Michigan Medical Malpractice Lawyers
When you work with medical professionals to support your health goals, you put a lot of faith in your care team. If an adverse event occurs that you can trace back to specific actions on their part, that can feel like a betrayal — and it can result in devastating, dangerous situations. Have you or a loved one experienced medical malpractice? If so, it’s time to make sure that you have the resources you need to move forward and recover as best as you possibly can.
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What is Medical Malpractice?
Medical malpractice occurs when a patient is harmed while being cared for by a licensed medical or health care provider. Medical malpractice usually occurs when a medical professional such as a doctor, nurse, therapist, pharmacist, or other licensed health care provider fails to uphold an acknowledged standard of care or fails to perform their duties safely and properly.
Medical Malpractice vs. Medical Negligence
According to M Civ JI 30.01, Professional Negligence/Malpractice, “Professional negligence” and “malpractice” are the same. They mean the failure to do something that an oral surgeon of ordinary learning, judgment and skill in oral surgery would do, under the same or similar circumstances as in this case. Professional negligence, or malpractice, can also mean doing something that an oral surgeon of ordinary learning, judgment and skill would not do, under the same or similar circumstances as in this case.
There are risks associated with all medical treatments that are not within a doctor’s control. Doctors are not responsible merely because of an adverse result. Proving that the doctor or licensed medical provider was negligent and committed malpractice can be difficult to do. Working with a successful, experienced medical malpractice attorney will be useful for you and your case.
An oral surgeon failed to properly diagnose a vascular lesion prior to surgery. The surgeon proceeded to remove it in a negligent fashion, causing life-threatening consequences.
Medical Malpractice Laws in Michigan
Michigan has very specific laws which determine how and when malpractice cases can be brought, as well as the amount of money recoverable for certain types of injuries caused by medical malpractice.
Some of the specific laws governing medical malpractice cases in Michigan include the following examples:
- Michigan Compiled Laws Section 600.2912(b) requires a notice of intent to be filed and served on the health professional or medical facility 182 days before a medical malpractice claim can be filed. This statute also defines other logistics concerning medical malpractice cases and the specific requirements to comply with before a claim can be filed.
- Michigan Compiled Laws Section 600.5805(8) is the state statute of limitations regarding medical malpractice claims. This law states that a claim for malpractice must be filed within two years of the date of the injury caused by the malpractice.
- MCL 600.5838(a)(2) allows a malpractice claim to be filed within six months from the time the malpractice was discovered or should have been discovered – whichever is later.
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Special rules also control when minors can bring claims or when malpractice claims can be filed on behalf of deceased individuals.
- Michigan Compiled Laws Section 600.2912(d) states that an affidavit of merit shall be filed along with the Complaint certifying that a healthcare professional has reviewed the notice of intent and all the medical records and has determined, among other things, that the malpractice claim is meritorious and violation of the standard of care has occurred.
- Michigan Compiled Laws Section 600.1483 places caps on the amount of compensation an injured person can recover for non-economic damages such as pain and suffering.
- Michigan Compiled Laws Section 333.20201 is commonly referred to as the Michigan Patient Bill of Rights. This statute provides certain rights for patients and the responsibilities for health care facilities, agencies, and nursing homes where patients receive care and treatment.
In addition, according to the Michigan state statute of limitations, a plaintiff has three years after the date of the injury to file a suit.
Medical Malpractice Statistics
It’s estimated that some 225,000 people in the United States die each year from medical malpractice. However, only a very small number of people involved with estimated malpractice cases actually file for compensation. This may be because medical malpractice is extremely difficult and expensive to litigate.
While medical malpractice can occur in any field, the four specialties that tend to have the most medical malpractice lawsuits are:
- Plastic surgeons
- General surgeons
In and around these specialties, there are several distinct types of medical malpractice. These are as follows:
- Birth injuries
- Surgery and Operating Room Errors
- Anesthesia Errors
- Medication or Pharmacy Errors
- Missed diagnosis
- Nursing Negligence
- Wrongful Death
Should I Sue the Doctor or the Hospital?
When suspected medical malpractice occurs in a healthcare setting, it can be difficult to determine who should be the subject of the lawsuit.
The short answer is simple: You should sue the entity you have the strongest evidence against. Your attorney can help you assess your case and what you’re able to demonstrate. Hospitals and healthcare facilities can be held liable for medical negligence or can be held liable due to the actions of a specific employee.
Doctors, nurses, and other healthcare professionals can also be held liable for their actions. In some cases, there may even be a few different parties who can be held accountable — e.g., a physician, surgeon, and anesthesiologist who all assisted with a procedure gone wrong.
Determining the entity liable can be tricky; for example, professionals who happen to work at certain healthcare institutions may not actually be employees of those institutions. Working with a Michigan medical malpractice attorney who has specific knowledge in this nuanced area of practice can make filing a medical malpractice suit much easier and more effective.
What You Need to Do Before Filing a Medical Malpractice Lawsuit
Medical malpractice lawsuits are typically very frustrating and expensive. Before filing your suit, consider tackling the following action items to make sure you’re as prepared as you can be:
- Contact the medical professional or Health Care Facility who you believe may be responsible for the malpractice and obtain all of the records concerning the treatment provided.
- Contact the medical licensing board. If you’re worried about the professional actions of a specific doctor or nurse, consider reaching out to the relevant licensing board. They may be able to issue warnings to the practitioners they certify, or at least inform you about the next steps that might be useful for you to take.
