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What Is the Statute of Limitations on Medical Malpractice Claims?

When someone goes to the hospital or a doctor’s office, they have the right to expect adequate care. Unfortunately, not everyone receives the proper care. Medical malpractice is the third leading cause of death in the United States. Roughly 195,000 patients die due to medical errors every year.

Around 2 percent of medical malpractice victims file a claim. The reasons why so many people do not pursue a case are different for each person. Sometimes, victims do not file a case because they run out of time.

If you were a victim of medical malpractice, ask a lawyer when the statute of limitations expires for your case, because after that, you can no longer file a claim.

The Common Causes of Medical Malpractice

Every step of the health care process can lead to medical malpractice if a care provider is negligent. Medical malpractice happens when a care provider violates the applicable standard of care, meaning that they must provide care that meets the same standard as the care that other competent providers would offer in similar situations. If a care provider does not meet the applicable standard of care, the patient can suffer an injury. A patient may have a medical malpractice case if they can prove their injury was due to a provider’s substandard care.

Medical malpractice can occur in a variety of ways. Some common causes are:

  • Misdiagnosis. The most common cause of medical malpractice is misdiagnosis. One report found that around 46 percent of claims had to do with misdiagnosis.
  • Healthcare-acquired infection. The CDC reports that an estimated 31 patients acquire an infection in a healthcare setting on any given day. Healthcare-acquired infections can include urinary tract infections from a catheter, bloodstream infections from injections and IVs, and ventilator-related pneumonia. Healthcare-acquired infections sometimes justify a medical malpractice claim.
  • Medication errors. Poor training, health worker fatigue, and staff shortages sometimes lead to medication errors. A mistake in prescribing, dispensing, or monitoring a patient’s medication can lead to severe harm. Every year, medication errors injure around 1.3 million people.
  • Surgical errors. A surgeon operating on the wrong part of the body, accidentally puncturing an organ or artery, or leaving surgical implements in the body after surgery all count as surgical errors. At least 4,000 surgical error cases occur every year in the United States.

What Is the Statute of Limitations for Medical Malpractice Claims?

If you believe you are a victim of medical malpractice, you have a limited amount of time to go to court and begin your case. This deadline is known as the statute of limitations. Every state has laws that designate the statute of limitations for various types of cases. Some states set a specific time limit to file a medical malpractice claim, and others have a deadline that covers all injury-related lawsuits.

The statute of limitations varies from state to state, but most places set it at two years. Many states have a special deadline for minors. For example, a minor can often begin a case once they turn 18 even if the alleged incident occurred 10 years ago. You must find out what the applicable deadline is in your state to avoid losing out on compensation.

Can You Reopen a Case?

When you pursue a medical malpractice claim, you typically have one try to get it right. Usually, the case ends when you settle. Once you sign the settlement papers, you cannot reopen the case later.

However, if a judge dismissed your case, you may reopen it if the statute of limitations has not yet expired. If the claim was dismissed with prejudice, then you cannot open it again. But if it was dismissed without prejudice, then you can file a new complaint at a later date.

Speak with a lawyer to figure out if you can reopen your medical malpractice case.

The Process of a Medical Malpractice Lawsuit

  • Consulting an attorney. The first step of the process is for the injured person to meet with a medical malpractice attorney. During an initial consultation, the lawyer will ask about the facts of the incident and determine if the injured person may have a valid case.
  • The investigation. During the investigation, the lawyer will review every relevant medical record. Medical records can help show what went wrong and if the health care provider could have avoided it. The attorney will generally contact one or more medical experts after gathering all available information. The experts might be heads of surgery or professors teaching in hospitals. They often write a letter in support of the injured party.
  • Filing a lawsuit. Once the lawyer has gathered enough information to support the injured person’s claim, they file a lawsuit in court on the injured person’s behalf. Some states require that the lawyer notify the healthcare provider before they file a lawsuit, to provide an opportunity for the healthcare provider to offer a settlement before the case goes to court.
  • Discovery. The next stage is the discovery phase. During discovery, each party has an opportunity to obtain documents and other information from each other. The injured person and the doctor will go through depositions where they answer questions from the other side’s attorney. Some of the questions may be regarding what went wrong, the provided care, and any other issues. The discovery stage can sometimes last a year or more, depending on various factors.
  • Settling. After discovery, the lawyers generally discuss a settlement. Most cases settle before they go to trial, which usually brings a resolution sooner. In some cases, the lawyers and the clients discuss a settlement with a neutral mediator.
  • Going to trial. Although most cases end in a settlement, sometimes the parties cannot reach an agreement and the case proceeds to trial. The judge or jury determines the trial’s outcome. If either side is unhappy with the outcome, they can appeal the decision for a second opinion from a higher court.

