Will GOP Plan Prevent Medical Malpractice Suits From Being Filed?
New York Senator, Chuck Schumer, told reporters that the GOP stimulus plan includes language that would prevent injured patients from filing medical malpractice lawsuits against negligent doctors until 2024. Is that true?
Sort of. The GOP plan, if passed, would raise the bar for medical malpractice lawsuits in health care facilities impacted by COVID. Schumer is right insofar as medical malpractice lawsuits wouldn’t be worth the effort to file in most cases if the new bar becomes the new norm. Schumer is wrong only insofar as stating that you still couldn’t file the medical malpractice lawsuit. You can file the lawsuit, but the chances of it being dismissed by the judge may be very high.
So let’s talk about what the GOP’s plan does and does not do in more detail.
GOP Plan Raises Bar on Medical Malpractice Cases
In any medical malpractice lawsuit, the plaintiff must show that medical negligence was present. The bar for medical negligence is generally high. The plaintiff must generally show that the defendant’s quality of care deviated from the industry standard and this resulted in injuries to the plaintiff.
The GOP plan would essentially make medical negligence lawsuits a thing of the past. Instead, plaintiffs would be forced to prove “gross” negligence, which is a much higher standard. If, for example, a doctor removed the wrong organ from your body or showed up to surgery drunk, those would constitute “gross negligence”. But standard medical negligence actions would be barred by statute.
In order to qualify for this special treatment, the health care center must provide coronavirus-related health care services. That means that patients who do not have the coronavirus may waive their rights to a lawsuit if the health care facility provides any coronavirus-related services.
This, essentially, is the fear that Democrats and others have with the language of the bill and why it’s sparked so much controversy. The bill doesn’t say that you can’t sue if you’re receiving treatment for the coronavirus. The bill says that if the health care center provides coronavirus-related services, they are essentially immune from any legal action based on medical negligence.
Why Should I be Concerned With This?
The language of the bill is nebulous enough to be interpreted in the most liberal way. The most liberal interpretation is that all medical facilities providing coronavirus treatment are immune from medical negligence lawsuits. You can still sue them if they amputate the wrong leg, but that’s about it.
In other words, if the surgery goes wrong and there’s a medical reason that can be ascribed to your doctor, there is likely nothing you can do to restore your income, pay for future surgeries, or compensate you for your reduced quality of life.
Talk to a St. Petersburg Medical Malpractice Attorney
If you’ve been injured by the negligent practice of medicine, call the St. Petersburg medical malpractice attorneys at Masterson, Hoag & Smith today to schedule a free consultation and learn more about how we can help.