- Visit another medical professional to get your health or condition assessed. Having a third party review your medical record and help confirm the fact that your initial healthcare provider deviated from standard medical practices will help your case. After this happens, your attorney will be able to file a certificate of merit — a document that lends credence to your legal action. Standard medical practices are essential for your case. After your case has been reviewed your attorney will be able to determine if a medical malpractice case should be pursued. Once the decision to proceed with the case has been made, your attorney will prepare and serve a “Notice of Intent” as required by MCL 600.2912(b) on all potential target defendants.
- If applicable, consider settling prior to filing your case in court. Very few medical malpractice cases are settled without filing in court. Doctors, hospitals and other medical care providers, and the insurance companies which represent them, tend to typically reject claims and force individuals to assume the financial costs, time, and emotional burdens of litigation, rather than simply settling cases without going to court. However, in limited situations, medical malpractice cases can be settled prior to filing suit in court. An experienced medical malpractice attorney will be able to advise you if your case is the exception.
Who Can Sue For Medical Malpractice?
The party who has the right to sue in a medical malpractice case is typically the injured party. However, this requires the injured party to be capable of at least some of the logistics of filing a suit. When the injured party is elderly, too injured to manage a claim, or if the suit includes a wrongful death claim, a guardian or close family member may have the right to bring the suit.
Filing a Medical Malpractice Complaint
Your attorney will oversee the submission of the claim, but the basic steps are as follows:
- Your attorney will initiate your medical malpractice case by filing a Notice of Intent to File Suit (often abbreviated to ‘NOI’). This notice must be submitted in writing. Your attorney will send the NOI to all of the health care providers relevant to the suit. Further, this NOI needs to be issued promptly, as it must be served upon all of those named in the suit several months (182 days) before the actual filing of the lawsuit.
- After your case has been filed in court along with an Affidavit of Merit required by MCL 600.2912(d), your case will move into the investigative or discovery phase as all parties involved take the time to review the details of the case. This may include the medical records of the patient, expert reviews of patient data, historical records of involved healthcare facilities, and more. This phase may last a very long time. It may be a good idea to budget 12 months for this phase of your Michigan medical malpractice case.
- There is a very good chance that, during this discovery phase, the court will request the involved parties to meet (perhaps with a facilitator or mediator) to see if there’s any way that a settlement can be reached without further court action. You and your attorney may have already attempted this. However, it may be worth negotiating again to see if you can avoid further legal action and achieve some amount of compensation in a timely manner.
- Towards the end of the discovery phase, a case evaluation can occur. If the parties agree to case evaluation, three attorneys experienced in the field of medical malpractice litigation will review the case to decide its value. After reviewing the details, the experts will assign an evaluation figure to the case. Following this, another attempt will be made to settle the case with this updated figure. If agreement upon this figure is not mutual, the case will move forward toward trial. The court may require participation in a settlement conference or facilitation if that has not yet occurred.
There may be penalties associated with moving the case to trial after case evaluation. Your attorney will constantly review the details of your case and advise you whether accepting a settlement or moving forward is in your best interest.
Proving Medical Malpractice
For a claim to be officially considered medical malpractice, you and your attorney will need to demonstrate the following:
- That the accepted standard of care was violated. Did the action that led to your injury violate a recognized standard of medical treatment? A large part of determining whether your case falls under medical malpractice will focus on the accepted standard of care and whether your medical professional deviated from that standard. Any evidence you have to suggest that this is the case will be vital. Expert testimony from medical professionals is necessary to establish the standard of care as well as the violation of that standard.
- That an injury occurred because of the alleged violation. Simply demonstrating that a health care professional violated the accepted standard is not enough. The patient needs to show that they suffered an injury because of the violation and that their injury would not have occurred without that violation.
- That the relevant injury resulted in a significant amount of damages. It’s expensive to litigate medical malpractice lawsuits. If the patient can only demonstrate a small amount of damages, it may not be worth anyone’s time (e.g., if the eventual recovery does not exceed the cost of pursuing the case).
Settlements for Medical Malpractice Lawsuits
Your attorney and the other parties involved in your medical malpractice suit (e.g., your doctor and their attorney, any insurance companies or hospitals that you’ve included) will consider the facts of your case and the evidence that you have been able to provide. With all this in mind, they will agree on a figure for your settlement.
If they cannot come to an agreement, or liability cannot be successfully determined, the matter may go to court. In either case, your Michigan medical malpractice attorney will take care of the logistics of pursuing your claim so that you can focus on recuperating with your family.
What Damages Can I Recover?
In a Michigan medical malpractice case, you may be able to recover the following damages:
- Medical bills
- Future support for medical bills
- Loss of wages
- Loss of future earnings
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Loss of use of a limb
- Permanent physical functional injury or deformity
- Wrongful death
Damages that a jury awards for pain and suffering and other non-economic damages are limited by MCL 600.1483. This statute limits (caps) the maximum amount of non-economic damages recoverable in medical malpractice cases.
Your medical malpractice attorney should be knowledgeable of all of the nuances necessary to successfully settle or try your medical malpractice case.
How to Choose the Best Medical Malpractice Attorney
The success of your medical malpractice case will depend largely on the malpractice attorney you work with. You will want to work with someone with specific experience with medical malpractice suits, as they can be extremely complex and, frankly, unlike many other injury claims.
When searching for and vetting potential Michigan medical malpractice attorneys, pay close attention to how much specific experience they have, whether they tend to win their cases (or achieve satisfactory compensation for their clients), and how recent their last medical malpractice suit was. You’ll also need to ensure that you can take care of their fees. (It may be best to find a medical malpractice attorney who will work on a contingency fee basis, or who will not assess payment until you receive compensation).
Finally, look for someone you can trust. You and your loved ones will need to focus on recovery during this difficult time, so prioritize working with a Michigan medical malpractice attorney who seems best suited to take the burden of the case off your shoulders.