You have the right to receive competent, skilled care from a health care provider. Medical mistakes, negligent acts, and malpractice can give rise to a medical malpractice lawsuit in Utah. If you have been injured because of the actions of a medical provider, it is important to know several facts about medical malpractice cases in Utah.
6 Important Things to Know About Medical Malpractice in Utah | Hire Acadia Law Group
- Medical Negligence and Medical Malpractice are Not Interchangeable Terms
- What Are the Legal Elements You Must Prove to Win a Medical Malpractice Claim?
- What is the Deadline to File a Medical Malpractice Lawsuit in Utah?
- What is a Notice of Intent in a Medical Malpractice Case?
- What Kinds of Damages are Available in a Medical Malpractice Case?
- Am I limited on the amount on the amount I am awarded – is there a Utah medical malpractice cap?
When you seek medical care, you should not fear that you are putting your life or health at risk. Unfortunately, thousands of patients sustain serious illnesses, injuries, or life-threatening conditions because of medical negligence and medical malpractice each year.
What is Utah Medical Malpractice?
When a doctor, nurse, health care facility, or other medical provider causes a patient harm, the patient may have a claim for medical malpractice. Medical malpractice can result from negligent behavior, careless acts, medical mistakes, and other wrongdoing. Examples of medical malpractice include:
- Failure to diagnose, delayed diagnosis, or misdiagnosis of a condition or illness
- Failing to provide a treatment plan that is adequate for the patient’s condition
- Failure to obtain informed consent before performing medical procedures
- A birth injury, including injuries to the mother and the infant
- Medication errors, including errors by nurses, doctors, and pharmacists
- Surgical errors, including performing surgery on the wrong site, leaving equipment inside a patient, and failing to use the proper surgical equipment
- Anesthesia errors, including failing to pre-screen a patient for conditions or medications that could result in anesthesia-related complications and injuries
- Failing to perform diagnostic tests, including blood tests, MRI, CT Scan, and X-rays
- Hospital and health care facility negligence
The reasons for medical malpractice vary, but the outcome is often the same. The patient suffers because of the negligence and wrongdoing of health care providers. Common causes of medical malpractice include:
- Failing to examine a patient adequately and completely
- Failure to obtain and/or review a patient’s complete medical history
- Prescribing incorrect medications or dosages
- Failure to order tests and procedures based on symptoms reported by the patient
- Failing to interpret the results of tests correctly
- Fatigue from working long hours or multiple shifts without adequate rest periods
- Failing to refer patients to specialists
- Performing medical procedures without the necessary training or knowledge
If you or a family member has been injured because of medical mistakes, negligent acts, or malpractice, you should seek the counsel of experienced medical malpractice lawyers. You may have a valid medical malpractice claim against your medical provider.
6 Important Things to Know About Medical Malpractice in Utah
In most cases, the medical industry defines the medical standard of care as the level of care that another physician with similar training and experience would have provided given the same or similar circumstances.
1. Medical Negligence and Medical Malpractice are Not Interchangeable Terms
What is medical malpractice and negligence?
Medical negligence and medical malpractice are often used interchangeably, but these are two different terms with two very different legal meanings. The terms are connected, and medical negligence is an element of medical malpractice, but every case of negligent behavior by a medical provider does not result in a medical malpractice lawsuit.
Negligence is defined as failing to take reasonable care to avoid injury. Medical negligence is typically defined as a doctor or other health care provider failing to provide care that meets or exceeds the standard of care for a specific situation.
In a medical malpractice lawsuit, the medical standard of care is established by introducing evidence from qualified medical experts. The medical experts testify as to the care that should have been provided in the given situation based and explain how the medical provider’s care differed from the accepted medical standard of care. A qualified medical expert must be a physician in the same area of practice as the physician accused of medical malpractice. The expert must also have experience, training, or specialized knowledge that the court recognizes as rising to the level of an expert.
When does medical negligence rise to medical malpractice?
Negligent behavior is not always considered malpractice. When the negligent behavior results in an injury to the patient or the patient suffers damages, the medical negligence may result in a medical malpractice claim. Medical malpractice attorneys can help you determine if the negligent behavior of your physician meets the legal elements of a medical malpractice case.
Who can I sue for medical malpractice in Utah?
Some emergency medical providers and other parties may be immune from a medical malpractice claim under Utah Law. However, most health care providers may be sued for medical negligence. Examples of providers that might be sued for medical malpractice include:
- General practitioners and primary care physicians
- Obstetricians and Gynecologists
- Nurse Practitioners
- Doctors practicing in specialty fields, such as neurology, gastroenterology, pulmonology, cardiology, oncology, dermatology, anesthesiology, urology, etc.
- Dentists and orthodontists
- Physical Therapists
If you are unsure whether your health care provider may be sued for medical malpractice, you can ask a medical malpractice attorney. Our lawyers offer free case reviews so that you can get answers to these questions about malpractice claims.
2. What Are the Legal Elements You Must Prove to Win a Medical Malpractice Claim in Utah?
What constitutes a medical malpractice lawsuit?
