Your Columbia Medical Malpractice Case: The Basics

Your son had appendicitis and had to go in for surgery. The procedure went well and he seemed to be recuperating nicely. Unfortunately, things took a turn for the worse when there was a mix-up regarding his medication and he was given the incorrect kind and dose. He started having no end of side effects and problems and you started wondering about a medical malpractice case. But where do you start? What would it entail? Here is some basic information you might find useful in dealing with a medical malpractice case in Columbia.

To get an overview, you may want to first explore the FindLaw section on Medical Malpractice and then come back here for some information geared more specifically toward Missouri and CoMO.

What Is Medical Malpractice?

When a patient is harmed or injured by the negligence of a health care professional, medical malpractice may have occurred. Although everyone is expected to act reasonably to avoid harming others, doctors are held to a slightly different standard in that they are judged by way of comparison to their professional peers. Basically, a doctor is expected to act with the same diligence, skill and care as would another reasonably competent doctor under the same or similar circumstances. When he deviates from this standard of care and that deviation results in injury to his patient, there is usually a case for medical malpractice.

What Are Common Medical Malpractice Scenarios?

We've all heard stories about the wrong leg being amputated or the wrong kidney being removed, but medical malpractice can arise in a variety of scenarios, including medication errors, birth injuries, unauthorized treatment, and failed or erroneous diagnosis and treatment.

How Long Do You Have to Bring An Action?

In order to make sure that claims aren't forever waiting in the wings and that actions are brought while memories and evidence are relatively fresh, in every legal action there are time restrictions within which you must file your lawsuit or be barred from ever doing so. These are referred to as "statutes of limitations" and they vary by state and cause of action. In Columbia and the rest of Missouri you generally have to bring a medical malpractice claim within 2 years, although there may be some extensions depending on the circumstances of your case. Check with your attorney for more details.

Who Can Be Sued?

Although we often think about medical malpractice in terms of physicians making mistakes, there are other health care professionals and entities that can be sued as well. Under Missouri law, "health care provider" is defined to include dentists, nurses, optometrists, podiatrists, pharmacists, chiropractors, hospitals and more. Hospitals can typically be held liable either directly for their own negligence or "vicariously" for the negligence of their employees.

Logistics of Filing A Suit in Columbia

Check here for contact information and links to Columbia Courthouses. Your case will likely be heard at the Boone County Courthouse. It will be a civil (as opposed to criminal) case. Typically the patient is identified as the "plaintiff" and the health care provider is identified as the "defendant."

State law requires that within 90 days of filing a medical malpractice action you also file a sworn statement ("affidavit") that the case has been assessed by a legally qualified health care professional and it is his opinion that the defendant departed from the standard of care and that such departure led to the damages claimed. Check here for the specific details of the statute.

Defenses to Medical Malpractice Actions

In defending the claim of medical malpractice, the health care professional might argue that he did not deviate from the standard of care or that your injury would have come about even if he had not made an error. Check out this FindLaw article for other defenses that might apply, including contributory negligence, statute of limitations, and more.

Getting Legal Help

Medical malpractice cases are often quite complicated because they require both legal and medical knowledge. You may determine that retaining an attorney is in your best interest. To help you understand how a lawyer might help and what documents you should collect before meeting with one, check out the FindLaw section on Medical Malpractice Legal Help.

Next Steps: Search for a Local Attorney

Contact a qualified attorney.