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According to a study published by Johns Hopkins University, which analyzed medical death rate data over an eight-year period, safety experts calculated that more than 250,000 deaths per year are due to medical errors, making it the third leading cause of death in the United States.
While Massachusetts is fortunate to have some of the finest hospitals and medical care providers in the country, mistakes still happen, and when they do, they can have catastrophic consequences for patients and their families.
To successfully pursue a medical malpractice case in Massachusetts, certain essential criteria must first be satisfied. First, a medical expert retained by the plaintiff (the party bringing the case) must provide a written opinion that (1) a deviation from the accepted “standard of care” has occurred; (2) the deviation from the standard of care resulted in serious injury or death; and (3) the resulting injury or death – in the opinion of the medical expert – was most likely (>50% probability) caused by the physician’s deviation from the established standard of care. When, and only when a qualified medical expert can proffer such opinions is the case a viable candidate for medical malpractice litigation.
Massachusetts General Laws chapter 231 section 60L sets forth the steps that a plaintiff must follow before a lawsuit may be properly filed in court. First, the plaintiff, typically by and through his/her legal counsel, must send a letter to each of the medical providers against whom a claim is contemplated, advising them of the allegations of medical malpractice being asserted against them. The medical providers are then required to provide a written response to the “60L Notice Letter” setting forth their defense(s) to the allegations asserted by the plaintiff. Once this procedural requirement is satisfied, the litigation can formally begin.
After the lawsuit is filed in the appropriate court, the plaintiff must then file a document or “pleading” referred to as the “Plaintiff’s Offer of Proof,”. The Offer of Proof is basically a written presentation of the case, containing the opinions of the plaintiff’s medical expert(s), outlining the evidence of negligence on the part of each named defendant. Counsel for the defendant(s) then decides whether to challenge the plaintiff’s Offer of Proof or allow it to stand unchallenged. If challenged, the court then schedules a Medical Malpractice Tribunal hearing, composed of a judge, a lawyer, and a medical practitioner (usually a physician or nurse) to review the Offer of Proof. At the hearing, the Tribunal members review the evidence contained in the plaintiff’s Offer of Proof and are free to question counsel for both sides on any issues about which they wish to inquire. The Tribunal must then decide (by vote) whether the plaintiff’s Offer of Proof raises a legitimate question of liability for a court (or jury) to decide, or whether the plaintiff’s claim concerns merely an unfortunate medical result. If a legitimate question of liability is found, the case proceeds toward trial. If, on the other hand, the Tribunal is not convinced that a legitimate question of liability is supported by the evidence presented to the Tribunal, the plaintiff may still proceed to trial, but will first be required to post a “bond” with the court, in the amount of $6,000, to help defray the legal defense costs incurred by the medical defendants if the jury finds in favor of the defendants.
What Are The Different Forms of Medical Malpractice?
Failure to Diagnose and Timely Treat: This category of medical malpractice claims is among the most common and often results in a delay in treatment leading to medical complications or death. Typical examples include the failure to diagnose treatable cancer; the failure to investigate and treat symptoms suggestive of active heart disease or stroke, as well as the failure to diagnose and treat other diseases and conditions which typically respond well to timely treatment.
Errors during Surgery: Whether the case involved an anesthetic error, inadvertent damage to a body part, or a preventable complication during surgery, such errors can leave a patient with serious medical problems, and, in extreme cases, result in death.
Birth Injuries: Doctors or Nurses may make critical mistakes during the labor and delivery process. Such errors can result in permanent brain injury, nerve damage, or fractured bones.
Medication Errors: Errors in the choice and dosage of proscribed medication is another common cause of injury or death and can occur in both hospital and office settings, as well as by pharmacies and by others charged with prescribing and preparing medications.
Massachusetts Medical Malpractice Statute of Limitations
In Massachusetts, the deadline (“statute of limitations”) within which a lawsuit must be filed once a medical error is suspected, is usually three (3) years from the date the alleged malpractice occurred or could reasonably have been determined. The limitation period may be enlarged if a patient could not reasonably have known about the alleged malpractice until a later date (often referred to as the “discovery rule”), but in no case may a medical malpractice case must be brought more than seven (7) years after the negligence occurred, whether the error was discoverable or not. If the claim involves a minor under the age of six, they have until age nine to file a claim or their right to pursue compensation may be forever lost. This seven (7) year absolute deadline (also referred to as the “statute of repose”) does not pertain to leaving a foreign object left in a body during surgery.
When selecting an attorney to handle your medical malpractice case, choose a law firm with a proven record of success. Parker Scheer LLP never charges a fee for an initial consultation, and all cases are handled on a “contingent fee basis”, meaning there is no legal fee charged unless and until we recover compensation for your injuries and losses.
If you or a family member have suffered a serious injury or death as a result of medical malpractice, contact one of our Boston medical malpractice lawyers to obtain a free confidential consultation.
Common Medical Malpractice Questions
What Do Medical Malpractice Lawyers Do For Victims Of Neglect?
What is a medical malpractice lawyer and what exactly does one do? Being represented by an experienced attorney is important in all personal injury cases, but especially those involving medical malpractice. These cases are incredibly complex and often require attorneys to hire expert witnesses and conduct thorough investigations in order to prove liability.
You will need an attorney who has a deep understanding of complex medical issues to represent you if you want to achieve the best possible outcome in your case. If you don’t have an attorney, it will be a challenge to get the evidence that you need to prove the defendant’s liability.
What Do Medical Malpractice Attorneys Charge For Their Legal Services?
One of the first questions that clients often ask is, “How much do medical malpractice lawyers in MA charge?” Many people assume that the cost of a lawyer is based on the amount of time that they spend on your case, but that’s not necessarily true.
Personal injury attorneys do not typically charge clients hourly or flat fees. Instead, they work on a contingency fee basis, meaning they won’t get paid unless they help you recover compensation for your injuries.
Schedule A Consultation With One of the Top Medical Malpractice Law Firms in Boston, MA
If you have suffered an injury due to a doctor’s negligence, please contact our Boston medical malpractice lawyers for a free consultation and receive a response within hours after filling out this form. You can also call our office at (617) 886-0500.