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Georgia Medical Malpractice Law - An Overview

Important Notice: The following overview of Georgia's medical malpractice laws is presented on an as-is basis. This information is believed accurate as of the date of authorship, but is not intended to provide a complete analysis of medical malpractice law and may not reflect subsequent changes in the law. For a full review of Georgia's medical malpractice law, or for a determination of how the law applies to a specific incident or injury, please consult a malpractice lawyer licensed to practice in the state of Georgia.

Contents

What Is Medical Malpractice

Medical malpractice, sometimes referred to as medical negligence, occurs when a health care provider violates the governing standard of care when providing treatment to a patient, causing the patient to suffer an injury. Medical malpractice can result from an action taken by the medical practitioner, or by the failure to take a medically appropriate action. Examples of medical malpractice include:

  • Misdiagnosis of, or failure to diagnose , a disease or medical condition;
  • Failure to provide appropriate treatment for a medical condition;
  • Unreasonable delay in treating a diagnosed medical condition;

Medical malpractice actions can be brought by the injured patient against any responsible licensed health care provider, including doctors, counselors, psychologists and psychotherapists.

Limits on Malpractice Damages

Absent intent to harm, punitive damages are limited to $250,000.00.

Collateral Source Rule

Under the collateral source rule, a defendant may not seek to reduce its liability by introducing evidence that the plaintiff has received compensation from other sources, such as the plaintiff's own insurance coverage.

Rules for Expert Witnesses

In most cases the plaintiff's complaint must be accompanied by an affidavit from an expert stating that the facts justify a claim of medical negligence.

Joint and Several Liability

Under a traditional rule of joint and several liability, where more than one defendant is found liable for the injury suffered by a plaintiff, each defendant is individually liable for the entire amount of the judgment, such that if one defendant is unable to pay the other defendant or defendants are liable for the entire amount of the judgment. In Georgia, the fault of the defendants is assessed, and each defendant is liable for damages only to the extent of his proportionate fault.

Statute of Limitations

Actions for medical malpractice must be commenced within two years of the date the act giving rise to the injury occurred. If a person was unable to discover the injury during that initial two year period of time, the limitations period will be extended. In cases where a health-care provider leaves an object in a person's body, the person has one year from the date of discovery to file suit. However, no medical malpractice action may be brought more than five years after the date that act giving rise to the injury occurred. These periods of limitation apply to minors, except that the statute of limitations cannot run prior to the minor's seventh birthday and the statute of repose cannot run until the claimant's tenth birthday. However, the one year rule relating to discovery of a foreign object within the patient's body applies to all plaintiffs regardless of age.

Limits on Attorney Fees

Georgia does not impose limits on attorney fees.

Additional Rules

Georgia permits voluntary arbitration, subject to court review. The parties may agree in advance of arbitration to make its results binding.

Why Use A Malpractice Lawyer

Medical malpractice law is a highly technical field of law, and malpractice lawsuits tend to be fiercely defended by well-funded defense firms.

Medical malpractice lawsuits can be exceptionally expensive to pursue, with costs often exceeding $100,000.00. Due to the technical skills involved in prosecuting a malpractice claim, the possibility that an inexperienced lawyer may not be sufficiently conversant with the medical issues, or might make a technical error which causes a case to be lost or dismissed, and the very high costs the malpractice law firm typically must advance, an injured patient is very well served by going with a specialist firm.

Even within the specialized practice of medical malpractice law, you will find that some lawyers have subspecialties of practice, for example focusing on surgical errors, misdiagnosis, or birth trauma cases.