Physicians and medicine have been mentioned in some of the earliest laws ever discovered by historians. Medical malpractice litigation spans back thousands of year. There’s even a Babylonian code dating back to 1794 BC that mentions the repercussions for medical mistakes and promoting the idea that doctors should face punishments if they wrongfully harm a patient.
In the United States, however, the first case came about in 1794 after a patient died during an operation. The victim’s husband brought the case forward and won because the physician did not operate as skillfully as promised. After that, there was a large increase in med mal claims and the American Medical Association was founded. The litigation process has been designed to promote extensive discovery and negotiations between the opposing parties to encourage a resolution without going to trial.
Because of the increase in patients attempting to hold doctors accountable for their mistakes, there were numerous reforms passed in the 20th century. Standards of medical malpractice awards were first published in the 1970s. Today’s laws serve to protect patients from errors. Medical practitioners are supposed to act within the established standard of care when examining, diagnosing, and treating patients, as neglecting to do so can result in harm.
Mississippi has its own history and laws in regard to medical malpractice litigation. If you’re planning on pursuing a claim against a negligent health care professional, you’ll want to understand how this area of law works.
The Medical Malpractice Trial Process
While most cases end in negotiated settlement, a number go to trial. If your case is going to trial, your lawyer will explain what will need to be done, what will happen, and what the possible outcomes are. This process has evolved in Mississippi over the years with the area of litigation itself.
Prior to the trial, preparations will take place. This will involve disclosing expert medical witnesses. The opposing parties may also need to file a trial brief stating their arguments for the judge.
As the trial begins, a jury selection process will take place. Once that has happened, opening statements will be given. Your lawyer will give the jury an overview of your case and tell them what they can expect to hear from witnesses. After the opening statements, your case will be presented. This involving calling on expert witnesses, offering testimony, and presenting evidence. Depending on the complexity of the case, it could take hours, days, or even weeks for all the information to be presented. Once the closing statements have been given, the jury can deliberate.
Once the jurors reach a decision, damages, both economic and noneconomic, can be calculated. If the outcome is not what you were hoping for, you have the right to appeal and a final judgment will be made.
The Effects of Tort Reform
Prior to 2004, there were no caps on damages for victims of hospital mistakes or doctor’s error in Mississippi. That year, however, a special legislative session led lawmakers to limit pain-and-suffering damage awards to one million dollars in most lawsuits and $500,000 in medical malpractice cases. This cap was supposed to repair Mississippi’s reputation as anti-defendant and allow liability insurance providers to contain the ever-increasing price of premiums.
The reform was supported by business groups looking to reduce lawsuit verdicts. The opposers, however, claimed assigning fault would be difficult. Even if a judge or juror believed the victim deserved a high sum, the amount would be capped because of the reform.
The tort reform also prohibited people from filing a lawsuit unless they gave the opposing party at least 60 days prior written notice, required attorneys to include a certificate with the lawsuit to indicate that at least one medical expert believed there was reasonable basis for the legal action, required the state insurance commissioner to investigate and report the number of doctors who were unable to obtain malpractice insurance, and stated that lawsuits had to be filed in the county were the alleged malpractice happened.
Understanding the laws and how they’ve evolved can be complicated, but our attorneys will make sure you understand every aspect of your case.
The Cost of Medical Malpractice in Mississippi
According to a Harvard School of Public Health study, 2.4 percent of the money spent on the nation’s health care is for medical malpractice issues. This amounts to nearly $56 billion. The majority of this money, however, is spent by physicians looking to avoid lawsuits. Because of this, many victims’ cases are ignored, and they are forced to find ways to recover on their own.
Our lawyers are prepared to help victims of negligent doctors in Mississippi stand up for themselves. In general, Mississippi has seen very low medical malpractice costs for well over a decade. Per one million residents, nearly 30 claims are filed every year. For every 100 practicing doctors, which includes physicians, podiatrist, dentists, nurses, pharmacists, lab techs, physical therapist, etc., 1.25 claims are filed. As a result, all providers pay $5.99 in malpractice costs per capita.
As medical malpractice litigation evolves and becomes even more complex, it can be overwhelming for victims to take on a legal battle while trying to recover from what they’ve wrongfully been put through. Hospital errors often result in extensive medical bills, lost wages from time off work, and pain and suffering. In the event the injury was catastrophic, the victim will likely have to adapt to a new way of life, which can be even more difficult.
In order to cope with the injuries and seek compensation, your best bet is to hire an experienced team of lawyers. At Pittman Roberts & Welsh, PLLC, we stay up-to-date on all law changes and will know how they apply to your unique situation. If you’ve been hurt by a doctor in Mississippi, we’ll fight to get you what you need to recover and ensure the negligent party is held accountable for their actions. To learn more about your rights and options or for a free case evaluation, contact our firm today.