Washington

Washington Medical Malpractice Laws

Washington State presents a mixed bag of rules and regulations for medical malpractice claims. Some of those rules and regulations favor the injured party, while others favor physicians and medical centers. Knowing how to navigate those rules and regulations will enhance an injured party’s ability to recover damages in a medical malpractice claim filed in the state of Washington.

Considerations Most Relevant to Making Medical Malpractice Claims in Washington

A person who has been injured by medical malpractice in Washington State should consider:

  • Any medical negligence-type claim from the state of Washington must be filed within three years of the malpractice, or within one year of discovering the injury
  • Washington State has no cap on damages, but it does place limits on the amount that an attorney can bill and collect for legal services in medical malpractice actions, thus limiting the overall costs to both plaintiffs and defendants upon resolution of a case
  • Parties to a medical malpractice case must participate in mandatory mediation, which has no effect on their right to a jury trial, but is a statutorily mandated pathway to filing medical malpractice lawsuits in Washington
  • Washington is a “pure comparative negligence” jurisdiction that allows recovery of damages regardless of the relative liability of the injured party
  • Expert testimony is not mandated by statute to validate the injured party’s claim, but most medical malpractice cases in Washington State require expert testimony to verify a deviation from medical standards

Important Deadlines Pertinent to Medical Malpractice Cases in Washington

The state of Washington gives an injured party a generous three years to file a claim after an occurrence of medical malpractice but provides a less generous one-year period if the injury is discovered later than the initial three years, expected immediate discovery period in cases of obvious medical malpractice. Further, the state has an absolute eight-year statute of repose that will prevent any claims from proceeding if they are filed more than eight years after the malpractice

Washington State also treats medical malpractice claims by minors differently than many other states, specifically, in Washington State, the time limit for starting a claim does not begin to run until a person’s eighteenth birthday. A minor’s parents can still initiate a medical malpractice claim before the child turns eighteen. If that case is not filed, then the child will typically be subject to the one-year filing period after his eighteenth birthday as his injuries will probably be known by then.

Washington State’s various statutes of limitations can run into each other and defeat a party’s claim if the injured party fails to follow the rules. For example, the Washington requires mandatory mediation, and a party’s good faith request for mediation, which must occur before filing a lawsuit, that will delay the deadline for filing the lawsuit by one year. Lawsuits filed before mediation requests if other deadlines are not met, are subject to dismissal. Having a practicing medical malpractice lawyer in Washington will be essential to gaining specific clarity on the dates and statutes of limitation applicable to your individual case.

Damages Statutes in Washington Medical Malpractice Laws Explained

Washington State does not cap damages that a party may receive in a medical malpractice action. It does apply a formulaic approach to calculating noneconomic damages as a function of an injured party’s income and lifestyle.  Washington State also exposes attorneys’ fee to a Court’s scrutiny to determine if those fees are reasonable.  Additionally, a party’s damages will be reduced in proportion to his relative liability for his injuries. Unlike several other states, Washington State will not refuse all damages if a party is more than fifty per cent liable.  If more than one doctor or facility caused the medical malpractice, Washington State treats them as “joint and several” tortfeasors and allows the injured party to collect the full amount of damages from any one of the ostensibly liable parties.

Verification of Claims via Expert Testimony in Washington Medical Malpractice Cases

Although not required by state statute, most or all medical malpractice claims in Washington State are supported by expert testimony to verify claims that standards of medical care were not met or followed. The depth and extent of expert testimony will vary with the facts of each case.

Filing a medical malpractice case in Washington State can be favorable to a plaintiff, but given legal fee review and limitations, they may not be favorable to all Washington attorneys. Persons who believe that they have been injured by a physician’s or treatment facility’s malpractice in Washington State should nonetheless consult with legal counsel at the earliest possible date to preserve and protect their potential claims via an experienced and practicing medical malpractice lawyer Washington state.

The Washington State Statutes relating to Medical Malpractice:

http://apps.leg.wa.gov/rcw/default.aspx?cite=7.70

A policy argument for capping non-economic damages as a means to encourage physicians to remain in Washington State:

https://www.washingtonpolicy.org/publications/brief/health-care-lawsuit-reform-washington-state

A summary analysis of conflicting interactions of Washington State’s statutes of limitations:

https://www.medicalmalpracticelawyers.com/blog/court-finds-washington-medical-malpractice-case-filed-late/

 

 

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