Biloxi Medical Malpractice Lawyers Representing Victims Injured After a Medical Error
When you trust your health and well-being to a doctor or hospital and end up dealing with the consequences of their unprofessional, negligent actions or serious medical errors, recruiting the help of a law firm that can help you fight back is fundamental. This is especially true because most medical malpractice cases are more complex than other types of personal injury claims, and in Mississippi, those wishing to initiate a medical malpractice case have certain deadlines and steps that should be observed. Here is an overview of how medical malpractice cases work in Mississippi.
How Can You Sue for a Medical Error in Mississippi?
In Mississippi, individuals affected by an injury resulting from a medical error or negligence by a healthcare provider may seek restitution through a civil lawsuit. A healthcare provider, in this case, includes any licensed healthcare professionals, such as a physician, osteopath, dentist, nurse, pharmacist, chiropractor, optometrist, podiatrist, and pharmacist. The definition of healthcare provider also includes facilities such as hospitals, nursing homes, and any other institution that offers health-related services.
The burden of proof for a medical malpractice claim rests with the plaintiff, i.e., the injured party wishing to receive compensation. In order for a claim to be heard by the court, the plaintiff is expected to prove that the healthcare provider did not adequately care for the patient by not exercising the degree of care, skill, and knowledge one would expect to receive from another healthcare provider with similar qualifications acting in similar circumstances. In addition, the plaintiff should effectively demonstrate that such failure to provide adequate care resulted in a significant injury or health condition.
How Long Do You Have to Initiate a Medical Malpractice Lawsuit in Mississippi?
Medical malpractice cases have very clear deadlines, known as the statute of limitations. The statute of limitations requires a plaintiff to initiate an action for personal injuries not more than two years after the date the cause of action accrues. Lawsuits against a healthcare provider that are initiated after the two-year deadline could most likely be dismissed by the court.
It is important to know that the discovery rule may apply to medical malpractice cases. That rule determines that the clock will only start ticking on the two-year deadline after your injury has been (or should have been) discovered. In addition, actions against a medical malpractice instance that took place more than seven years ago may not be eligible to be filed – with very few exceptions, such as a discovery of a foreign object left in the patient’s body. A foreign object is understood to be something unintentionally left behind after an invasive procedure, such as a sponge or a piece of surgical instrumentation, excluding items purposefully implanted in a patient’s body, such as a prosthetic device.
If the individual who was injured or affected by a medical error is younger than six years old, a medical malpractice action should be initiated within two years of the child’s sixth birthday. If you are unsure about the deadlines for your particular case, it is advisable to speak to an attorney before taking any further steps.
What Is the Certificate of Consultation Requirement?
In addition to gathering all necessary evidence to file your medical malpractice complaint, the state of Mississippi requires your attorney to file a separate document called a Certificate of Consultation. Without it, your case may likely be dismissed. The Certificate of Consultation shows that your attorney swears under oath that he or she has reviewed your case with at least one qualified medical expert that can offer an opinion on the proper standard of medical care that applies to the medical treatment you received or can provide an opinion on your health care provider’s negligence.
This document also certifies that your attorney believes the expert is knowledgeable in the medical conditions and treatments relevant to the lawsuit, and that the attorney believes that there is a reasonable basis for filing the lawsuit after consulting with the expert and reviewing your case. Alternatively, if your attorney has made at least three good-faith attempts to secure a consultation with an expert and none of the experts contacted agreed to it, he or she may execute a certificate under oath explaining what happened.
In cases where experts were not contacted because the deadline for filing a medical malpractice case was approaching, the attorney may file a compliant certificate with the court within 60 days of initiating the lawsuit, or the case may be dismissed. Not every case requires a certificate, such as cases in which the medical malpractice is blatantly evident and speaks for itself. Check with your attorney to see if your case requires a certificate of consultation.
What Are the Steps to Filing a Medical Malpractice Lawsuit?
Unlike in other states, Mississippi does not require mandatory arbitration or pre-lawsuit screening before you can initiate the litigation process for a medical malpractice case. You are required to provide a written notice to all named defendants letting them know about your intentions to begin a medical malpractice action, including details such as the grounds for your medical malpractice claim, the type of losses and injuries you suffered, and other details relevant to your claim. This should be done 60 days before filing your lawsuit. This gives both parties a chance to reach a settlement before the case goes to trial. If no agreement is reached, your case will continue on to the litigation stage. Your civil lawsuit is initiated by preparing a document called Complaint and Summons and serving it to the defendants in your case. The complaint is also filed with the clerk of the court and contains all the details about your medical malpractice claim, including the defendant’s names (if known), the factual basis of each claim, and the type of remedy or amount of money requested as an award, and other relevant pieces of information.
Once the defendants have been served the Complaint and Summons, they have a deadline of 30 days to file an Answer, a document providing their responses to the case, and either admitting or denying the statements made in the complaint. Once the Answer is received, the case moves on to the discovery phase, in which both sides examine the claims and the evidence presented by the plaintiff, and use several tools such as deposition, witness questioning, production of documents (including medical records and doctor’s notes), physical or mental examinations, and anything else that may help the parties build their argument before the trial.
Trials for medical malpractice can be held before a judge or before a jury. Each trial typically begins with an opening statement to let the judge or jury know what the case is about and what evidence is available. Then, the plaintiff will begin arguing their case with his or her attorney calling witnesses to the stand and asking them questions. The defendant’s attorney will then have a chance to cross-examine each witness. When all witnesses have been presented and all evidence has been shared, the plaintiff’s presentation will be concluded, and the defendant’s presentation may begin in a similar fashion. After closing statements are presented by both sides, the jury will step aside to discuss the case and make a decision.
It is possible to appeal the result of a medical malpractice trial, which is usually done by the party that did not win the case. You may initiate an appeal with the Court of Appeals within 30 days of receiving the original judgment. The Court of Appeals will examine the case and will not hear any witnesses, but will simply determine if the lower court made an error when deciding the final verdict for your case.
How Much Money May I Be Able to Receive for My Medical Malpractice Case?
Most medical malpractice lawsuits include a combination of economic and non-economic damages. In Mississippi, there is no limit (also called recovery cap) for economic damages, which includes medical bills, lost wages, cost of rehabilitation, limitations on the plaintiff’s ability to earn a living, or any other monetary losses directly resulting from the injury or medical condition caused by the medical error or malpractice situation.
However, the state of Mississippi does have a recovery cap for non-economic damages. Non-economic damages are more subjective and non-quantifiable, and are commonly referred to as “pain and suffering”. They are meant to provide restitution to the victim for the physical pain, emotional or psychological distress, and other subjective factors caused by their injury. That can include the stress of having to undergo additional surgery or rehabilitation, as well as scarring, disfigurement, stress, anxiety, and loss of enjoyment of life. Plaintiffs are limited to receiving up to $500,000.00 in non-economic damages, in addition to any economic damages applicable to the case.
That being said, the value of each medical malpractice claim varies depending on the specifics of the claim. Generally speaking, the more significant your injuries are and the more effects they have had on all aspects of your life, the higher your compensation amount may be. The best way to learn a more accurate estimate of how much money you may be able to receive is to consult with a medical malpractice attorney.
At the Rundlett Law Firm, PLLC, our legal team has been representing victims of medical malpractice in Biloxi, MS, and surrounding areas for many years. Our attorneys understand the complexities of a medical malpractice case and are ready to help you get the compensation you deserve. If you have been hurt by a medical error or negligent health care provider, contact our office at 228-338-1515 to discuss your case.