Medical Malpractice FAQs
Understanding the process of making a medical malpractice claim in Indiana can be challenging. We provide here a wide range of answers to common questions our clients ask. Some FAQs are answered in our videos. Please scroll down for a list of further questions.
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Medical Malpractice Lawyer FAQs
I’ve heard that Indiana has a Patient’s Compensation Fund that may pay money to people injured because of medical malpractice. Is this true?
The Indiana Patient’s Compensation Fund (PCF) guarantees payment for medical malpractice claims in which the liability of a qualified medical provider has been established through a settlement or verdict and the damages exceed $250,000.
A medical provider participates in the PCF by having medical malpractice insurance and paying a surcharge to the PCF. If the medical provider’s liability is established through a settlement or verdict, the provider would be responsible for paying the first $250,000 of damages, and the PCF would pay the balance of the damages up to $1 million. This would cap the patient’s damages award at $1.25 million.
Because there are many steps involved before a patient injured by medical malpractice can get to the PCF, it is very important to get advice from an attorney so you that your rights will be fully protected.
If I don’t want to relive my loss, and I don’t need money, is there any need for me to pursue a medical malpractice claim?
In most cases, the compensation obtained in a medical malpractice lawsuit is of great financial help to the injured patient or the family that has suffered a loss. But a medical malpractice lawsuit is also a legal mechanism for holding individuals or institutions that cause harm accountable. Problems that lead to serious medical errors are often systemic problems, such as improper policies and procedures at a hospital or medical center. Lawsuits can also expose individuals who are negligent or incompetent. A medical malpractice lawsuit that focuses attention on a problem could save others from losses like yours in the future.
I’ve already had one law firm look at my case and decide not to pursue a lawsuit. But I’m just not ready to walk away. Can Baker & Gilchrist help me?
Yes, we can help you.
Rex Baker and Caroline Gilchrist have many years of experience assisting grieving family members and others who have been harmed while undergoing medical treatment. We cannot guarantee that we will find that you have a viable medical malpractice lawsuit, but if we believe that you have suffered from medical negligence, we will give you a thorough review of your case and a full explanation of the options we believe are available to you.
You are right to seek a second and even a third opinion if your questions and concerns have not been addressed to your satisfaction.
In many cases, a medical malpractice lawsuit will be resolved before it reaches court. There are many reasons why settlement is beneficial to both parties in a medical malpractice case. Trials present risks to both sides. Also, the defendant may want to avoid airing in court what may be serious medical errors or systemic problems with a hospital’s policies and procedures. If a settlement is offered, your medical malpractice attorneys will negotiate with the defendant’s attorneys and discuss your options with you. No settlement can be made without your permission.
If your medical malpractice lawsuit goes to court, most of the testimony will come from expert witnesses who will explain medical aspects of the case. If your testimony is important to your case, your attorneys will see to it that you are well prepared.
It is best to seek legal advice about a medical malpractice claim as soon as you suspect that a preventable medical error or neglect has caused serious harm. An attorney can advise you relating to the specifics of the claim and help obtain the relevant medical records and necessary information to evaluate that claim. With that said, developing and filing a medical malpractice lawsuit is often a lengthy process.
As part of the state of Indiana’s Medical Malpractice Act, all proposed medical malpractice claims must be submitted to a medical review panel. The panel consists of three doctors or healthcare providers, and it is chaired by an attorney. The panel reviews the written evidence submitted by the parties and issues an opinion as to whether a preventable medical error occurred and damage resulted.
After the panel releases its opinion, the injured patient may proceed to court. The panel’s opinion is admissible in court. It may influence the outcome of a medical malpractice case.
You generally have two years from the date of the medical error that caused your injury in which to file a malpractice claim.
For medical errors involving children under the age of 6, the child’s parent or guardian has until the child’s 8th birthday to file a claim. In some rare cases, a court may allow a lawsuit to be filed after the deadline if the patient could not reasonably discover the malpractice before the statute of limitations had passed. However, a determination as to whether the statute of limitations has passed is very fact sensitive and must be analyzed on a case-by-case basis.
In the case of a wrongful death caused by medical malpractice, Indiana law allows the victim’s family two years from the date of the alleged medical error or neglect to file a claim.
The state of Indiana sets the amount that a medical malpractice attorney may charge for representing an injured patient at 15 percent of the award paid by the Indiana Patient Compensation Fund. The attorney may charge a fee that is a reasonable percentage of the combined settlement with the healthcare provider and the Patient Compensation Fund. However, the fee can include no more than 15 percent of the award from the Fund. At Baker & Gilchrist, we charge a sliding-scale fee based on the total amount of the recovery, ranging from 27 percent to 35 percent.
