New Hampshire Medical Malpractice Laws
Each state has their own set of medical malpractice laws in place, and it is important for patients to understand those laws and how they could affect their case. The following are the basics of the laws in New Hampshire.
Medical Malpractice NH
When it comes to filing a medical malpractice suit within the state of New Hampshire, it is particularly important to know what the laws are. Filing a suit that does not qualify means the case is likely to get thrown out of court. By knowing some specific malpractice laws, people can determine which lawyer would best be able to represent their case. Plus, knowing the basics of the laws allows people to understand what rights they have and if they would have a reason to file a case in the first place.
Understanding the Basic Definition of Medical Malpractice
Filing a malpractice lawsuit requires someone to have been injured as a result of a health care provider making a poor choice during treatment, neglecting a patient’s needs, or performing a dangerous procedure. It can be something simple like prescribing the wrong medication that led to a mild allergic reaction, or something far more complex, which may have gone so far as to result in the patient’s death. Medical malpractice can happen to a patient of any age, even to children who have not yet been born.
The injury could have been intentional by the medical provider, or it could also have been the result of medical negligence. It is the victim’s prerogative to provide the court with all the documentation that proves the provider was at fault. It can be difficult to do for someone trying to recover, which makes having a law firm or individual medical malpractice attorney to help a great idea.
What Qualifiers Are Required for Malpractice in New Hampshire?
There are specific qualifiers that define malpractice for what it is. They combine to create the perfect storm that results in an injury. Here are the qualifiers that need to happen for malpractice to be the result.
- Significant Injuries: The injury for medical malpractice cases needs to be more than a bump or bruise. They must be significant enough to alter the way of living, life, or period in someone’s life. Even if the injury eventually heals, it can still qualify as malpractice if it caused a problem that took away from a person’s quality of life for a while.
- Medical Negligence: When an injury is due to negligent actions by any type of medical provider, this is malpractice. The injury must have occurred by someone who neglected to follow standard procedures and directly caused the injury. There would be no case if there were no negligence that directly led to the injury.
- Poor Care Standard: Another qualifier for medical malpractice is a lack of standard of care. Patients have the right to expect a specific standard when they are cared for in a medical setting. If these standards are not met and lead to an injury, this can become malpractice, if it shows up along with the other qualifiers.
Many different things can show up as medical malpractice. Here are some of the most common ways malpractice can show up:
- Doing surgery on the wrong part of the body
- A failure to notice specific, obvious symptoms or order proper tests that would be common for a specific ailment
- Little or no aftercare or follow-up with an at-risk patient
- A misdiagnosis or a diagnosis that came late that was obvious much earlier in the process
- Performing unnecessary surgery
- Ignoring or misreading the results of medical tests
- Errors during surgery or leaving surgical equipment behind in the incision
- Being discharged from the hospital too soon and problems arising
- Not taking into account the patient’s history or getting an incomplete history
- Prescribing the wrong medication or an unsafe dosage
Who Can Be Sued for NH Medical Malpractice?
Many people are under the guise that only a physician can face malpractice cases. This is untrue. Anyone that is acting in a medical scope who meets the qualifying criteria could face a malpractice suit. Here are some of the people who could be named during medical malpractice cases:
- The doctor who caused the injury
- Nurses who helped with the procedure that resulted in the injury
- The hospital the event occurred at
- Medical offices or clinics if the injury occurred on those premises.
- Dentists and staff that work at a dental office
- Optometrists and anyone that works in the optometry office
- Pharmacists who prescribed the medication
- All types of mental health practitioners
- Agencies related to health care support
What Types of Expenses Can Malpractice Damages Cover?
People go after damages as part of filing a case of malpractice against a medical professional. This is financial compensation for the money required to recover following the injury. There are specific damages that people can get covered for if they can win their malpractice suit in court. These damages can include:
- The cost of all medical procedures required to get as close to the pre-injury state as possible
- Fees to pay for any required prescriptions
- Costs of skilled nurses to help with the immediate and long-term care of the plaintiff
- Fees to cover any required physical therapy
- Any wages from work that are no longer able to be paid following the injury
- The pain and suffering the injury has caused
- Compensation for a decreased quality of life
- Medical costs for procedures that will still be required in the future
- Any future wages from work that will no longer be able to be gained due to the injury
The Basic Statutes of Limitations to Be Aware Of
For most injuries, the statute of limitations is three years. However, there are circumstances where that is not the case. Most cases require a medical malpractice claim to be filed within three years of the date the original problem occurred. This means if the injury took place back in 2015, a case would no longer be allowed unless it met specific exceptions. Some of the exceptions to the three-year limit include:
- Injury to a Minor: When a person under the age of 18 gets injured by his or her health care provider, they have the option of filing up until the day they turn 20 years old.
