Rhode Island 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 Rhode Island.
Like other small northeastern and New England states, Rhode Island’s approach to medical malpractice cases is uncomplicated and even-handed. A person injured by medical malpractice in Rhode Island will need to comply with basic pleading and timing rules for his case and should in turn, not be burdened by excessive proof or other requirements.
A Rhode Island plaintiff whose claims are based on medical malpractice should consider the following basics of a medical malpractice complaint in Rhode Island, including:
- Medical malpractice cases in Rhode Island must be filed with three years of occurrence of the medical error or discovery of the injury
- Rhode Island does not impose a cap on either economic or noneconomic damages;
- Rhode Island follows “pure comparative negligence” standards, which will allow an injured party to recover some monetary award in a medical malpractice case even if he was more than fifty per cent responsible for his injuries
- Rhode Island will also apply joint and several liability standards where there is more than one defendant, allowing a plaintiff to seek the full amount of the awarded damages from any one defendant
- An injured party’s damages award against a physician or hospital in Rhode Island can be reduced if that person receives compensation for his injuries from collateral sources, such as workers’ compensation insurance
Estimating Damages Values in Rhode Island Medical Malpractice Cases
Rhode Island is relatively liberal vis a vis the rest of the nation in its allowance of all damages in medical malpractice cases, with no caps for noneconomic (i.e. pain and suffering) damages. Rhode Island also utilizes a comparative negligence standard that can allow even a small, fractional recovery for an injured party whose own actions accounted for a significant percentage of his injuries. If more than one defendant participated in the medical error, the injured party could seek the full amount of a damages award from the defendant with the deepest pockets, which is usually a hospital or other large medical group or facility.
Pre-Trial Medical Expert Testimony or Certification of Claims Not Required to File in Rhode Island
Rhode Island has no requirements for filing certificates of merit or other verifications of claims before or in conjunction with medical malpractice complaints. It only requires that an expert’s medical specialty be the same specialty that is at issue in the underlying case.
An expert’s qualifications are frequently questioned when a medical malpractice case goes to trial, both in Rhode Island and in other states. An interesting variation on that theme was analyzed in Hall v. Schiff et al., in which the party’s legal team objected to an expert because of that person’s prior professional relationship with another party in the case. The Rhode Island court struck the objection and allowed the expert’s testimony. This case reveals the extent to which litigants can and will utilize procedural and other objections to stymie patient’s legal strategy in medical malpractice cases possessing ample merit and validity. In these and other Rhode Island medical negligence cases, having legal counsel is advisable.
Important Deadlines Pertinent to Rhode Island Medical Malpractice Lawsuits
Rhode Island follows a more generous three-year statute of limitations for medical malpractice actions. The three-year period begins at the time of the occurrence of the medical error of, if the error was not apparent, at the time of discovery of the injury. Many other states impose hard statutes of repose which bar initiation of an action, regardless of how long it took for an injury to manifest itself, but at least in the field of product liability, Rhode Island has no such statute of repose. A party in Rhode Island, who learns of an injury ten or more years after the medical malpractice, may still be able to initiate a lawsuit to compensate for his injuries.
Although Rhode Island avoids complications in its treatment of medical malpractice cases and is friendly to parties injured by a medical error, those parties are still obliged to follow standard rules and adhere to certain deadlines to prosecute their claims. A party who believes that his injuries were caused by medical malpractice should consult with his attorney at the earliest possible date upon the discovery or suspicion of medical malpractice occurring.
For more legal information on the Rhode Island statute of limitations for medical malpractice to assist with a conversation with a Rhode Island medical malpractice attorney, view:
For more on the Rhode Island law on expert witnesses in medical malpractice cases, peruse the following:
The full text of the Hall v. Schiff et al. case opinion may be reviewed at: