The facts are clear: Tens of thousands of Americans are seriously injured or killed every year by medical error. In fact, some sources say medical negligence is the nation's third leading cause of death. This is astounding. Yet many people still refuse to believe it. What is more, even many individuals who are seriously injured by negligent health care providers refuse to do anything about it for fear of being one of “those” people – the kind who file lawsuits. This is partly due to volumes of misinformation on the Web. This is why finding an experienced injury lawyer in Spokane is so important. It is also largely due to a mistaken belief that filing a lawsuit will raise insurance premiums and increase costs and harm everyone in society. Research shows this is not the case.
Just How Bad is Medical Error in Washington State?
According to a leading public watch group, Public Citizen, roughly 2,000 Washingtonians are killed by medical error each year. In a 2005 study, the group found numerous examples of physicians who either killed or seriously injured patients, resulting in millions of dollars in insurance payouts, yet a large number of these physicians were never even disciplined by the State medical boards. This means your local family physician may have repeatedly injured or even killed patients, and you would never know.
Tort Reform Hurts the Public
Organizations like the American Tort Reform Association have actively lobbied for decades to place the burden and the blame on consumers. According to their logic, if a doctor injures or kills you or someone you love, you should be limited to some pre-determined amount of money. These are often called “damage caps.”
Washington State Has Remained Free of Such Limitations on Awards
Fortunately, to date, our State's Constitution prohibits these sorts of caps. In a landmark decision, Sofie v. Fibreboard Corp., 771 P.2d 711 (Wa. 1989), the Washington State Supreme Court held a statute that limits on how much money a person can receive in a civil case “interferes with the jury's traditional function to determine damages.” Therefore, if someone seriously injures or kills another person in our state, liability will be placed on the person who acted negligently. After all, a patient should never be forced to endure pain, suffering, and financial burdens associated with medical errors that are the result of a negligent health care provider.
Should You Sue if Injured?
As you might imagine, the answer is “maybe.” Only a skilled personal injury attorney can fully assess your case to help you determine your options and rights. However, do not delay. Under State Law, you only have three years from the date of injury to bring a lawsuit if you decide to do so. There are other rules and limitations that apply to when you discovered the injury or when you should have discovered the injury. Therefore, the time limit is not always as clear as the law makes it sound. The law that determines how long you have to file a lawsuit is found in Wash. Rev. Code §4.16.350, and it is complex. You should not attempt to make such important legal decisions without an experienced and aggressive Spokane personal injury attorney on your side. Remember, consultations are free, and simply talking to a lawyer does not mean you have to file a lawsuit. If you or someone you love has been injured by medical error, you should definitely make the call.