- Non-obvious Injury: This is also referred to as a discovery rule, meaning, a person could not have had any idea he or she was injured during the initial three years. They later discovered the injury and now want answers and/or compensation for that injury.
- Insanity: There is no statute of limitations on people who are deemed insane when the malpractice took place.
- Fraud Coverup: When the accused took steps to cover the malpractice itself, this constitutes fraud. In this case, the statute of limitations no longer applies.
- Accused Relocated Out of State: If the person who committed the malpractice leaves the state abruptly following the malpractice, then this also extends or negates the three-year rule.
Another important note to keep in mind is that New Hampshire is one of only a few states without caps on their damages. This means that if a medical malpractice case is filed, the judge or the jury gets to decide what compensation is fair following any guilty verdict. However, the state does have a law that allows the plaintiff to also be partially at fault. One example of this is if the plaintiff did not follow specific instructions after a medical procedure.
Types of New Hampshire Medical Malpractice
Several types of malpractice can occur. Each type of malpractice case brings with it different restrictions and qualifications that the courts require the plaintiff to prove. Here are the most common types of medical malpractice recognized in the state of New Hampshire.
- Personal Injury: This type of injury results when someone is at fault and causes the injury of another. It involves needing to prove both liability and the type of damage that was the result of the injury. Auto accidents are commonly considered a personal injury case, but malpractice can also fall under this category.
- Birth Injury: This is when a baby is injured just before or during their delivery. These types of injuries can be a result of neglectful care by physicians or nursing staff, or it can also be the result of using the wrong equipment, waiting too long to intervene, or delaying an otherwise necessary procedure to the point of the baby becoming injured.
- Wrongful Death: During this type of malpractice case, the plaintiff is usually passed away. The death, in these cases, was caused by the neglect or harmful act of someone else. These cases are usually brought to court by surviving family members as a way of raising awareness of the problem, the perpetrator, and raising funds to cover final expenses and wages for the deceased.
What to Look for in a Medical Malpractice Lawyer
When preparing to file a malpractice suit, finding a medical malpractice attorney who is well-versed in this practice area is key. They should have filed and won several medical malpractice cases in the past to show that they understand this nuance of the law. Other things to look for when choosing a lawyer include:
- A free consultation to discuss the merits of the case. The plaintiff should come away with a basic understanding of the case, what could happen if the case went to court, and what the ultimate goals are by the end of the consultation.
- Experience in the specific type of malpractice case the plaintiff needs help with. Just because a medical malpractice attorney understands birth injuries, does not mean they would do well in a wrongful death case simply because both are malpractice.
- A lawyer that can come to the plaintiff to speak about the case. No matter if the plaintiff is located in Manchester, North Hampton, or Portsmouth, they should be able to come to where the plaintiff is to discuss the case in person.
- Good reviews from others who have used this law firm. It is important to read any bad reviews as well. Some people may have had great representation, but may not have gotten the results they wanted, which may be the reason for the bad review.
Questions to Ask the Medical Malpractice Lawyer
There are some very important questions to ask potential lawyers before they take on a malpractice case. Each question can help bring insight into the attorney’s mindset, goals, and approach. Here are some questions to make sure get asked.
- Is this an area of law that the firm dedicates much time to?
- Who covers the case, the attorney or one of his or her paralegals or assistants? What specific items will the attorney cover and not delegate to other people?
- What percentage of cases make it to trial compared to those that get settled before trial?
- How are fees determined if the case settles before trial, gets to pre-trial, or goes to trial? Do the fees change if the case goes to trial?
- What up-front fees, if any, is the responsibility of the plaintiff?
- How often will the attorney and plaintiff converse? Will the attorney make themselves available outside of working hours to the plaintiff? If so, how?
- How long after a settlement would dispersal take to begin covering medical expenses?
- Will the attorney be able to meet any special needs the plaintiff may have, such as meeting them, speaking in another language, or only requiring the plaintiff to show up in court when it would be absolutely necessary?
These answers can give much insight as to how aggressively an attorney takes the case and how much the attorney understands the potential limitations of the plaintiff while he or she is recovering.
When it comes to filing a medical malpractice lawsuit, it is important to know what the requirements and qualifications are first. Understand what qualifies as malpractice first. It can help people understand what type of results are possible from the case they wish to file. It helps people know what to expect when their day in court arrives. Residents of North Hampton, Manchester, Portsmouth, and the surrounding areas should all know that they have assistance if they need to go to court. It is the right of any injured person to be able to get their expenses covered.