Everything You Need to Know About Collecting Compensation for TBI Symptoms

Often called a concussion, a traumatic brain injury (TBI) can have a long-term impact on a person’s life. How big is the problem? According to the CDC, there are an estimated 2.87 million TBI-related hospitalizations and deaths every year. Over 837,000 of these injuries occur among children.

A TBI is a closed head injury and results in damage to the brain. Sudden bumps, jolts, and blows to the head can cause the brain to move back and forth. Symptoms do not always manifest immediately after a traumatic event. If you have been in an accident, you should be aware of and look out for the signs of a TBI.

The Causes of Traumatic Brain Injuries

A bump or blow to the head can lead to a disruption in normal brain function. Not all blows or jolts result in TBIs, however. Still, many accidents can damage the brain.

A few leading causes of TBIs are:

  • Falls. Falls account for at least 48 percent of TBI-related emergency visits. Children and adults over 65 are at a higher risk of developing a TBI than adults under age 65. Falling off a bed, ladder, in the bath, or down the stairs may warrant a trip to the doctor’s office to check for signs of a brain injury.
  • Car accidents. Vehicle collisions account for an estimated 20 percent of TBI-related hospitalizations. Crashes that result in brain injuries involve trucks, cars, motorcycles, bicycles, and pedestrians. Even a low-speed collision can result in a TBI.
  • Sports injuries. Soccer, football, boxing, hockey, baseball, and playing any other type of sport can lead to a TBI. Getting struck by or pushed into an object accounts for roughly 17 percent of TBI-related emergency room visits. These types of injuries are most common among young people.

The Symptoms of a Traumatic Brain Injury

For some people, the signs of a TBI appear immediately after the traumatic event. In other cases, symptoms can take days or weeks to manifest. A TBI may cause a wide range of symptoms. Some common physical signs include headaches, blurry vision, dizziness, and vomiting.

A person may experience cognitive symptoms like trouble concentrating, memory problems, feeling confused, and loss of consciousness. Some people report having difficulty sleeping or sleeping more than usual, and some experience mood changes.

In certain severe cases, signs of a TBI can include:

  • Loss of coordination;
  • Slurred speech;
  • Seizures;
  • Persistent headaches; and
  • Weakness in the fingers and toes.

Very young children who have a TBI can’t always communicate about their symptoms. They may instead display changes in eating and sleeping habits, unusual irritability, drowsiness, and persistent crying.

In a diagnosis, the term “mild” does not refer to the outcome. Doctors only describe a TBI as mild when observing the initial presentation of symptoms.

How Long Does a Traumatic Brain Injury Last?

The duration of TBI symptoms varies from person to person. Some people see improvement within a few days or weeks, while others see their symptoms persist for years.

Data from the CDC show that 22 percent of moderate to severe TBI victims still suffer from symptoms five years after their accident. Around 30 percent of moderate to severe TBI victims experience worsening symptoms.

What Are the Long-Term Effects?

A diagnosis cannot accurately predict how badly a TBI will affect each individual. In some cases, a TBI can have a long-term impact on a person’s life, including a shorter life expectancy due to increased risk of infection and pneumonia, among other health effects.

One study observed the link between exposure to repeated TBIs and lifelong cognitive consequences. Results showed that repeat TBI victims often experience learning and working memory impairment along with a lack of spatial memory.

TBIs can add a burden to the daily lives of victims and their families. An estimated 33 percent of severe or repeat TBI victims must rely on others for everyday activities.

Recovering from a Traumatic Brain Injury

Many people recover fully after a TBI. However, how quickly and fully a person heals depends on multiple factors. These factors include the person’s age, the severity of the injury, how healthy they were before the accident, and how well they take care of their injury.

If you have a TBI, the first step toward healing is to speak with a doctor about how to care for yourself while you heal. They will tailor a treatment plan best suited for you.

Some general tips include:

  • Get plenty of rest. Be sure to get enough sleep at night. Rest often during the day.
  • Avoid certain activities. Those with a TBI should avoid physically demanding activities. Working out, heavy house cleaning, and even balancing your checkbook can slow recovery. Contact sports can increase the risk of another head injury.
  • Slowly return to daily activities. When symptoms improve, consult your doctor to determine if you can go back to work and continue other regular activities. Gradually return to your daily activities, being sure to step back from activities that make any symptoms worsen or reappear.
  • Talk with your employer. When you return to work, speak with your boss about modifying your tasks if necessary.
  • Medication. Only use medication your doctor has approved.

Seeking Compensation

If you were in an accident and received a TBI due to someone else’s negligence, you may be eligible to seek compensation from the at-fault party through a traumatic brain injury claim. In a successful claim, you must prove that the other party was negligent, and therefore legally responsible for the accident.

