Missouri Medical Malpractice Laws
Missouri is a more physician-friendly state for medical malpractice claims, which can prove problematic when a patient who has a medical malpractice claim seeks to recover damages in the state without the help of an attorney. However, any party injured by medical malpractice in Missouri can still recover damages for his or her injuries despite Missouri’s rules and regulations on medical malpractice cases that establish a stricter path for patient recoveries. Recovering monetary damages for malpractice injuries is more likely when an injured party consults with and retains a qualified and experienced plaintiff’s medical malpractice attorney who is familiar with and who can navigate the detailed rules and regulations imposed on malpractice cases by the state of Missouri.
Missouri State Specific Information on Medical Malpractice Statutes
Any individual patient potentially injured or enduring other financial losses due to medical malpractice in Missouri should consider the following elements relevant to any medical malpractice claim having jurisdiction in the state of Missouri including:
- The claim for medical malpractice of any kind in the state of Missouri must be filed within two years of the malpractice, or within two years of discovery of the damages, harms, or medical injuries by the patient or another medical provider
- Missouri caps noneconomic damages (i.e. pain and suffering) for medical malpractice claims at $400,000 to $700,000, but does not cap economic damage claims such as medical costs, lost income, nor does Missouri cap other possible pecuniary losses in malpractice cases
- Missouri has special rules for allocating damages among multiple responsible parties, which requires consulting with a Missouri medical malpractice attorney
- An injured party in Missouri must file an “affidavit of merit” to justify his case within ninety days after initiating it, with this process of obtaining and filing a Missouri affidavit of merit in a medical malpractice case requiring expert testimony to validate the injured party’s claim.
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Affidavits and Verification of Claims in Missouri Medical Malpractice Cases
In Missouri jurisdictional venues, plaintiffs in medical malpractice cases must file an “affidavit of merit” within ninety days of starting their lawsuits, verifying that they have first consulted who has confirmed that the medical malpractice case has merit. Failure to file this affidavit is grounds for dismissing the case. If the case goes to trial, the plaintiff will also need to provide an expert to give an opinion that the defendant did not comply with proper medical standards in providing the treatment in question.
The threshold for filing and prosecuting a medical malpractice claim in Missouri is somewhat higher than in other states, but it is not insurmountable. Persons who believe that they have been injured by a physician’s or treatment facility’s malpractice should consult with legal counsel at the earliest possible date to preserve and protect their potential claims.
Damages Considerations Related to Missouri Medical Malpractice Lawsuits
Missouri has a volatile history of capping damages in medical malpractice cases. Missouri maintained a hard cap on these damages until 2012 when its law was stricken by the Missouri Supreme Court. Missouri enacted a more tailored law in 2015 that caps noneconomic damages at $400,000, with a higher cap of $700,000 for “catastrophic” cases, such as vision loss or brain injuries. Analysts expect this law to face challenges similar to those that caused the prior statutory cap to be stricken.
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Comparative Negligence and Joint/Several Liability Medical Malpractice Claims Cases under Missouri Law
Missouri is a “pure comparative negligence” state that allows an injured party to recover damages even if he or she is predominantly responsible for his or her injuries. The total damages award, however, will be reduced in proportion to the injured party’s relative liability.
Moreover, Missouri’s “joint damages” rule in medical malpractice cases will apportion liability and damages among several physicians and medical facilities if the liability is deemed to be joint. The full responsibility for the damages, however, may be placed on the single physician or medical facility that is deemed to be more than fifty percent liable for the injury.
The Statute of Limitations Applicable to Missouri Medical Malpractice Claims Cases
The Missouri statutes of limitations impose important deadlines that an injured party must consider in Missouri medical malpractice cases. Unlike more plaintiff- friendly states that provide a three-year statute of limitations, malpractice claims in Missouri must be filed within two years of the occurrence of malpractice. If the injuries from medical malpractice do not become apparent until, after this two-year period, the injured party must start the initial phases of the patient’s case within two years of the time, the patient learns of the injuries or of when an individual reasonably could have known of the injuries.
Even with this latter possible extension, Missouri courts will strictly apply a statute of repose that will bar a malpractice action if it is not filed within ten years of the initial event. The effect of this statute of repose is seen in the reported case, Amber-Phillips v. SSM DePaul Health Center. The Missouri Supreme Court, in that case, agreed with a lower court ruling that Missouri’s statute of repose barred an injured party from prosecuting her claims fourteen years after physicians had left foreign objects in her abdomen after surgery. The Missouri statute established an absolute ten-year bar for filing a lawsuit and the start of that ten-year period was not delayed by the plaintiff’s delay in discovering her injury. There have been changes to this statute of repose, but this case shows the general tendency of Missouri law to rule more favorably for defendants in medical malpractice cases.
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