Medical malpractice affects thousands of people each year. In Indiana, like in many other states, victims of medical malpractice have the right to seek compensation for their injuries. However, the process can be complex and requires a thorough understanding of Indiana’s laws.
This guide aims to provide a comprehensive overview of medical malpractice in Indiana, including the legal framework, and how to navigate this process.
What Is Considered Medical Malpractice? (And What Is Not)
Medical malpractice occurs when a healthcare provider, such as a doctor or nurse, fails to provide the standard of care that a reasonably competent healthcare provider would have provided under similar circumstances, resulting in harm to the patient. This can include errors in diagnosis, treatment, aftercare, or health management.
Common Cases of Medical Malpractice
How to know what negligence is and what is just a bad outcome out of the scope of responsibility of a healthcare provider? Is one of the most common questions we hear from patients who don’t know what to do to recover from their injuries and damages.
To put some light on this matter, we have compiled some of the most common scenarios that may constitute medical malpractice:
- Misdiagnosis: A misdiagnosis can lead to unnecessary or harmful treatments, and it can also delay the correct treatment, causing further harm to the patient.
- Delayed diagnosis: This happens when a healthcare provider fails to diagnose a medical issue promptly, leading to a delay in the necessary treatment and potentially causing further harm to the patient.
- Failure to obtain informed consent: Before providing treatment, healthcare providers must obtain the patient’s informed consent. This means the patient must agree to undergo a particular procedure after being informed about the process, the risks, and the alternatives. If a healthcare worker doesn’t go through this process properly and obtains the patient’s permission to proceed with treatment, this can give rise to a medical malpractice claim.
- Incorrect treatment: Doctors are expected to choose a treatment that is likely to help the patient’s medical condition. If a doctor offers a treatment that no reasonably competent physician would have offered under the circumstances, this could be considered negligence.
- Treatment mistakes: If a healthcare provider makes mistakes while treating a patient, they can be held accountable if a reasonably competent physician with similar training would not have made the same error.
- Surgical errors: Surgeons can face a medical malpractice claim if they botch a procedure. This is especially true in certain circumstances where serious mistakes are made, such as operating on the wrong body part or leaving an instrument inside the patient.
- Birth injuries: If a birth injury is caused by a healthcare provider’s negligence, this can give rise to a malpractice claim.
What Is Not Considered Medical Malpractice?
While there are many situations that can lead to a claim of medical malpractice, it’s important to understand that not all negative results in healthcare constitute malpractice. Here are some scenarios that likely won’t amount to a viable medical malpractice case:
- The patient’s condition gets worse: A doctor cannot be said to have committed medical malpractice simply because a patient’s condition became worse during the course of treatment. As long as the doctor acted with reasonable care and skill in choosing and carrying out a course of treatment, typically no medical malpractice can be said to have occurred, even when a patient’s condition takes a turn for the worse.
- The patient’s condition is untreatable: Not all illnesses and health problems are treatable. A doctor who correctly diagnoses a health problem and makes sound decisions in deciding how to proceed with the patient’s care cannot be said to have committed malpractice simply because the patient’s condition is not treatable, or is terminal.
In general, there are no guarantees of medical results. To establish a case of medical malpractice, it is necessary to prove an injury or damages that resulted from the healthcare provider’s deviation from the appropriate standard of care for the patient’s condition.
The Numbers Don’t Lie: Medical Malpractice Statistics
Medical malpractice is a concern that extends beyond the borders of Indiana, permeating the entire United States. A Johns Hopkins Hospital study reveals a disturbing truth: medical errors are responsible for an estimated 250,000 deaths annually, and constitutes the third leading cause of death in the U.S., surpassed only by heart disease and cancer.
Still, the number of medical malpractice claims filled in Indiana and all across the country is considerably low. Contrary to popular medical malpractice myths, a minuscule proportion of individuals seek legal recourse when they fall prey to medical malpractice. Current estimates suggest that a mere 2% of victims decide to pursue a case.
Indiana’s Medical Malpractice Legal Framework
When a patient has suffered from medical negligence, it’s often hard for them and their families to present a personal injury claim to get justice. Consequently, medical bills become a real burden, and recovery gets harder.
Probably, this happens because victims of negligence don’t know their rights or are unsure about what constitutes medical malpractice under the umbrella of Indiana Laws. Here’s an overview of the core Indiana laws that determine the responsibilities of healthcare professionals and companies.
Medical Malpractice Act
The Indiana Medical Malpractice Act is the primary law governing medical malpractice cases in the state. It sets the rules and procedures for filing a medical malpractice claim, including the requirement for a medical review panel to evaluate the case before it can proceed to court.
The Act also establishes a cap on medical malpractice damages, currently set at $1.8 million for claims after July 1, 2019, according to Indiana Code.
Comparative Fault Act
The Comparative Fault Act can also play a role in medical malpractice cases. This law stipulates that if a patient is found to be partially at fault for their injuries, their compensation may be reduced in proportion to their degree of fault.
However, if a patient is found to be more than 50% at fault, they may not be able to recover any damages at all.
Patient’s Compensation Fund
If you have received the maximum amount of damages from a healthcare provider’s insurance, then you can request the Indiana Patient’s Compensation Fund (PCF), which provides additional compensation to patients.
The PCF is funded by surcharges paid by healthcare providers and is intended to ensure that patients can receive full compensation, even if a provider’s insurance is insufficient to cover the damages.
Navigating the Legal Process
Filing a medical malpractice claim in Indiana can be a complex process. It requires gathering medical records, presenting the claim to a medical review panel, and potentially going to trial. Therefore, it’s crucial to have an experienced medical malpractice attorney who understands Indiana’s laws and can guide you through the process.
If you believe you or a loved one has been a victim of medical malpractice in Indiana, it’s important to act quickly. Contact a qualified Indiana medical malpractice attorney to discuss your case and explore your legal options.