You or a loved one was injured in the course of receiving medical care. You feel sure it was due to malpractice, and you've decided to file a lawsuit. What next? There's a lot that needs to happen in between the time you decide to sue, and when the lawsuit actually begins. Here are some things you need to understand and be prepared for if you want your case to be successful.
First things first: no matter how grave your injury or how obvious the malpractice, if you file your case outside of the statute of limitations, it will likely not be successful. Statutes of limitations in civil cases (like medical malpractice) place limits on how long an injured person has to start a legal action against the party who injured them.
In Oregon medical malpractice cases, the statute of limitations is only two years from the date of injury or from the time it should reasonably have been discovered. Some errors may not be noticed immediately but cause problems months or years after they happen. However, five years after the injury-causing act or omission, suit is generally barred.
However, even this five-year outer limit is not a hard-and-fast rule. If the medical provider made some misleading representation, or committed some fraud or deception that caused you not to file suit within those five years, your time to file suit is extended. You would have two years from the date you should reasonably have discovered the error, in spite of the deception.
If the injured person was a minor, there are also special rules about the statute of limitations. For minors, the statute of limitations may be tolled (frozen) for an additional five years or until he or she reaches the age of majority, 18. So if your child was injured by malpractice at age 14, the statute does not begin to run for four years, until he or she turns 18. The caveat is that the limitations period may not be extended for more than five years, or one year past the age of majority, whichever happens first.
As a general rule, it's best not to delay filing a claim if you think you have a medical malpractice case.
Unlike some other states, there is no cap on economic damages in an Oregon medical malpractice case, so certain cases can be worth, literally, millions of dollars. The only damage cap is on non-economic damages (such as compensation for mental anguish) in wrongful death cases due to malpractice. That cap is $500,000, but remember that economic damages in the case are still uncapped.
What all of this means is medical professionals and facilities stand to lose a lot in a successful malpractice suit, and they may be faced with multiple suits over a career; even suits that don't have merit still need to be defended against. So care providers tend to have very experienced legal teams who are highly skilled at finding and exploiting any flaws in your case.
This fact, together with the fact that Oregon medical malpractice law is very complex and frequently evolving, means it's unwise for you to attempt to file and argue a case on your own. Even most attorneys, unless they are experienced in this particular area in the law, would likely be overmatched by the medical providers' legal defense team. In addition, the cost of gathering evidence, retaining qualified experts, and putting together a case on your own is probably prohibitive.
The good news is that you don't need to go it alone. An experienced Oregon medical malpractice attorney can review your case at no cost to you, let you know its strengths and weaknesses, and lay out a road map for pursuing recovery. An attorney will have access to the experts needed to help prove the case, and will not charge you attorney fees unless your case is successful. Because experienced medical malpractice attorneys are familiar with legal requirements, they will also make sure that you don't miss deadlines and avoid other pitfalls of which you might be unaware.
We invite you to contact Huegli Fraser PC for an analysis of your claim. Learn more about filing an Oregon medical malpractice case:
The information in this blog post is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended to be legal advice. You should not make a decision whether or not to contact a qualified medical malpractice attorney based upon the information in this blog post. No attorney-client relationship is formed nor should any such relationship be implied. If you require legal advice, please consult with a competent medical malpractice attorney licensed to practice in your jurisdiction.
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