To establish negligence, you will need to show that the other party owed you a duty of care, that they breached that duty of care, and that the breach resulted in an accident that caused your injuries. For example, in car accidents, another driver’s duty of care is to follow traffic laws. Finally, you must show proof of the damages you have suffered because of the accident.

If you are successful in your claim, you may receive reimbursement for past, current, and future medical bills. Other types of damages you may recover include lost wages, loss of quality of life, and pain and suffering. Each state has a different deadline to file a claim called the statute of limitations. The statute of limitations in most places is two or three years. You must file your claim before this deadline or you may lose your chance to recover compensation from the at-fault party for your injury.

If you have any questions about filing a TBI claim, consult a traumatic brain injury lawyer near you.

How Do I Get Paid After a Car Accident?

Thousands of people get in their cars every day, and everyone on the road is at risk of an accident. Even a low-speed collision can do serious harm, sometimes leading to serious or even life-threatening injuries such as traumatic brain injuries. If you suffered injuries due to another driver’s negligence, you can seek compensation.

To go after compensation, you must establish a claim with the at-fault driver’s insurance company, and sometimes also in court. The legal process can be complex. This blog post describes some of the steps you need to take to get paid after a car accident.

What Do You Need to Do to Get Paid After a Vehicle Collision?

Some states have at-fault rules in place, where the person who caused the accident is responsible for paying all the costs related to the accident, usually through their auto insurance coverage. In no-fault states, on the other hand, each driver’s insurance company pays for their own medical claims up to a certain amount, regardless of who was responsible for causing the accident. In no-fault insurance systems, accident victims are only allowed to sue for additional damages in certain circumstances.

If you have been in a vehicle collision, reach out to a car accident attorney to understand the rules in your state. Particularly if you have suffered severe injuries, a lawyer can advocate for you as you navigate the claims process. Insurance companies often try to find ways to pay you less than you deserve or deflect the blame from their insured.

Most Cases End in a Settlement

In most cases, vehicle accident claims end in a settlement before a trial takes place. Insurance companies generally want to resolve the matter as quickly as possible. Often, the plaintiff and the defendant are interested in settling, as well.

Trials can be unpredictable, while settlements provide certainty. Victims don’t risk losing all reimbursement, and defendants avoid the risk of a massive verdict. If you settle a claim, you can often receive compensation sooner and avoid paying for litigation costs.

As mentioned previously, insurance companies want to pay the injured party as little as possible. You should not agree to any settlement until you understand the extent of your losses. Wait until the other person’s insurance company provides an offer for a fair amount of compensation for those losses. An attorney can help make sure you receive reasonable compensation for your injuries.

The Process of Filing a Lawsuit

Some claims go to court instead of settling. Lawsuits are most often necessary if there is a dispute about who is responsible for the accident or the extent of the victim’s injuries or losses.

A basic timeline of a car accident case is as follows:

  • Seek medical treatment. The first step a person should take after an accident is to seek medical treatment. This both protects your health and creates a record of your injuries. Once you see a doctor, keep track of any medical records and bills related to the accident.
  • Consult an attorney. Those who suffer a significant injury should always seek help from a lawyer. The lawyer will interview you about the accident and your injuries and gather evidence for your claim. Then, they will work to negotiate a settlement with the other party or take the case to court, if necessary.
  • File a lawsuit. If you decide to file a lawsuit, you will need to do so before the statute of limitations expires. Your lawyer will file a complaint against the other party and the lawsuit officially begins.
  • Serve a copy of the complaint. The injured party serves a copy of the complaint on the defendant. The at-fault party has about a month to file an answer. However, they may file a motion to dismiss before answering.
  • Discovery. Each side will request and exchange information about potential evidence in the case. The attorneys will take depositions from all relevant parties and witnesses.
  • The trial. After the discovery phase, the trial will occur. A trial is often the shortest step in the process, and will conclude with a ruling on the case from the judge or jury.

How Long Does It Take to Receive Payment?

Each case is different, so the time it takes to settle varies from case to case. While some injured people settle with the other party’s insurance company quickly, others may end up waiting months or years to receive compensation if settlement negotiations draw out or the case goes to trial. Litigation can take time, and some court calendars book out for many months.

What You Can Do With Your Settlement Check

After a favorable trial outcome or settlement, compensation takes the form of either structured settlement payments or a lump sum payment. Defendants pay structured settlements in regular intervals, and lump sums all at once.

If you hire a law firm, the firm collects the settlement or court award and issues your portion (minus any medical debt and attorney’s fees) to you in the form of a check. They provide an itemized list of deductions and then send you the remaining amount.

The IRS may tax some portions of your award or settlement, such as if you receive punitive damages. Ask your attorney for help understanding what you will need to pay in taxes before finalizing a settlement.

If you have any questions regarding how to get paid after a car accident, reach out to a car accident attorney today.