Michigan is one of the several states that have chosen to revise and update their medical malpractice laws over the recent decade. The state did not, however, enact any truly radical changes to its malpractice laws and lawsuit procedures except for issues touching on discovery and expert affidavits.
Michigan Medical Malpractice Laws
The laws and procedures remain complex, and if a party that has suffered an injury due to medical malpractice fails to meet certain deadlines and filing requirements, which injured party might lose all opportunities to recover monetary damages. The best strategy is to consult with a qualified malpractice attorney who can manage the case to achieve the best results.
The Basics of Medical Malpractice Laws in the State of Michigan
Malpractice laws in all states emphasize the same questions: did the physician or medical professional follow the appropriate standard of care, and the second question ask whether the patient was injured or did he or she suffer a premature death because of professional negligence? Apart from these basic questions, parties that seek to file and prosecute a medical malpractice lawsuit in Michigan should understand critical procedural matters.
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Parameters of Michigan Medical Malpractice Lawsuits include:
- Expert testimony has to be given by a licensed provider with the same specialty and certification as the defendant in the case
- The complaint must also have an affidavit of merit that has been signed by another healthcare professional who meets the state’s standards, with the applicable medical evidentiary standards also be subject to the scrutiny of the courts before the formal filing of any lawsuit
- Michigan’s medical malpractice law dictates statutes of limitations generally in line with the nation, with claims cases requiring filing within two years in most instances
- In fact, in any malpractice claims in Michigan, the claims must be reviewed by the state’s mediation panel and formally evaluated before moving forward. Only then can arbitration be a viable option
- Statutory law in Michigan permits claims involving vicarious, joint, or several liabilities are permissible, per Michigan Compiled Laws Section 600.6034
Expert Testimony Requirements to File a Medical Malpractice Lawsuit in the State of Michigan
A plaintiff’s medical malpractice attorney will almost always rely upon expert testimony to prove that a healthcare provider did not meet that appropriate standard of care and that their behavior led to the injury or loss. The state malpractice laws in Michigan impose strict standards on the type of expert testimony that is required and how it can be used.
Initially, a plaintiff who desires to file a medical malpractice lawsuit must inform the defendant in writing of his or her intentions to do so at least 182 days before the suit is filed. This notice is intended to bring the parties together for settlement discussions before the time and expense of a lawsuit are involved.
The lawsuit itself must be supported by an affidavit of merit that is prepared by a qualified medical expert who practices in the same medical field that is in question in the lawsuit. Michigan’s laws establish strict standards on what qualifications are required for a person to provide this expert testimony. A party’s failure to follow the 182-day notice period or his failure to submit an appropriate affidavit of merit to support the claims in a malpractice lawsuit can eliminate all possibilities for that injured party to recover damages to compensate for his injuries.
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The Statutes of Limitations Applicable to Michigan Medical Malpractice Lawsuits
All cases in Michigan start with the determination of whether or not they have been filed within the deadlines established by the state’s statute of limitations. A medical malpractice case in Michigan must be brought within two years of the incident or within six months of the time that the claimant discovers the injury that was caused by professional medical negligence. A later-discovered injury might occur, for example, after surgery in which the surgeon or assistant left a sponge or surgical instrument inside the patient’s body. Regardless of the very late discovery of an injury, no malpractice cases are allowed to be filed more than six years after the event that might have caused the injury.
Michigan has an exception to its statute of limitations for minor children, who are allowed to initiate a claim any time before their 15th birthday. Further, persons deemed to be mentally incompetent or their representatives have one year after their disability is considered to have been removed to file a case. The time limits for wrongful death cases are similar to standard malpractice with a claim being an option by standard injury guidelines.
These deadlines are very short and can be easily missed by an injured party that is considering a malpractice case in Michigan. All injured parties should consult with a plaintiff’s medical malpractice attorney as soon as is possible after discovery of an injury to confirm that no deadlines will be missed.
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Comparative Negligence and Caps on Damages in Michigan Medical Malpractice Cases, as of 2016
Michigan has adopted a modified comparative negligence standard in personal injury actions, which include lawsuits that allege medical malpractice. Under the Michigan standard, if an injured party is deemed to be more than 51% responsible for damages and injuries, the patient’s claims for damages will be barred from recovering any damages to compensate for those injuries caused by the patient’s fault. If that party’s responsibility for their injuries is less than 51%, the monetary award will be reduced in proportion to the patient’s level of responsibility. Thus, for example, if a party fails to receive recommended follow-up medical care and neglects to take prescribed medications, and that failure and neglect are deemed to contribute to 75% of the party’s injuries, a claimant will not receive any compensation for those injuries under Michigan law. If, however, that failure and neglect account for only 25% of the patient’s injuries, any trial-won monetary award will be reduced by 25%.
Michigan also imposes hard upper limits on the type and amount of damages that an injured party can receive. Those limits are increased every year to account for inflation. For non-economic damages (e.g. damages for pain and suffering), the upper limit is currently $440,900 for non-permanent injuries and $794,500 for permanent paralysis or catastrophic injuries. Further, Michigan does not allow punitive damages in medical malpractice cases.
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Medical Malpractice Lawsuits Necessarily Require the Help of Legal Counsel
Michigan’s medical malpractice requirements and procedures are more stringent than in other states. Several states have chosen to revise and update their tort laws and medical malpractice laws over the decades, and the state of Michigan is one of them. However, no truly radical changes were made to the state malpractice laws in Michigan except issues touching on “discovery” and expert affidavits. A party that has experienced an injury due to professional medical negligence can best protect his or her right to receive compensation for that injury by consulting with qualified legal counsel at the earliest possible opportunity.