Medical malpractice is a serious concern in healthcare systems across the United States, and North Dakota is no exception. When healthcare providers fail to meet the expected standard of care, patients may suffer preventable injuries or worsened medical conditions. Understanding the basics of a medical malpractice case and some of the common hurdles in North Dakota is of utmost importance.
Defining Medical Malpractice
Medical malpractice occurs when a healthcare provider, whether it’s a doctor, nurse, hospital, or other medical professional, fails to provide treatment that aligns with the established medical standard of care, thereby causing harm to the patient. The standard of care for a healthcare provider is the level of treatment a reasonably skilled and competent healthcare provider would offer under similar circumstances.
Not only are individual healthcare providers required to meet the standard of care, but healthcare systems are also held to this standard. In North Dakota, the standard of care for a
hospital or healthcare facility is defined as, “the skill and care which is ordinarily possessed and exercised by a reasonably competent hospital in the same or similar circumstances.”
Common Medical Malpractice Examples
- Misdiagnosis or Delayed Diagnosis: When a healthcare provider fails to correctly diagnose a condition in a timely manner or misdiagnoses it all together.
- Surgical Errors: Operating on the wrong body part or leaving surgical instruments inside a patient. Many surgical errors are considered “never events.”
- Medication Errors: Administering incorrect medications or incorrect dosages.
- Birth Injuries: Inadequate care during childbirth causing injuries or death to the mother or the newborn.
- Anesthesia Errors: Administering too much or too little anesthesia during a medical procedure
- Failure to Obtain Informed Consent: Patients have the right to be informed about the risks and benefits of a procedure or treatment before consenting. Failure to provide this information can be grounds for a malpractice claim.
Important Points: The Statute Of Limitations And Damages
The statute of limitations is the amount of time within which a claim may be brought. In North Dakota, the statute of limitations in medical malpractice cases is two years from the treatment at issue.
Additionally, damages in medical malpractice are separated into two categories: economic damages and non-economic damages. While economic damages are not capped in North Dakota, non-economic damages are capped at $500,000 for injuries (though, wrongful death claims may not be limited by the damage cap).
Expert Opinion Requirement
A common misconception regarding medical malpractice cases is that the case begins the same way a regular negligence case does: with a summons and complaint. While it is true that a summons and complaint are required in medical malpractice cases, there is an additional requirement in order to have a valid claim. Within three months of commencement of an action, the individual bringing the claim must serve the defendant with an affidavit by an expert witness supporting a prima facie case of professional negligence. Essentially, this means that a person seeking to bring a claim against a doctor or hospital must have support from an expert in the same field of expertise stating that the claim is valid and not frivolous.
Practically speaking, this is a major hurdle in cases dealing with healthcare providers and systems. Hiring an expert witness to review a patient’s medical records can be time consuming and expensive. At SW&L Attorneys, our personal injury team is well-versed in seeking and finding the necessary expert witnesses for medical malpractice claims.
Medical malpractice cases are complex in nature and always prove to be an uphill battle. Having a basic understanding of the appropriate definition, common examples, and hurdles that must be faced in North Dakota cases is imperative. If you suspect you or someone you know has been the victim of medical malpractice, contact us at SW&L Attorneys by calling 701-297-2890, or emailing us at: firstname.lastname@example.org
This article is for informational purposes only and is subject to our disclaimer.