The Basics of Massachusetts Medical Malpractice Law
Medical malpractice occurs when a patient is injured by a medical professional while undergoing treatment. Massachusetts malpractice law explains what constitutes a legitimate medical malpractice claim in the state. It also establishes rules regarding medical malpractice cases, including the time limit for filing a claim and limits on how much a court can award a patient who has been injured.
If you think you may have a valid medical malpractice claim, you should learn the basics of the law before filing a lawsuit. In addition, you should talk with medical malpractice attorneys. Massachusetts medical malpractice attorneys can review your case prior to filing to assess its strengths and weaknesses.
What Is Massachusetts Malpractice?
In Massachusetts, medical malpractice occurs when a healthcare professional breaches, or violates, the standard of care when treating a patient. In general, the standard of care is defined as the generally accepted practices and procedures used by medical professionals in a specific geographic area when treating patients suffering from a particular disease or disorder. The standard of care varies depending on a number of factors, including a patient’s age and medical history.
To prove the doctor breached the standard of care, you and your attorney will need to rely on medical experts to testify about what the standard of care should be. You will then need to show evidence that this standard was breached.
Furthermore, once you have established that a standard of care was breached, you will have to prove this breach is what caused your injuries. Once again, medical experts can testify as to how the breach caused your injuries.
Statute of Limitations for Medical Malpractice in Massachusetts
Each state sets its own time limits (called the statute of limitations) as to how long a patient can wait to file suit against a medical professional for medical malpractice. In Massachusetts, this limit is three years from the time that the patient learns about an injury or should reasonably have learned about an injury.
In addition, no claim can be brought more than seven years after the incident that caused the injury occurred. This means that if you don’t discover your malpractice injury until eight years after you received treatment, you will be barred, in most situations, from filing suit.
Medical Malpractice Damage Caps in Massachusetts
Massachusetts medical malpractice law does place limits on how much a patient may be awarded for his or her injuries. These awards are known as damages, and the limits placed on these damages are known as damage caps.
There are several kinds of damages available to patients injured during the course of medical treatment.
Compensatory damages are awarded to reimburse a patient for certain expenses, such as medical costs and lost wages. There is no cap placed on these damages. You must show proof of your expenses in court to be awarded compensatory damages. This is why it is important to retain copies of your medical bills and provide them to your medical malpractice attorney.
Non-economic damages compensate a patient for intangible costs, such as pain and suffering. Massachusetts does place a cap on these types of damages. Specifically, an injured patient cannot receive more than $500,000 in non-economic damages. However, this cap may be lifted in certain circumstances, such as substantial disfigurement or impairment of bodily functions.
The final type of compensation available to injured patients is known as punitive damages. Punitive damages are intended to punish the healthcare professional for willful misconduct, such as purposefully causing injury. Such damages are rarely awarded in Massachusetts malpractice cases. However, in cases where the patient dies due to willful misconduct, punitive damages are available.
Medical malpractice cases can be very complex. They can take months to years to resolve, and many never actually make it to trial. To better understand your case and what a filing a claim might entail, you should contact a Massachusetts medical malpractice attorney.