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Washington Medical Malpractice: Laws, Claims and Damages

UPDATED: March 7, 2012

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When a Washington health care provider has negligently injured a patient, the patient can recover damages for their injuries by filing a medical malpractice action. Medical malpractice, or “med mal” law, was enacted to protect patients from medically negligent health care providers. Health care providers have a duty to act within a certain standard of care when administering treatment to a patient. If a Washington health care provider fails to act within this standard of care, and injures the patient as a result, then the health care provider can be sued for medical malpractice. The following are some common situations in which patients might bring a Washington medical malpractice lawsuit against a health care provider:

  1. Improper prescriptions or failure to prescribe necessary medication;
  2. Improper treatment or failure to treat a condition;
  3. Negligence in a nursing home;
  4. Dental malpractice;
  5. Surgical malpractice.

If you or someone you know has received substandard medical treatment, resulting in an injury, contact a Washington medical malpractice lawyer right away to determine if filing a medical malpractice suit is an option available to you.

Who Can Be Sued in a Washington Medical Malpractice Case?

If a person or entity is licensed to provide medical treatment or services in the state of Washington, they can be held liable for any medically negligent acts. This can include health care providers such as hospitals, doctors, nurses, hospice care centers, medical groups, dentists, or chiropractors. If you have been injured during medical treatment, but are unsure whether the party who injured you might qualify as a health care provider, an attorney can help you determine who is at fault.

Washington Medical Malpractice Statute Of Limitations

Every state has a set time period, known as the statute of limitations, during which a medical malpractice claim must be filed in order to be valid. If the claim is not filed until after the statute of limitations expires, then the patient will lose the right to recover damages. In Washington, a patient must file a med mal action within one year of discovering the injury, or within three years of the date of the action or inaction that led to the injury, whichever is later. If the injury is not discovered right away, the patient has up to eight years from the date of the negligent act to file a Washington medical malpractice claim – but regardless, the claim still must be filed within one year of the date the injury was, or reasonably should have been, discovered.

If the negligent act results in death, a wrongful death claim must be filed within three years of the death of the patient. Because of the statute of limitations, it’s important to contact a Washington medical malpractice lawyer as soon as you believe you have grounds to file a med mal claim. If you miss the statute of limitations, your claim will be lost, along with any chance of recovery for your injuries.

Caps on Medical Malpractice Claims in Washington

While Washington lawmakers enacted a statute that capped the amount of noneconomic damages a plaintiff could recover in a medical malpractice lawsuit, Washington courts have since struck down the law, declaring it unconstitutional. Noneconomic damages account for losses like pain and suffering and loss of consortium. There is thus currently no limit on the amount of damages recoverable in a Washington medical malpractice suit. A Washington medical malpractice lawyer will help you determine the appropriate amount of recoverable damages based on the facts of your case.

Filing a Washington Medical Malpractice Claim

If you are considering filing a medical malpractice action against a Washington health care provider, contact a Washington med mal lawyer before you act. Medical malpractice cases get very complex, very quickly. As soon as the case is filed, deadlines for subsequent motions are instantly created, while numerous court appearances must be made. Additionally, in order to avoid having the claim dismissed, expert witnesses usually need to be hired to testify on the appropriate standard of care utilized in the defendant health care provider’s profession. Finally, the defense attorneys for the health care provider typically work for the provider’s insurance company and have been specially trained to protect health care providers from these types of actions. Having an experienced Washington medical malpractice lawyer on your side will even the playing field and help you avoid the hassles of a long, procedurally complex case.

Washington Medical Malpractice Laws

Washington Medical Malpractice

  1. Civil Procedure: Special rights of actions and special immunities: Action for damages based on professional negligence of hospitals or members of healing arts: Title 4, Chapter 4.24, §4.24.290.
  2. Civil Procedure: Limitation of actions: Action for injuries resulting from health care or related services: Title 4, Chapter 4.16, §4.16.350.

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