Filing a medical malpractice claim is not always as easy and straightforward as many people believe. Each state has some laws and statutes on the books that are unique, and it is important that the patients understand those laws before they try to file. Working with an attorney can be a huge benefit. The following information pertains to Arkansas.
Problematically, at the outset of an incident of suspected medical malpractice, most patients remain unaware of the integral impact of state-specific statutes and laws in medical negligence lawsuits. Barring an incident involving a select handful of case-specific factors, such as diversity of citizenship, parties involving federal government entities or employees, or in certain high-value claims cases, the vast majority of medical malpractice related cases are subject to state jurisdiction.
Arkansas Medical Malpractice Laws
Specifically, although subject to a litany of a potential case and state-specific factors, the state jurisdiction in which a given act of negligence is alleged to have occurred is presumably the forum for any proposed future medical malpractice lawsuit. However, Arkansas medical malpractice law is hardly straightforward, and as such, any viable claims cases involving medical negligence under Arkansas medical malpractice law will require both legal and medical support to put forth a claims case with merit.
Medical Malpractice Laws in the State of Arkansas
The following information pertains to Arkansas medical malpractice statutes and laws as of 2016, however, aside from state-specific jurisdictional considerations in medical malpractice cases, patients must recognize that case-specific factors are also highly influential in delineating a viable pathway to the recovery of damages by aggrieved patients.
The Statutes of Limitation to Claims Filing in Arkansas Vary Pending Case-Specific Considerations
Under Arkansas medical malpractice law, which is codified in Arkansas’ Annotated Statutes, Section 16-114-203, the statute of limitations to medical negligence-based claims cases is two (2) years following the date of suspected medical negligence, with ample caveats permissible under Arkansas’ statutes of limitation. First, claims cases involving any instance of a foreign object remaining in the body cavity of a patient, patients have one (1) year from the date of reasonable discovery of the foreign object. Secondly, any claims case emanating from an adolescent patient under the age of nine (9) has until the child’s eleventh (11th) birthday to file suit, or in instances of delayed discovery, two (2) years following the date of discovery of harm or once the minor turns the age of nineteen (19), at which point a claimant will likely be barred from recovery under Arkansas medical tort law.
The Modified Comparative Negligence Standard of Arkansas Medical Malpractice Lawsuit Verdicts
Though the relative degree or percentage of fault, and by fiscal extension liability, remains unknown until the trier of the fact, usually a judge or jury, renders its decision after the trial phase of a medical malpractice case, the presumed possibility of comparative negligence factors into the viability of filing suit from the outset. Under Arkansas medical negligence laws and the state’s use of a modified comparative negligence standard, a plaintiff’s contribution to injuries does not bar recovery, only diminishes the recovery proportionally, with no de jure bar on recovery of damages in the event of disproportionate plaintiff contributory negligence per the Arkansas Statutes Annotated, Section 16-55-201 defining comparative negligence and damage recovery awards under Arkansas tort law.
The Role of Joint and Several Liability Statutes under Arkansas Medical Malpractice Law
Arkansas permits joint, and several liabilities in medical negligence tort claims cases, with patients being permitted under law to file suit against multiple parties if the patient can substantiate a given named defendant as negligent, the proximate cause, or some of other semblance of potentially liable for the damages sustained by the patient filing suit. This ability, unlike certain other state jurisdictions that do not recognize joint and several liabilities in certain circumstances, is not hindered by the relative disparity between the proportion of fault assigned to one or more defendants.
Medical Expert Testimony Not Required for a Medical Malpractice Lawsuit with Merit under Arkansas Law
Though declared unconstitutional by the Arkansas State Supreme Court in the 2007 case of Summerville v. Thrower, medical expert testimony requirements to file suit may have been abolished at the state level. However, the de facto reality facing any patient in a medical malpractice lawsuit is that a claims case with merit is almost certainly one containing substantial damages readily understood as caused by malpractice by a jury, or as seen in the bulk of malpractice lawsuits, patients will substantiate and document their claims against negligent medical professionals via the testimony of a medical expert witness from a comparable field of medical practice, although state law only requires adhering to rule 702 of the Federal uniform rules on evidentiary standards in cases requiring medical expert testimony and the relative qualifications of a given professional to proffer testimony concerning the appropriate standard of care in a given patient’s medical treatment.
Virtually No Damage Caps under Arkansas Medical Malpractice Law
Under Arkansas statutory law concerning damage caps in medical malpractice lawsuits, there currently exists neither a cap on patient recovery amounts nor a cap on attorney or legal counsel fee recovery amounts in medical malpractice cases. Under Arkansas Annotated Statutes Section 16-55-205 to 209, the only extant caps on damage awards under Arkansas civil law are those caps associated with limiting punitive damages to less than one million dollars in a single claims case, and in turn, ensuring at no point do the punitive damage awards exceed the traditional treble damages standard, or result in payouts three times those the amount of the economic damages presented in a given claims case. However, in instances of damage awards more than six-figures ($100,000), at the discretion of the overseeing judge, the terms of any verdict can potential include the provision for period payments over time.
Understanding all of the complex rules and laws that are part of medical malpractice law in Arkansas can prove difficult and is predicated on highly case-specific factors in lights of the litany of applicable Arkansas civil statutes in a given medical malpractice lawsuit. Speaking with legal counsel as soon as possible following the discovery of harms or damages due to possible medical malpractice, especially in light of Arkansas’ statutes of limitations on filing lawsuits, is highly advisable.
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