Medical Malpractice in Alaska
Medical malpractice arises when a doctor or medical facility harms a patient. There are different medical malpractice laws per state, so you should review your state’s laws to determine whether you have a case. These laws can influence the statute of limitations for filing a medical negligence claim. Additionally, they can dictate whether you have to notify the doctor or medical facility beforehand.
What Evidence Do I Need for Alaska Medical Malpractice Claims?
The burden of proof falls on the injured party in filing a medical malpractice claim. To prove your case, there are several conditions you must establish. An experienced Alaska medical malpractice lawyer can guide you through this entire process.
While there can be some differences in details based on the state in which you file your claim, there are some standard benchmarks to try and hit.
- There was a working relationship between the doctor and the patient.
- There was negligence on behalf of the doctor – You must prove the doctor was negligent in his or her diagnosis. You cannot sue a doctor for medical malpractice simply because you did not like their treatment or diagnosis.
- There needs to be cause and effect – Cases usually involve long-term injuries. You must prove the injuries referenced in the claim are a direct result of the doctor’s care and not because of any pre-existing condition.
- The injury represented in the claim led to further injury – You cannot sue for malpractice unless you suffer a direct injury. There are multiple types of pain that any Alaska patient can sue for currently.
Under Alaska Statute, there is no presumption of negligence on the part of the defendant in a medical malpractice case. In fact, any expression of apology or sympathy made by the defendant regarding the outcome of medical treatment is not admissible in court. Instead, the plaintiff must show that the defendant lacked the required degree of skill, or failed to exercise such level of care. Furthermore, they must show that the injury was the proximate result of this failure and would not have happened otherwise.
You may wonder if you can also sue the Alaska hospital or facility where the doctor works. In most situations, you cannot sue a hospital for the malpractice of a doctor. Most doctors are independent contractors, which absolves hospitals from liability. Nurses and other hospital staff are direct employees, so if the malpractice occurs through one of them, then there are grounds to sue the facility. So, unless the doctor is directly employed by the hospital or facility, they are not liable.
Types of Medical Malpractice
As long as you meet the conditions to file, you have grounds to file a claim, but you will need to decide in which category your claim falls. The most common categories include the following:
- Wrongful treatment – A doctor treats you poorly and in a way that no other credible medical professional would.
- Failure to diagnose correct illness – The doctor misdiagnosed your malady and caused an injury.
- Failure to disclose risks to patients – The doctor fails to inform you of the medical risks. Or, they did not carry out their duty of informed consent. As a result, their inaction prevented you from making an informed decision about the procedure or treatment.
There are additional categories or reasons for filing a lawsuit, such as the following doctor errors:
- Misreading or ignoring test results from the lab
- Making surgical errors
- Not following up properly or not offering adequate post-care
- Performing unnecessary procedures or surgeries
Damages Available in Alaska
There are three types of damages a court will award for medical malpractice.
- General damages – Compensation for physical or mental suffering due to the negligent actions of the doctor
- Punitive Damages – Damages awarded as punishment for the medical professional or facility at fault
- Special Damages – Damages for expenses from medical bills and lost wages
According to the Center for Justice & Democracy, Alaska mandates a cap on non-economic damages. Specifically, Alaska Statute dictates a cap of $250,000 on non-economic damages. However, the amount increases to $400,000 for wrongful death or severe permanent physical impairment that is more than 70% disabling.
Statute of Limitations
Medical malpractice claims carry a strict statute of limitations, which vary depending on the state. If you do not file the claim within the statute of limitations, the court will dismiss the case with prejudice regardless of the facts.
Under Alaska Statute, the statute of limitations for medical malpractice cases in the state is 2 years from the date of the incident. However, there are some exceptions to this deadline. For example, the discovery rule can mean that the 2-year clock only begins once it is discovered that the injury was caused by medical malpractice.
Medical Malpractice Review Panels
In some states, you must first submit your claim to a review panel of medical experts. The panel hears the evidence and expert testimony to decide whether malpractice occurred. Keep in mind, their decision does not equate to a court’s decision. Still, the panel is often a necessary step in building toward a lawsuit. Furthermore, it can lend significant credibility to a claim. The findings of the review panel will make their way to court, and the court often references them to influence its ruling.
The Alaska State Medical Board (ASMB) is responsible for protecting the public through the licensing, regulation, and discipline of healthcare professionals. The Board adopts regulations to carry out the laws governing the practice of medicine in Alaska. To file a complaint, you can contact the Board’s investigation unit through the ASMB website. In addition, licensed healthcare professionals must report all malpractice settlements to the Board within 30 days of the date of settlement.
Do I Need to Hire an Attorney?
Medical malpractice claims in Alaska can be complex and difficult to prove. It can be an overwhelming task, especially if you are still suffering as a result of the doctor’s actions. We recommend consulting with a personal injury attorney in Alaska with experience in medical malpractice.
A medical malpractice attorney can help you in many ways to put together your case. Working with an attorney means he or she will often do the following:
- Build your case
- Collect important evidence
- Find expert witnesses to testify on your behalf
- Help you prepare for the malpractice review panel
- Take your claim to court
Work with an Experienced Local Lawyer in Alaska
Since your case is incredibly important to you, it makes sense to seek legal help. You should at minimum consult with a qualified Alaska attorney who is familiar with such cases. We can even help you connect with an attorney across Alaska state lines.
Submit a request online or call us today at (866) 345-6784 to get in touch with an experienced lawyer in your area!