For medical negligence to rise to the level of medical malpractice, the patient must prove four elements of negligence. The elements of negligence for medical malpractice cases are:
There must have been a doctor-patient relationship for malpractice to occur. The doctor does not owe a person a duty of care if the person is not the doctor’s patient. For example, asking a doctor a question about injuries from a car accident in Utah at your child’s school function may not be sufficient to constitute a patient-doctor relationship if the doctor has never examined you and you do not go into the doctor’s office for a consultation.
Breach of Medical Standard of Care
The health care provider commits an act of negligence or wrongdoing that breaches the medical standard of care. For example, the standard of care for a patient experiencing a certain set of symptoms is to order blood tests and an MRI, but the doctor prescribes medication without ordering the tests.
Injury or Harm to the Patient
The medical negligence was a direct and proximate cause of the patient’s injury. In other words, the harm to the patient would not have occurred without the negligent acts that constituted a breach of the medical standard of care.
Damages and Losses
In addition to suffering injury or harm from the malpractice, the patient must sustain damages and losses related to the malpractice. Damages and losses may include physical injuries, wrongful death, medical costs, loss of income, emotional distress, and other financial costs and non-economic damages.
What evidence is needed to prove that malpractice in Utah occurred?
The two most important pieces of evidence in medical malpractice cases are the testimony of expert witnesses and the evidence of injuries and damages. Most medical malpractice lawyers being by obtaining copies of the person’s medical records for review. The attorney retains an expert to review the medical records for evidence of negligence and malpractice.
The attorney also works closely with the patient and the patient’s family to establish the facts of the case, which are very important in determining if malpractice occurred. The attorney may interview witnesses to gather facts about the case.
If medical malpractice occurred, a medical malpractice lawsuit allows the attorney to continue gathering evidence through discovery, including depositions, request to produce, interrogatories, and request to admit.
3. What is the Deadline to File a Medical Malpractice Lawsuit in Utah?
The medical malpractice statute of limitations in Utah is typically two years from the date of the injury or two years from the date you discover that you were injured or should have reasonably discovered you were injured because of medical mistakes or medical negligence. There is also a state of repose that states a maximum limit of four years after the negligent act. In other words, even if you do not discover the act until five years after the act, your time to file a medical malpractice lawsuit may be barred by the statute of repose.
Each state sets time limits for filing medical malpractice lawsuits. The time limit to file a lawsuit is referred to as the statute of limitations. It is important to note that the medical malpractice statute of limitations also applies to minors who are injured through medical negligence. However, there are some exceptions to the medical malpractice statute of limitations. For example, actions based on foreign objects left in the body may be brought one year from the date that the foreign object was discovered or should have been discovered.
It’s crucial to seek the advice of an experienced Utah medical malpractice lawyer as soon as possible. It can take several months to obtain medical records to determine if medical malpractice occurred. Therefore, you do not want to wait too long to seek legal advice or you could lose your right to file a medical malpractice lawsuit.
How long does it take to settle a Utah medical malpractice suit?
Once a medical malpractice lawsuit is filed, the time it takes to settle the lawsuit depends on numerous factors. A typical lawsuit has several phases, including discovery, motions, mediation, negotiation, and the trial. The discovery process can take many months as each side attempts to gain evidence to support their allegations. After discovery is complete, the parties may engage in mediation and negotiation to resolve the matter without the necessity of a trial. If negotiations fail, the parties may file one or more motions to resolve the case without a trial or suppress certain evidence.
A trial may take several days or weeks, depending on the nature of the case and jury deliberations. Even though a jury arrives at a verdict, the case may not be finished. Either party may appeal the decision of the jury or the trial judge if they disagree with the decision. An appeal could take several years to settle.
For these reasons, it is always best to schedule a consultation with a Utah medical malpractice attorney as soon as you suspect that medical negligence may have caused your injury or condition.
4. What is a Notice of Intent in a Medical Malpractice Case?
Before you can file a lawsuit for medical malpractice in Utah, you must file a Notice of Intent with the health care provider you want to name in the lawsuit. The Notice of Intent must contain specific information including:
- Your name and contact information
- The identity of all health care providers involved in your care
- The place, date, and time of the alleged injury
- The allegations of misconduct against each health care provider
- The nature of your injuries
The Notice of Intent must be filed at least 90 days prior to commencing a medical malpractice lawsuit.
Within 60 days of filing the Notice of Intent, you must also request a prelitigation panel review with the Utah Division of Occupational and Professional Licensing (DOPL) office. Even though the Division has limited jurisdiction, the process must be complete before you can file a medical malpractice lawsuit in Utah. Because there are numerous requirements and rules for these inquiries, it is typically best to retain lawyers specializing in medical malpractice cases to handle this matter and all matters related to medical negligence cases.
5. What Kinds of Damages are Available in a Utah Medical Malpractice Case?
When filing a medical malpractice claim, you may be entitled to receive compensation for the following losses and damages.
Cost of Medical Treatment
The cost of medical care is often one of the largest components of a medical malpractice claim. Medical treatment may include medical consultation fees, physician costs, chiropractic costs, doctor bills, surgeries, health care facility costs, physical therapy, vocational rehabilitation, and personal care services. You may also be entitled to the cost of future medical treatment and personal care.
