Recently, a jury in Rhode Island awarded over $25 million to a couple who sued Rhode Island Hospital for medical malpractice in one of the largest negligence verdicts ever reached in the state. Specifically, the victim went to the hospital six years ago after hitting his head and left with even more severe injuries. His injuries were so severe that he will need a legal guardian for the rest of his life. The victim and his family successfully claimed that the hospital staff misdiagnosed him and, in doing so, his condition worsened.
Prevalence of Medical Malpractice Claims
Medical malpractice claims related to misdiagnoses are fairly common, particularly since physicians misdiagnose patients at alarming rates. In fact, recent evidence compiled by the Institute of Medicine indicates that most-everyone will get either a late or wrong diagnosis at least once in their lifetime, sometimes with horrifying consequences that warrant seeking damages to cover any injuries suffered. Not only can a misdiagnosis often result in a return to the hospital, they can extend into prescription errors and even incorrect surgery. These errors often have devastating, permanent effects. In other words, these mistakes can be life-threatening, result in permanent disability, and even sometimes kill the victim of the misdiagnosis.
A misdiagnosis is also often the result of a preventable error and is thus a negligent action. And, as the Institute of Medicine points out, “getting the right diagnosis is a key aspect of healthcare.” It often paves the way for each health care decision afterward.
The Importance of Expert Testimony
It is crucial that any and all medical malpractice cases are brought by experienced attorneys, primarily because these cases typically require a significant amount of evidence offered by expert witnesses. As recently reinforced by the Rhode Island Supreme Court, the injured victim or their family must come forward with expert testimony establishing the standard of care that whomever was responsible for the malpractice. The victim must also establish a causal link between the victim’s injuries and the doctor’s actions. This is the minimum amount required to meet the burden of proof for medical malpractice cases.
Rhode Island Law
Rhode Island sets up a specific deadline known as the “statute of limitations” when it comes to your ability to file a medical malpractice claim. Specifically, you have three years from the time of the incidence to file your case within the state civil court system. This is unless, while exercising reasonable diligence, it was impossible to discover the incident within that timeframe. In that instance, the clock starts running when the incidence of malpractice should have been discovered (based on reasonable diligence).