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Understanding Indiana’s Medical Malpractice Act

Updated September 7, 2020 | By Wilson Kehoe Winingham staff

Which state was the first to pass medical malpractice reform legislation in 1975? Indiana.

Indiana Medical Malpractice Cap

Our state caps all medical malpractice damages at $1.8 million as of 2019. Since 1975, the state cap has been raised twice. However, doctors and medical providers are only responsible for the first $500,000 of total damages. Anything in excess of $500,000—and no more than $1.75 million—is paid out by the Indiana Patient’s Compensation Fund (PCF), which provides a source of guaranteed dollars for injured patients. The malpractice act also limits the amount of fees a plaintiff’s attorney can receive.

By law, Indiana physicians are not required to carry malpractice insurance. However, most employers and hospitals usually require it. For medical providers to be protected by the medical malpractice cap on damages, they must purchase insurance to cover the first $500,000 in damages and also pay into the PCF.

Negative Side to Damage Caps

Consider this example: A newborn child becomes the victim of medical malpractice and suffers a brain injury caused by a delayed cesarean section. Over the course of their lifetime, the child will require millions of dollars in medical treatment and care. The $1.8 million cap will only cover a small percentage of the overall amount required for a lifetime of care.

In this instance, the medical malpractice cap is senseless. While the cap can provide all of the dollars needed for some, in other instances it comes nowhere close to covering the amount of treatment an injured patient will need during their lifetime.

Initiating a Medical Malpractice Lawsuit in Indiana

To begin the process of filing a medical malpractice lawsuit, you must first file a proposed complaint with the Indiana Department of Insurance. Once the complaint is filed, your case will be evaluated by a medical review panel.

The medical review panel consists of three physicians—of which two must be from the defendant’s specialty. The medical review panel will evaluate your case and render a positive or negative panel review opinion as to whether the medical provider acted or failed to act within the appropriate standard of care. If your case receives a positive panel opinion, there is a likelihood your case will have a successful outcome. However, if your case receives a negative panel review opinion, a lawsuit may still be filed on your behalf, but a qualified medical expert must be presented to contradict the panel’s opinion.

Statute of Limitations for Medical Malpractice

Generally, victims of medical malpractice must file a proposed complaint with the Indiana Department of Insurance within two years from the alleged malpractice. If the injured patient is under the age of six years old, parents or legal guardians have until the child’s eighth birthday to file. Exceptions to the general two-year time limit exist, but they depend on the circumstances of the specific case.

Benefits of Hiring a Medical Malpractice Lawyer

Medical malpractice cases are difficult to pursue and can take several years from start to finish. A lawyer familiar with and experienced in medical malpractice cases knows the laws and the arduous process. There are several steps that have to be taken in order to pursue a case and hopefully reach a successful outcome.

Once a complaint is filed, it can take anywhere from one to three years to be reviewed by a medical review panel. A medical review panel will need evidence of negligence. Your lawyers will gather all of your medical charts and records, including x-rays and lab test results. As necessary, your lawyer may hire an expert to review your case and render an opinion as to whether negligence occurred.

Contact a Medical Malpractice Attorney Today

If you or a loved one have been injured as a result of medical malpractice, contact the attorneys of Wilson Kehoe Winingham. An experienced Indianapolis medical malpractice lawyer at WKW can help you get the compensation you deserve. Call 317.920.6400 or fill out an online contact form for a free, no-obligation case evaluation.

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