Medical Malpractice Limits in Indiana
Host 1: Welcome back to InSight, we are joined now by Dave Farnbaugh from the Sweeney Law Firm. So Dave, there are some medical malpractice laws that are unique to Indiana and there have been a number of news stories lately regarding medical errors and medical malpractice. Tell us about those.
Dave: Well, we've seen a lot of news stories lately that medical malpractice was at the forefront. There was a big news story a few weeks back about a local pain physician who the attorney general is pursuing and there's been the epidemic in Massachusetts with the fungal meningitis. So there has been a lot of news on the topic of medical malpractice and what I thought we'd do today is spend a little bit of time explaining to people maybe some of the laws that govern medical malpractice here in the state of Indiana that are surprising when they talk to people that are unique to Indiana. Most people don't realize that in the state of Indiana we have a cap on medical malpractice damages.
Host 2: So you can only sue for so much.
Dave: Right, it's $1,250,000 and that's shocking when I tell a lot of people, since we handle birth injury cases where a little baby during the delivery can be harmed and require a lifetime of medical treatment. That could realistically cost tens of millions of dollars. In Indiana we have a hard cap of $1,250,000 so it doesn't matter how much harm is cause, you're capped out at a $1,250,000. When I tell people that they're completely shocked. How could that be that there could be this ceiling on the amount of damages in respective to the amount of harm?
Host 2: Is there anything that somebody could do about that if they are in that sort of situation?
Dave: No, in fact there was a recent case where attorneys tried to challenge the cap and the Indiana Supreme Court, this was primarily on procedural grounds, just ruled that the cap is gonna stay in place. So its been a law since 1976 we've had a cap on damages. We've adjusted it for different time frames, but the current cap is $1,250,000 which with today's medical cost is woefully inadequate.
The other interesting thing that's unique about Indiana Medical Malpractice Law is the notion that we have a medical review panel that decides on the merits of cases before you can file a lawsuit. It's the only area of law that I'm aware of in Indiana where you're sort of judged by your peers. When you file a medical malpractice lawsuit in the state of Indiana, if you sue physicians, a panel of three physicians is convened to decide whether the case has merits. That's unique. If you sue a lawyer, there's not a panel of three lawyers or an architect. But if you sue a physician in the state of Indiana there's a medical review panel that's formed to decide the merits of your case.
Host 2: One, I would think, just in theory that that's a little harder to get past because their obviously cognisant of the fact that these are their peers in their industry. So I would think that it’s almost like you gotta go two steps and that first step I would think is challenging.
Dave: Well it is challenging because it’s a situation where a lot of times physicians know one another and they attend the same seminars and what not. So it is difficult. I think cases that tend to fall in the grey area of medical malpractice, I think a lot of times physicians do get the benefit of the doubt with their peers on the medical review panel. Which makes it a lot more challenging for patients and consumers to try to get justice if there’s a medical malpractice case. So we have some very unique and challenging laws that present some hurdles to patients when they are the victims of medical malpractice in the state of Indiana.
Host 2: Well obviously you’re the expert on that and it is very hard to digest all of the rules and what you need to do so if somebody thinks they have a medical malpractice suit the best thing to do is contact you guys. Because you guys definitely tell them whether or not they should proceed.
Dave: Ya, oftentimes we get a lot of calls and we explain to people, “Look, we’re sorry for what happened to you but it appears there’s no malpractice. Occasionally we do get calls where the cases are meritorious. So the only way you’re ever going to find out if you have a meritorious medical malpractice is to call an attorney who specializes in that area.
Host 2: Well if you have a question about medical malpractice, give the guys at Sweeney Law Firm a call - they can help you out today.