Exploring the Legal Process of Filing a Medical Malpractice Lawsuit in Oklahoma

July 24, 2023
Exploring the Legal Process of Filing a Medical Malpractice Lawsuit in Oklahoma

Oklahoma leads the nation in the number of medical negligence lawsuits per capita, based on a review of 30 years of U.S. Department of Health and Human Resources data. The analysis revealed over 1.41 million medical malpractice claims were filed nationwide, with 59,813 of these filed in 2019 alone. Oklahoma accounted for one lawsuit for every 3,573 residents. Despite common assumptions, only 2% of patients suffering from medical negligence file claims for compensation, dispelling the myth of frivolous cases.

Medical malpractice might seem like a complex concept, but it boils down to a few key signs. It occurs when a healthcare provider strays from the standard of care, resulting in patient harm. One potential sign is an unexpected or drastic change in a patient’s condition without a clear explanation. Another could be the discovery of a severe medical error, like a surgical instrument left inside a patient after surgery. Medical records show anomalies or irregularities might also hint at malpractice. Finally, situations where a disease is misdiagnosed or diagnosed too late could indicate a possible case of malpractice. 

Initial Steps: Reporting a Suspected Case of Medical Malpractice

When suspicions of medical malpractice arise, initial steps involve careful documentation and communication. An individual should first jot down every detail about the suspected incident. This includes dates, medical conditions, treatments received, names of involved medical professionals, and the resulting health complications. Detailed medical records can serve as a comprehensive account of what happened. The next move involves communication with the involved medical professional. Discussing the issue provides a chance for clarification or resolution. If this does not resolve the situation, the next step is to report the matter to the relevant medical licensing board. These boards have the ability to issue warnings or disciplinary actions to the professional. It’s also important to remember the medical malpractice statute of limitations, as a case must be initiated within a specific timeframe.

Understanding the Pre-action Protocols in Medical Malpractice Lawsuits

Before a medical malpractice lawsuit officially begins, several pre-action protocols must be followed. These are steps designed to clarify the issues in dispute and, if possible, find resolution without proceeding to court. The process typically begins with a Letter of Claim. This letter, sent to the defendant, outlines the nature of the claim, including the alleged negligent act and the resulting harm.

In response, the defendant sends a Letter of Response. This document either admits liability or disputes the claims. If liability is admitted, the two parties may then discuss compensation. If the claims are disputed, the defendant must provide reasons and supporting evidence.

These exchanges aim to encourage open and honest communication between both parties, promoting resolution where possible. Understanding these protocols is vital in preparing for the process ahead in a medical malpractice case.

The Pivotal Role of Expert Testimony in Medical Malpractice Cases

Expert testimony plays a pivotal role in medical malpractice cases, often becoming a deciding factor in court. These experts are typically healthcare professionals who have deep knowledge in the specific field of medicine related to the case. They help the court understand the standard of care should have been provided and determine whether the accused healthcare provider deviated from it, causing harm to the patient.

For example, in a case involving a surgical error, a surgeon who specializes in the procedure in question could testify whether the performing surgeon’s actions were negligent or not. Such testimonies can provide the jury with a clear understanding of complex medical terms and procedures, allowing them to make more informed decisions. Given their ability to sway the outcome of a case, expert witnesses are indeed a vital part of medical malpractice lawsuits.

Settlement Negotiations: An Insight into the Process

In a medical malpractice lawsuit, settlement negotiations present an opportunity to resolve the dispute without going to trial. These discussions typically commence after the discovery phase, where each side has gathered their evidence.

During negotiations, both the plaintiff and the defendant’s legal teams present their strongest arguments, based on the evidence they’ve collected. The goal is to persuade the other side to agree to a fair compensation amount that would cover the plaintiff’s damages, including medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering.

If both parties can agree on a settlement, the case ends there, and the agreed-upon amount is paid to the plaintiff. However, if a satisfactory agreement cannot be reached, the case may proceed to trial. Hence, settlement negotiations are a critical part of the medical malpractice lawsuit process.

Trial Procedures: From Jury Selection to Verdict

When a medical malpractice case goes to trial, it follows a series of defined steps. The process begins with jury selection, where a group of impartial individuals are chosen to hear the case. Next, the opening statements provide an overview of what each side believes the evidence will prove.

Following this, the plaintiff presents their case, offering witness testimonies and other evidence to establish medical malpractice occurred. The defense then has the opportunity to present their case, challenging the plaintiff’s claims and evidence.

After both sides have presented their arguments, they each deliver closing arguments, summarizing their respective cases. The jury then deliberates, considering all the presented evidence and testimonies.

Finally, the verdict is announced. This is the jury’s decision on whether medical malpractice occurred and, if so, what compensation the plaintiff should receive. This verdict concludes the trial process.

Possible Outcomes of a Medical Malpractice Lawsuit

Medical Malpractice Law

A medical malpractice lawsuit can have a range of outcomes. If the plaintiff’s case is strong and supported by compelling evidence, the defendant might choose to settle the case out of court. In such scenarios, the plaintiff receives a pre-agreed sum as compensation for their injuries or losses.

On the other hand, if the case proceeds to trial, the jury will decide the outcome based on the evidence presented. They could find in favor of the plaintiff, ruling malpractice occurred, and award damages. However, the jury could also side with the defendant, ruling there was no malpractice.

In some instances, a case might be dismissed before reaching trial due to various legal reasons, such as a lack of substantial evidence or expiration of the statute of limitations. Each medical malpractice lawsuit is unique, with outcomes heavily dependent on the specific circumstances of the case.

If you are dealing with a medical malpractice case, contact us or call us at 918-359-6600 today for a free consultation. 

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