The medical malpractice lawyers at Baker & Gilchrist advance all of the costs in litigating your medical malpractice case. We only receive reimbursement for those costs if we obtain a recovery for you.
Our approach is that injured patients should not have to pay money out of pocket to seek justice for a serious medical error. If we do not obtain compensation for you, you do not pay us anything.
Medical Malpractice Claims FAQs
Medical Malpractice Claims
Is there a limit on how much an injured person or family may receive in a medical malpractice claim?
The Indiana Medical Malpractice Act limits awards to $1.25 million. The Healthcare provider’s liability is limited to $250,000. The Indiana Patient Compensation Fund pays the balance, if any, up to the limit. The fund covers a wide range of health care providers. The list includes doctors, nurses, emergency medical technicians (EMTs), optometrists, hospitals, HMOs, ambulance services, blood banks and home health agencies.
Doctors are expected to follow the recognized standard of care when treating a patient. When they fail to do so, and a patient is seriously injured, that may be a case of medical malpractice.
Some medical errors are obvious. For instance, when a doctor performs surgery on the wrong body part or when a foreign object is accidentally left in a patient during surgery, the medical negligence is clear.
But in many cases, the medical error is not so clear. You may only suspect that you or a loved one has been seriously harmed by a health care provider’s treatment. Unfortunately, your doctor and hospital are unlikely to admit to you that they made an error.
You may need independent medical experts to review your medical records and determine whether a preventable medical error occurred that represents malpractice. At Baker & Gilchrist, we can help to provide you with answers.
The medical malpractice lawyers at Baker & Gilchrist will work with medical professionals to evaluate your records and offer guidance as to whether it can be shown that preventable errors occurred and a medical malpractice claim is appropriate.
General Medical Malpractice FAQs
General Medical Malpractice
What if I had a medical procedure covered by Medicare, but now Medicare is refusing to pay for it because of some mistake?
The Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services, which administers the Medicare program, has a policy of not reimbursing hospitals for the costs associated with certain inexcusable medical errors such as surgery on the wrong body part, surgery on the wrong patient, Stage 4 bedsores and certain kinds of infections acquired in a hospital. These are known as “serious reportable events.” This is because these events should never happen. Patients who are victims of “never events” may be entitled to file a medical malpractice claim.
Medical malpractice is another term for medical negligence or a medical mistake that results in serious harm or injury. According to the Institute of Medicine, 98,000 people die every year from medical malpractice. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) found that there were 181,000 severe injuries attributable to medical negligence in 2003. The Institute for Healthcare Improvement estimates there are 15 million incidents of medical harm each year.
Serious medical errors that result in injury are far more common than most people realize. Preventable medical errors are known as “never events.” This is because they should never happen.
Cardiac Medical Malpractice FAQs
Cardiac Medical Malpractice
My husband died of a heart attack. He went to the doctor complaining of chest pain and other symptoms, but I think they missed his diagnosis. Do I have a claim for medical malpractice?
Heart disease is the leading cause of death as reported by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). There are many instances where heart disease is preventable and controllable. There are tests and procedures that doctors can perform which may identify or help a patient with cardiac problems. If you think that your husband’s condition was not properly evaluated or timely diagnosed, then by obtaining the relevant records and obtaining expert evaluation, we can help you determine whether his death was the direct result of medical malpractice.
My father had a heart attack while in surgery. The hospital says bad reactions to anesthesia are not uncommon, but he has had surgery before without problems. Could he have a malpractice claim?
If a doctor fails to obtain a thorough medical history, this can lead to serious problems. Anesthesia complications can also happen because a patient wasn’t properly evaluated before a procedure or carefully monitored during it. Some patients are allergic to certain types of anesthesia but do fine with others.
Once anesthesia is administered, failure to carefully monitor vital signs, including heart rate, blood pressure and blood oxygen levels, may prevent the opportunity to recognize an adverse reaction before it leads to serious consequences such as a heart attack or stroke.
Cancer Medical Malpractice FAQs
Cancer Medical Malpractice
A doctor treated me for an unspecified illness. When my cancer was finally diagnosed, it was advanced. Do I have a malpractice claim for a delayed diagnosis?
Cancer misdiagnosis is a serious medical error. A delayed diagnosis wastes valuable time during which a treatable cancer may advance and become harder to control.
Many conditions and diseases have similar symptoms. In reviewing whether a doctor committed a preventable error, we evaluate whether the doctor ordered the appropriate tests based on your symptoms and whether earlier intervention would have made a significant difference.
Sometimes, a health professional fails to respond to an obvious symptom presented by a patient, fails to refer a patient to a specialist or fails to order follow-up tests.