It is certain that a medical malpractice case will be fairly complex. This is true no matter in which state it occurs, with Utah being no exception. Legal issues and medical evidence can become very complicated very rapidly, and a medical malpractice plaintiff — such as the injured patient or the patient’s legal counsel — has to comply with some strict procedural regulations from the beginning of the lawsuit. Even more, state laws will limit the amount of compensation a plaintiff can recover successfully in the trial. This article will discuss some of the important laws involving medical malpractice claims in the state of Utah.
Utah’s Statute of Limitations Regarding Medical Malpractice
Essentially, a statute of limitations is a law established by the state that sets a limit on the amount of time given to a plaintiff who is seeking to file a lawsuit. If you attempt to file a lawsuit after the passing of a medical malpractice statute of limitations deadline, it is a given that the doctor or medical facility you are filing suit against will ask for the case to be dismissed by the court. In the event that the court grants this request — which is almost a certainty — that will mark the end of your case.
Like many other states, Utah has a strict statute of limitations used involving medical malpractice lawsuits. This law is available in Utah Code section 78B-3-404, which claims: “A malpractice action against a health care provider shall be commenced within two years after the plaintiff or patient discovers, or through the use of reasonable diligence should have discovered the injury, whichever first occurs.” Essentially, if the act malpractice is not immediately apparent, the case is required to be filed within two years of the date on which the plaintiff would have — within reason — discovered it.
The statute of limitations concerning medical malpractice in Utah establishes a broader deadline — known as a “statute of repose” — that declares no such action can be levied once four years have passed since the date of the medical error. However, there are two types of cases where this broader four-year deadline is not applicable: those involving foreign objects being left in the patient’s body, and those where the health care practitioner concealed evidence of malpractice through fraud. In these scenarios, at the time the existence of the malpractice has been established, the plaintiff has one year to levy a lawsuit against the at-fault party — or parties.
The “Notice of Intent” and Pre-Lawsuit Panels in Utah
Utah Code section 78B-3-412 mandates that the patient provides each health care provider with 90 days’ notice of the intent to file a lawsuit before an injured patient is able to file a medical malpractice suit. This notice is required to include certain details established in the statute. These include:
- The date, time, and location of the alleged injury to the patient;
- Identification of all medical providers involved in the patient’s care;
- Specific allegations of misconduct by each medical provider; and
- The extent of the injured party’s injuries.
The patient is also required to file a request for “pre-litigation panel review” of the claim with Utah’s Division of Occupational and Professional Licensing within 60 days of providing the “notice of intent.”
All pre-litigation mandates must be met once the panel decides the claim is valid or if the patient files an official “affidavit of merit” — which will be explained more in the following section. At this point, the suit can be filed.
There is more crucial information on these procedural rules, and they are outlined in the Utah Code sections 78B-3-416 and 78B-3-418.
Utah Medical Malpractice Cases and the “Affidavit of Merit”
To prove that a medical malpractice case has merit — even if the pre-litigation review panel doesn’t see it as so — the patient is able to file an “affidavit of merit.”
Under Utah Code section 78B-3-423, the affidavit is required to state that a qualified medical practitioner has reviewed the case of the injured party to determine if there is a “reasonable and meritorious cause for the filing of” a medical malpractice suit.
This is only a broad simplification and summary of Utah’s procedural requirements regarding medical malpractice lawsuits. For further information, and for legal advice that is better geared for your individual case, it may be best to discuss your case with a qualified Salt Lake City medical malpractice attorney.
Utah’s Cap on Medical Malpractice Damages
Like many states, Utah has a law on record that sets a limit or “caps” on the amount of compensation a plaintiff can be awarded in a medical malpractice lawsuit. The controversial consequence of these laws is that even when the plaintiff proves that the defendant committed malpractice — and a jury also comes to the same conclusion — the final amount of damages that the plaintiff can recover is ultimately limited.
Also like a majority of states, Utah’s cap is only applied to non-monetary damages, limiting plaintiffs to $450,000 for any medical malpractice cases that are levied after May 15, 2010. The full text of this regulation can be found at Utah Code section 78B-3-410.
So, what exactly are these “non-monetary damages?” In all personal injury cases, non-monetary damages include compensation for things like pain and suffering, mental anguish, and decreased quality of life. Non-monetary damages are often considered to be more “subjective” from case to case and plaintiff to plaintiff, and it is not simple to exactly determine the exact worth of these damages.
Utah does not cap economic damages in medical malpractice lawsuits, which will usually include payment for past and future medical expenses, reimbursement of lost wages, compensation for lost earning capacity, and other financial damages that are associated with an act of malpractice that is the basis of a lawsuit.
Medical Malpractice Injuries in Utah
You may think that medical malpractice is a very rare event or that these cases are often frivolous. However, this is not the case.
Studies have shown that medical malpractice is the third leading cause of death in the United States. Victims of these injuries need to protect their legal rights and contact a Utah malpractice injury attorney.
Siegfried & Jensen has the experience needed to regain a multi-million dollar settlement for your injuries. Call us today at 801-845-9000 if you have been harmed by a trusted doctor’s negligence.