Loss of Income
Loss of income coverages wages, salaries, commissions, bonuses, and other forms of compensation for labor and services. It also includes future loss of income and loss of earning capacity. Loss of earning capacity occurs when your injury prevents you from earning the same amount of income you earned before you were injured through malpractice.
Pain and Suffering Damages
Compensation for pain and suffering damages is intended to compensate you for your non-economic damages related to the medical malpractice. Examples of non-economic damages include physical pain, mental anguish, emotional distress, permanent disabilities, scarring, loss of enjoyment of life, loss of consortium, and inconvenience. Pain and suffering damages can be very difficult to calculate. An experienced attorney knows how to use the evidence in the case to maximize the value of pain and suffering damages in a medical malpractice case.
Cost of Medical Malpractice Litigation
If you win your case, you can also seek reimbursement for the expenses and the cost of filing a lawsuit and going to trial, including court costs and attorneys’ fees. Other costs of litigation may include expert witness fees, copy costs, mailing expenses, and other deposition expenses.
Depending on your case, you may be entitled to additional compensation for other damages and losses. Working with a legal team who assists you in carefully documenting your losses and damages can help increase your chances of receiving full compensation for your injuries and damages.
6. Am I limited on how much I am awarded – is there a Utah medical malpractice cap?
The value of a malpractice settlement depends on numerous factors. It is impossible to calculate the value of a medical malpractice claim until a thorough investigation is completed and all evidence has been carefully analyzed. Medical malpractice lawyers diligently document damages and losses to maximize the amount of recovery an individual may receive for a medical malpractice case.
Some factors that impact the amount of money a claimant might receive for a medical malpractice claim include:
- The type of injuries you sustained because of the negligence
- The severity of your injuries
- Whether you suffered a permanent disability, impairment, scarring, or disfigurement
- The amount of your financial losses related to the malpractice
- The amount of malpractice insurance the provider carriers
- The costs of medical malpractice litigation
- Utah statutory caps on financial damages in medical malpractice cases
During your consultation, your attorney discusses the value of malpractice claims and the damages that might be compensable in a medical malpractice lawsuit.
What are the financial limitations of Utah medical malpractice caps on compensation?
Pain and Suffering Damages
The Utah malpractice law limits the amount of money you may receive for certain damages in a medical malpractice lawsuit. Even if a jury believes you should receive millions of dollars for your pain and suffering, Utah malpractice law restricts your recovery for noneconomic damages.
Compensation for pain and suffering damages or non-economic damages is capped at $450,000. The medical malpractice cap is not adjusted for inflation and is in effect for claims arising as of May 15, 2010.
However, the Utah Supreme Court held in 2015 that the limit on noneconomic damages in medical malpractice cases involving wrongful death was unconstitutional. Therefore, if your claim involves an allegation of wrongful death, the malpractice cap for pain and suffering damages does not apply in your case.
Utah also places a cap on attorneys’ fees in medical malpractice cases. Attorneys’ fees are capped at 33 1/3 percent of the amount recovered. The limit applies in cases that settle and cases that go to trial.
In most cases, you can recover compensation for all financial losses in a medical malpractice case. However, there is a law that requires the court to reduce a medical malpractice award for payments from collateral sources.
Collateral sources usually include health insurance, disability insurance, accident insurance, Medicare, and government disability program payments. It is important to work with an experienced medical malpractice lawyer who understands the nature of collateral sources who can argue against the reduction of awards for sources that do not meet the definition of a collateral source.
Do I Need a Utah Medical Malpractice Attorney?
Because of the complex nature of medical malpractice claims, you really do need a Utah medical malpractice lawyer to help you with your malpractice claim. In addition to the privacy and confidentiality of an attorney-client relationship, a personal injury lawyer in Utah who has experience handling malpractice claims is an invaluable source of information, legal guidance, and support during the process of filing a claim for medical negligence.
Some of the ways an Acadia Law Group attorney can help with a medical malpractice claim include:
- Explain Utah laws related to medical malpractice claims and medical malpractice lawsuits
- Obtain your medical records and conduct research to determine whether malpractice occurred
- Locate and retain medical experts to assist with your case
- Handle the Notice of Intent and the prelitigation panel review with the Utah Division of Occupational and Professional Licensing (DOPL) office
- Document your damages and losses related to the malpractice claim
- Monitor all deadlines and the medical malpractice statute of limitations
- File a medical malpractice lawsuit
- Handle all negotiations for a settlement with the defense
- Provide support throughout the difficult and emotional journey of holding a medical provider responsible for negligent conduct
Contact Acadia Law Group for a Free Utah Medical Malpractice Consultation
If you or a family member has been injured because of medical mistakes, negligent acts, or malpractice, you may be entitled to compensation from the health care provider who caused your injury. Time is of the essence. Do not wait to contact an attorney because it could be too late. Receive all the financial benefits you are entitled to within the Utah medical malpractice cap.
Contact the personal injury attorneys at Acadia Law Group for a free consultation by calling 1-800-653-4600. A member of our legal team can answer your questions about medical malpractice cases in Utah and schedule a time for you to discuss your claim with an experienced attorney.