standard, which allows the plaintiff to recover damages even if they are judged to be more than 50 percent at fault for their own accident or injury. Accordingly, the award may be reduced by their share of fault. For example, an award of $000,000 could become $50,000 if the plaintiff is found to be 50 percent at fault.
Winning a medical malpractice lawsuit is similar to winning a negligence lawsuit for, say, an injury resulting from a slip and fall in a restaurant — except that it takes place in a professional health care setting and involves a doctor-patient relationship. This means that the plaintiff – you, the victim – must show that:
The defendant owed the plaintiff a duty of care deriving from a professional medical relationship
The defendant breached that duty through negligence
The breach resulted in injury or adverse effects on the plaintiff
The plaintiff suffered harm as a result
Once you file a medical malpractice lawsuit, Missouri places a 90-day requirement for the plaintiff, or plaintiff’s attorney, to file what is called an Affidavit of Qualified Health Care Provider. This affidavit — affirmed by an expert in the field — must show that the defendant failed to provide the kind of care that a "reasonably prudent and careful health care provider would have under similar circumstances," and that this failure led to the alleged harm.
Recovery of direct medical expenses from an act of medical malpractice is theoretically unlimited dollar-wise. However, Missouri caps recovery for non-economic losses — such as pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment in life, loss of consortium, and more — at $400,000 regardless of how many parties are being sued. The cap can rise to $700,000 if there is “catastrophic personal injury” or wrongful death.
The overall cap previously had stood at $350,000 before the state Supreme Court ruled in 2012 that the cap violated a plaintiff’s constitutional right to a trial by jury. The cap was revised in 2015 as a result, but the new standard could just as easily be ruled unconstitutional should it ever reach the Supreme Court again.
If you’ve suffered because of what you perceive to be medical malpractice, you deserve to have the opportunity to hold the responsible party accountable. Proving professional negligence can be a tricky legal path to navigate. An experienced medical malpractice attorney can examine the details of your claim and present you with clear options.
For over 30 years, personal injury attorney Joe Phillips has been working with individuals and families who have been the victim of medical malpractice to help them pursue just compensation. If you or someone you know has been the victim of medical malpractice, don’t face this challenge on your own. Call or reach out to the Law Offices of Joe Phillips today to schedule a free case consultation.
If you live in or around the greater St. Louis metropolitan area, or in the neighboring areas of Clayton, St. Charles, or Jefferson County, contact the Law Offices of Joe Phillips immediately if you suspect medical malpractice. Attorney Joe Phillips will treat your case with compassion and great personal attention and will do everything he can to help you pursue the justice you deserve. Reach out today to schedule your own free case evaluation.