Georgia ranks 16th among U.S. states with the highest malpractice costs per person, per year. More and more Georgians incur injuries and losses due to their healthcare professionals’ negligence. The law gives them the right to claim compensation for their losses. Since the procedures are complicated, many victims turn to Georgia medical malpractice lawyers for help.
At Joe Durham Jr., P.C., we have been receiving more and more inquiries from Albany and Dougherty County residents. Some of our clients are well-informed and fully aware of their rights. They know what they have to do, but they prefer to enlist our help to save time and effort. Others have no idea whether their case qualifies as medical malpractice. They ask us to review their case, explain their options, and guide their steps.
We want to make sure our clients receive all the information and advice they need. As a result, we often begin discussions by defining medical malpractice. This way, our clients can figure out by themselves whether they have a case or not.
What is Medical Malpractice or When to Consult a Medical Malpractice Lawyer in Georgia?
Georgia Code section 51-1-27 defines medical malpractice and labels it as a tort. This means perpetrators can be held liable civilly. The law states healthcare professionals have to employ reasonable care and skills. Any circumstances in which they show a lack of care or skill are grounds for civil action.
The victims of tort may seek compensation for their injuries or losses. To obtain it, they will have to prove that their healthcare provider neglected to follow protocol. They will have to show that:
- The medical provider acted differently than any reasonable person in their shoes would have acted
- The medical provider caused the injuries and losses the claimant seeks compensation for
- The injuries and losses justify the amount the claimant is requesting as compensation.
Although some medical malpractice cases have devastating consequences, victims should act fast. Waiting for too long could cost them their right to compensation. We will explain why and how long they have in the following lines.
Statutes of Limitations or Why Contact a Georgia Medical Malpractice Lawyer as Soon As Possible
The statutes of limitations are basically time frames set by the law for affected parties to take action. Taking action may mean seeking compensation or enforcing rights. The time frames vary according to the nature of the case. They also vary from one state to another.
In Georgia, code section 9-3-71 sets the deadline for medical malpractice actions. It gives victims two years to seek compensation for their losses. The clock starts running on the day when the malpractice occurred.
In theory, actions initiated after the two years have passed do not stand a chance. In practice, experienced medical malpractice lawyers in Georgia often succeed in extending the deadline. That is because Georgia laws allow some exceptions.
One of them is known as “the discovery rule” or the “statute of repose”. It relates to situations when the healthcare professional’s error remains undiscovered for some time. In such cases, the countdown should begin on the day of the discovery. However, the same code section cited above stipulates a deadline of maximum five years.
Another exception relates to cases when a patient has a foreign object left in them. Common examples are surgical sponges or instruments. When that happens, the patient has one year from object discovery to seek compensation. Other exceptions cover patients younger than five. Patients legally incompetent at the time of the malpractice may claim compensation later as well.
Those who want to take action after the two years have passed will need to prove their special circumstances. For this, they will need the help of an experienced Georgia medical malpractice lawyer. The latter will assess their case and see what options are available.
Starting early is key to avoiding delays and ensuring the desired outcome. At Joe Durham Jr., P.C., we encourage clients to get in touch as soon as possible. In fact, many of our clients reach out to us from the hospital. We go to them, assess their case, identify the defendant and recommend the best course of action. Our clients can then focus on their recovery, while we pursue the compensation they deserve.
Defendants Medical Malpractice Lawyers in Georgia May Choose for Their Claims
Georgia Code Section 9-11-9.1 identifies the potential defendants to a medical malpractice claim. Depending on the case specifics and the available evidence, the defendant can be a:
- Medical doctor
- Physician assistant
- Radiological therapist.
Healthcare professionals are not always the defendant to a malpractice claim. Depending on case circumstances, an Albany medical malpractice attorney may recommend going against:
- The medical facility where the patient received treatment
- The laboratory or clinic where the patient underwent blood tests or other investigations
- A third-party service provider (equipment maintenance, cleaning and disinfection, drugs supplier)
Choosing the right defendant to a medical malpractice claim is very important. The burden of proof in such cases falls on the claimant. Therefore, the defendant should be the party against whom they have the most evidence. Compared to other injury claims, medical malpractice claims have to meet a specific requirement. They need to include an expert affidavit.
The Expert Affidavit and Its Importance for Georgia Surgical Malpractice Lawyers
Medical malpractice claims are settled in court. The claimant has to file a lawsuit. The first step of the procedure involves filing an initial complaint. It is basically a letter notifying the court and the medical professional of the claimant’s intentions. The document should present the accusations against healthcare professionals.
Along with this, the claimant has to file an affidavit of expert. It is the professional opinion of another healthcare provider. It should identify and prove the defendant’s negligent act. The affidavit’s author needs higher qualifications and expertise than the defendant. They need to be an authority in their field. This will grant them credibility and help the claimant’s case.
Let’s take a brain surgery malpractice case as an example, having the surgeon as the defendant. In order for the court to accept the case, the claimant will need to supply another brain surgeon’s affidavit. The latter should have higher qualifications and more experience than the defendant.
