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MONTANA MEDICAL MALPRACTICE


In Montana, a patient who has been injured by substandard medical care may file a medical malpractice lawsuit. These lawsuits cover things like failing to order medical tests, ignoring a call for help that resulted in injury or death, neglecting to provide appropriate aftercare, or failing to give a patient enough information to make a reasonable medical decision. Beyond doctors and hospitals, medical malpractice lawsuits may also be brought against surgical outpatient centers, nursing homes and defective medical device manufacturers, among other providers.

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Healthcare fraud doctor handcuffs thumbThese lawsuits are more common than many people realize. Sadly, medical errors are the third leading cause of death in the United States, according to a study done by Johns Hopkins University. In 2015, roughly 15 out of every 100,000 Montanans  had filed a malpractice lawsuit against a medical professional.

Montana medical malpractice lawsuits must, however, meet certain strict procedural requirements concerning pre-litigation review and time limits. An experienced Montana medical malpractice lawyer is essential to success.

STATUTE OF LIMITATIONS FOR MONTANA MEDICAL MALPRACTICE LAWSUITS

Too many lawsuits are lost at the outset, simply because too much time has passed. In Montana, the lawsuit must be filed no later than 3 years of the date the injury was or should have reasonably been discovered. There is also a maximum limit of 5 years, regardless of when the injury was discovered. There are exceptions to this time limit for lawsuits brought on behalf of children and in situations where the defendant knew he or she injured someone, but withheld that information with the victim. It is important to consult with an attorney about specific facts.

PROVING MEDICAL MALPRACTICE

Not all bad medical outcomes are the result of malpractice. Proving medical malpractice requires that:
  • The medical professional or organization had a duty to care for the patient – usually this means that there must have been a doctor/patient relationship;
  • The provider performed that duty so badly that it did not meet minimum professional  standards of care; and
  • The patient’s injury was caused by that substandard care, and not by some other cause.
It is rare for Montana medical malpractice lawsuits to go to trial, but those that do often depend heavily on expert testimony about what the prevailing standard of care is – what a reasonable and competent doctor or medical organization would have done in a given circumstance and location.

MODIFIED COMPARATIVE NEGLIGENCE

Montana, like many other states, has adopted what is often referred to as a modified comparative negligence standard with a 51 percent bar. If the court determines that a plaintiff shares the responsibility for what happened to him or her, the plaintiff can still recover some damages, unless the plaintiff is more at fault than the medical provider for the harm suffered. In those situations, the plaintiff gets nothing.

DAMAGES ARE CAPPED

Montana does not limit awards for economic damages. These include the patient’s medical bills, prescription and nursing costs or lost wages, for example. Awards for noneconomic damages, such as permanent disability, disfigurement, blindness, loss of a limb, or physical pain and suffering are limited to $250,000, however.  Punitive damages against a medical provider are rare and depend on convincing evidence that the defendant acted with actual malice.

MONTANA MEDICAL LEGAL PANEL HEARING AND MEDIATION

Before filing a medical malpractice lawsuit in Montana, must file an application with the Montana Medical Legal Panel to request a hearing. The panel will review the evidence offered to determine whether there is reasonable cause to believe that the patient’s injury is the result of malpractice.

Their finding is not binding, but can help both parties assess the strength of the case and what amount of compensation might be acceptable in a settlement.  If settlement negotiations fail and the plaintiff decides to file a medical malpractice lawsuit, both sides must attend court-ordered mediation if either side requests it. Only at that point can the lawsuit proceed.
 

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Published on Oct-23-20


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