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Medical Malpractice

What Are Some of the Washington Medical Malpractice Laws and How Do They Affect My Case in Spokane or Statewide?

By March 22, 2022April 4th, 2024No Comments

In general, if a patient receives a treatment from a doctor that resulted in injury or death due to the doctor’s negligence, then that may serve as the basis for a medical malpractice lawsuit. 

As in every state, Washington has laws governing medical malpractice lawsuits, and at least some of these legal requirements favor plaintiffs (people who file lawsuits).

At The Gilbert Law Firm, we’ve been helping Washington clients recover from medical malpractice for years — including helping them successfully obtain the compensation they need to move forward with their lives. Read on to take a look at examples of Washington medical malpractice laws and how they could affect your case in Spokane or the State.

Statute of Limitations for Medical Malpractice in Washington

One legal requirement for a medical malpractice lawsuit involves filing deadlines.

If you want to file a medical malpractice lawsuit, it must meet the following criteria:

  1. The suit must be filed within 3 years after the medical error occurred; or
  2. The suit must be filed within 1 year after medical error is discovered.

If the patient was younger than age 18 at the time of the medical error, it’s best to discuss the case with a dedicated Washington medical malpractice attorney as soon as possible.

Washington also imposes a statute of repose of 8 years, after which, most medical malpractice lawsuits are barred.

Exceptions to this can include:

  • The medical services provider committed fraud or intentionally hid the medical error.
  • The patient is too disabled to understand the nature of the medical malpractice proceeding.
  • If a party has requested dispute mediation.

Washington’s Mediation Requirement

Washington requires that all of the parties of a pending medical malpractice lawsuit must first participate in dispute mediation. This requirement can be voided if the parties have an agreement to go through mandatory arbitration or if the judge determines that mediation would be inappropriate in this case.

All of the discussions during mediation are confidential and no decisions made during the mediation process—except a signed settlement agreement—are legally binding.

Expert Witnesses in Washington MedMal Cases

Up until 2009, Washington state required that medical malpractice lawsuits had to include an affidavit from a medical expert attesting that the case had merit.

In 2009, however, the state supreme court struck down this requirement because it placed an unconstitutional burden on plaintiffs to provide evidence before the discovery process could take place. 

You may no longer need a medical expert’s opinion to file a medical malpractice lawsuit, but in most such cases, you will still need an expert to prove that the defendant acted negligently. A medical expert is usually required to explain the standard of care and how the defendant deviated from it, causing the injury.

In some rare cases where the medical error is so obvious that even a non-medical professional could recognize it as gross negligence, a medical expert may be unnecessary.

Washington Has No Limit on Medical Malpractice Awards

Unlike many other states that limit how much can be awarded in a medical malpractice lawsuit, Washington does not have such caps. If you win your case, the jury may award you whatever amount that they deem is fair. 

However, you should keep in mind that Washington uses the “pure comparative negligence” rule. This rule means that the damages you receive is reduced by your share in the fault. 

For example, if the jury determines that you are 20 percent at fault for your injuries because you failed to comply with the doctor’s instructions, then you typically would be eligible to receive only 80 percent of the awarded damages.

Discuss Your Medical Malpractice Lawsuit with One of Spokane’s Top Personal Injury Firms

If you believe that you were injured due to a physician’s negligence, you should discuss your case with the Gilbert Law Firm. Our attorneys have been representing families in Spokane and throughout Washington at the negotiating table and in the courts for decades, and with our help, you can get all of the financial compensation that you deserve. Contact the Gilbert Law Firm today for a consultation.

Disclaimer: The blog published by the Gilbert Law Firm marketing team for informational purposes only and is not considered legal advice or a substitute for legal advice. There is no attorney-client relationship between the reader and the blog publisher. Readers are urged to consult their own legal counsel on any specific legal questions concerning a specific situation.

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