Their affidavit will explain what the defendant did wrong and what standards they breached. It will qualify as under-oath testimony and provide solid arguments. Claimants who do not have an expert’s affidavit may request a time extension to supply it.
This is only possible when filing the claim with less than 10 days before the statute of limitations expires. The claimant’s medical malpractice lawyer is the only one who can obtain the time extension. They should have taken over the case with less than 90 days before the statute of limitations expires. The court will give them 45 days to obtain and file the affidavit.
At Joe Durham Jr., P.C., we know how important the affidavit of expert is. We focus on obtaining it as soon as we take over a new case. This way, we ensure the timely acceptance of our complaints and we avoid delays. We have a long list of reputable experts to turn to, so obtaining the affidavit is just routine. We do whatever it takes to recover any losses our clients may have incurred.
Types of Losses Georgia Medical Malpractice Attorneys May Recover for Their Clients
The value of a medical malpractice claim in Georgia depends on several factors:
- The circumstances and severity of the malpractice
- The impact of the malpractice on the patient’s life and health
- The evidence available against the defendant
- The skills and experience of the medical malpractice lawyer representing them
Georgia laws allow malpractice victims to claim and recover the following types of losses:
- Economic losses. These refer to quantifiable losses and expenses. Common examples include doctor consultations, medicines, and medical procedures and devices. Home care, lost wages, and lost earning capacity fall into this category as well.
- Non-economic losses. They refer to subjective, difficult to quantify losses. Common examples are pain and suffering, loss of joy, disfigurement, and loss of consortium.
- Punitive damages. The court may award these damages to punish intentional wrongdoing or gross negligence. Georgia code section 51-12-5.1 caps these damages at $250,000.
Until 2010, several non-economic damage caps were in force in Georgia. For example, claims against one medical facility could not exceed $350,000. Claims against more than one facility were capped at $700,000. There was an overall cap for non-economic damages set at $1.05 million per case. However, the Georgia Supreme Court deemed these caps unconstitutional.
Therefore, there are no absolute limits to the compensation a claimant can receive. Also the limits depend on the factors listed above. At Joe Durham Jr., P.C. we have obtained impressive compensation sums for our clients. Usually, the sooner we start working on a case, the more benefits our clients enjoy.
The Importance of Working with a Georgia Medical Malpractice Attorney
In Georgia, most malpractice cases are settled in court. Court actions need to follow strict procedures. The average person is not familiar with them. However, for a medical malpractice lawyer in Albany, they are mere routine.
The latter will make sure to follow them all on time and by the book. They will keep their client informed of the progress, saving them time and worries. Although it is the claimant’s responsibility to prove the malpractice, their lawyer will take over.
They will conduct their own investigations, and identify and interview potential witnesses. They’ll not hesitate to estimate future losses, interview expert witnesses, and cite case precedents. They will defend their clients’ interests in all circumstances and against all odds. This example should emphasize how helpful a medical malpractice attorney in Albany can be.
Let us say a healthcare professional administered the wrong medicine to their patient. The patient went into anaphylactic shock and lost consciousness. For a short while, their brain remained without oxygen. This left them partially disabled. In order to recover, they will need long years of therapy, rehabilitation, and hard work.
The law entitles them to recover all their expenses, lost wages, and future losses. They should also receive compensation for their pain and suffering and their partial disability. If their spouse leaves them, unwilling to cope with the situation, they can claim loss of consortium as well.
In order to actually obtain their compensation, they will have to prove several aspects:
- That the doctor prescribed/administered the treatment they were allergic to
- That the doctor should have expected their allergic response and taken measures to prevent it
- That they failed to exercise reasonable care (perform a tolerance test)
- That the treatment induced the anaphylactic shock and all its consequences
- That the expenses, losses, and suffering of the patient justify the value of the compensation claim.
This is almost impossible for the partially disabled patient to do. It takes specific knowledge about the treatment administered, safety protocols, side effects, and more. It takes estimating future expenses and documenting already-incurred ones.
An inexperienced patient would be wandering in the dark. An experienced medical malpractice attorney will know exactly what to do and where to look. They already have the experience, knowledge, resources, and contacts they need. Putting them to good use and securing a fair compensation will be easy.
As a general rule, cases handled by experienced lawyers settle for higher amounts. Medical malpractice attorneys in Albany, GA, do not accept the first settlement offer they receive. They do their math and negotiate with the defendant until they reach a convenient agreement. They also put their clients’ interests above everything else and defend them against all odds.
Consult an Albany Medical Malpractice Lawyer Now!
Did you incur injuries or losses due to a healthcare provider’s malpractice? You are probably confused and unsure of your rights and the steps to take to defend them. We can help. At Joe Durham Jr., P.C., we have handled numerous malpractice cases in Albany, Georgia. We will gladly put our experience and knowledge in your service.
All you need to do is call our office or fill in the contact form and schedule a free consultation. You’ll have one of the best Albany medical malpractice attorneys review your case and answer your questions. If you let them, they will take over all formalities and get you the compensation you deserve.