Montana Medical Malpractice Laws

Montana Medical Malpractice Laws

No matter where you live, medical malpractice lawsuits are complex. But filing a case in Montana becomes even more intricate. If you are thinking about pursuing a lawsuit, there are specific steps you must follow to bring the claim to court.

If a healthcare professional’s negligence has injured you, you should know a few medical malpractice laws. Let’s review these statutes so you have a better comprehension of what will apply to your case.

What Is Medical Malpractice?

Any harm caused by a neglect act or omission of care by a medical or healthcare professional is considered medical malpractice.

When these professionals deviate from the industry’s acceptable standards of care, it could lead to injury or even death. Neglect can occur during a patient’s diagnosis, treatment, or aftercare. When these events happen, it can lead to a medical malpractice claim.

We’ll examine the most common aspects of Montana’s medical malpractice laws, including statutes of limitations, the Medical Legal Panel, and damage award caps.

Statute of Limitations

Like most states, Montana does have an established statute of limitations. With that, there is a specific period to file a lawsuit. For Montana residents, any medical malpractice suit must be filed within two years after the date of the injury.

However, some injuries are not apparent right away. In these cases, the statute of limitation is within two years after the plaintiff has discovered (or should have learned of the injury through reasonable diligence), whichever one occurs last.

In the state, no legal cases can be commenced after five years from the injury date. As a result, you cannot file a lawsuit after five years, no matter if you knew or should have known about the injuries.

If a minor (younger than four years old) has been harmed by a medical malpractice mistake, the period is extended. For example, the limited timeframe (whether two- or five-year) begins when the minor victim reaches their eighth birth or passes away, whichever event occurs first.  During any period when the minor does not reside with a parent or guardian, the time for commencement of the action is tolled.

What happens if you try to file a claim after the statute of limitations has passed?

Since the Montana Medical Legal Panel must review all cases, the defendant can request a dismissal of the claim. By not adhering to the deadline, almost all these cases will be dismissed at this stage.

Let’s take a more in-depth look at the Montana Medical Legal Panel.

What Is Montana’s Medical Legal Panel?

This unique system is designed to handle medical malpractice claims. Before filing a lawsuit in court, you are required to go through a review process. With that, the panel can reduce the number of frivolous lawsuits, providing a fair and efficient way to resolve these claims.

Initiating the Process

If you need to start the process, you must submit a Notice of Intent to File a Claim to the Medical Legal Panel. This notice must include details about the alleged malpractice, the healthcare provider involved, and the injuries suffered.

Additionally, the notice should be sent within the applicable statute of limitations.

Panel Review

Once the notice is received, the Medical Legal Panel reviews the case. There are three members: one attorney and two healthcare professionals. They will evaluate the evidence, medical records, and expert opinions.

After carefully evaluating the evidence, the panel will issue an opinion on whether the healthcare provider’s actions met the standard of care or if malpractice occurred.

Panel Opinion

The panel’s opinion is not legally binding, but it is an important step in the process. If the panel finds in your favor, you can proceed with a lawsuit in court. However, if the panel rules in the defendant’s favor, you are allowed to file a lawsuit.

However, you need to post a bond to cover the defendant’s legal costs in the event you lose the case.

All this evidence can be used during the trial, but it does not determine the outcome of the case.

Limitations (or Cap) on Damages

Medical malpractice cases can result in physical, emotional, and financial damage to patients and their families. In Montana, noneconomic damages resulting from these cases are capped at $250,000.

Noneconomic damages refer to intangible losses, such as:

  • Pain and suffering
  • Emotional distress
  • Loss of enjoyment of life

With this cap, it does not apply to any economic damages, such as:

  • Past and future medical sits
  • Lost earnings and future earning potential
  • Other calculable damages

Montana’s $250,000 cap is the lowest in the nation. Why is there a cap?

Well, it is meant to balance the interests of patients and healthcare providers. It can continue to compensate injured patients while preventing excessive financial burdens on healthcare providers.

However, these caps are not without any legal debates. Some critics believe that these limitations can diminish accountability in the medical industry while limiting the amount of compensation granted to injured victims. No matter your thoughts on the issues, these caps can limit your noneconomic damages.

Learn More About Medical Malpractice Laws in Montana

Whether you want to learn how the cap on damages can affect you or need to know if you have enough time to file a claim, always contact an experienced Bozeman medical malpractice lawyer. Having the right legal team on your side can help you navigate through these tricky and complex legal statutes in the state.

At Western Justice Associates, PLLC, we offer a free consultation to help you determine the best course of legal action.