New panel process proposed for medical error claims

The thought of being on the receiving end of a missed or wrong diagnosis, a surgical error or a birth injury may understandably be traumatic to most Kentucky residents. Equally concerning can be the seemingly daunting process of pursuing compensation for such an error. Just how can Kentucky residents ensure their own safety and protect their rights?

What are the basics of medical malpractice law in Kentucky?

Perhaps two of the most important things that patients want or need to know about when it comes to medical malpractice claims are the statute of limitation and the damage awards.

In Kentucky, the state legislature indicates that any claim alleging malpractice against a health care provider or facility must be initiated within 12 months. That 12-month clock begins at one of three dates. The first is the date of the actual injury. The second is the date on which the injury is discovered. The third is the date on which the injury should have been able to be discovered. Regardless of the date of discovery, any claim must be initiated within 60 months of the date of the actual injury.

The National Conference of State Legislatures indicates that Kentucky is one of the states that does not impose a limit on the amount of noneconomic damages that a plaintiff may be awarded. There is also no limit on the amount of money that may be awarded for legal fees.

What plan did the Senate review?

Earlier this year, the legislature was set to consider a new bill that would establish a process whereby claims would be reviewed by a special panel before proceeding to court. The Louisville Business Journal explains that the goal of the proposal is to reduce the number of claims that actually go on to court as well as to reduce the cost involved in reviewing these claims.

If approved, the process would begin by the selection of an attorney to act as the chair of a panel. This selection is made by both sides in the dispute. The attorney chair then chooses two medical professionals to be on the panel. Those two panel members together choose a third medical professional to join them on the panel.

After reviewing the evidence of a case, the panel would provide an opinion within 30 days. If unsatisfied, either party could pursue the case further in court if desired and any proceeding from the panel process or decision would be admissible in court.

When should patients take action?

As soon as a medical error is suspected, it is important for Kentucky residents to take action. That may mean talking to a doctor or getting a second opinion but it should also mean talking to an attorney. Even with the option to initiate a malpractice claim after an injury is discovered, there is still a set amount of time in which to pursue compensation. Getting help early protects a person's right to do this.