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Understand your options for medical malpractice compensation

Most of the time, when you visit the doctor or go to the hospital, you know you are receiving the best and proper care. Unfortunately, doctors and other health care providers are human and, therefore, they are fallible. Mistakes can and do happen. The result of a doctor error can be serious and even fatal. It is important for consumers to be aware of their options in the event of medical negligence or malpractice.

Common damages in medical malpractice cases

The most commonly awarded damages in a medical malpractice lawsuit cover lost wages or earnings, out of pocket medical expenses as well as punitive damages. A surgical complication, or what is known as an “adverse surgical outcome”, tops the list of the most common reason for a medical malpractice claim and includes:

  • Contraction of post-surgical infection
  • Unintended cuts, tears or breaks
  • Unnecessary surgery or a lack of proper and informed consent to a surgery

Other common causes for claims include problems resulting from non-surgical treatments, erroneous or lack of diagosis, issues with patient safety, and personal injury or illness caused by a medication or during the birth process.

Trend shows fewer Missouri claims, but higher payouts

In recent years, the number of lawsuits filed for medical malpractice has decreased throughout the state. 2011 saw 816 new claims compared with 1,512 in 2005. The 2011 figure had a price tag of $41 million in claim costs. While the total number of claims has reduced, the average payout for awards has increased. The 2011 average damage was $300,955.

Controversy surrounding caps on punitive damages

The state of Missouri for some time had a top limit of $350,000 for any punitive damage award in a medical malpractice case. The state Supreme Court overturned that law in the summer of 2012.

It did not take long, however, for the state legislature to respond. In March 2013, the Missouri House of Representatives voted to reinstate the $350,000 cap on malpractice awards. If approved by the State Senate, it will once again be back in effect.

The effects of a medical error or omission may not always be instantly recognizeable. There can be many gray areas in the world of medical malpractice and the laws as well can change frequently. Knowing this, persons who suspect they or a loved one have been injured or acquired an illness as a result of some form of medical error should consult with an attorney experienced in this area of law.

The effect on patients of a surgical mishap, a missed diagnosis or an incorrectly prescribed medication, can be long-lasting and even fatal. Learning your rights and the process for obtaining compensation from a professional is always the best advice.

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