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Minnesota Medical Malpractice Law - An Overview

Important Notice: The following overview of Minnesota'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 Minnesota'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 Minnesota.

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

Punitive damages are permitted only where the defendant is shown to have displayed a willful disregard for the plaintiff's safety. Awards of damages for loss of consortium, emotional distress, or embarrassment are limited to $400,000.00.

Collateral Source Rule

Under a traditional 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. For medical malpractice cases in Minnesota, to the extent that the defendant introduces evidence of collateral source payments, there is a mandatory offset.

Rules for Expert Witnesses

Minnesota does not impose special restrictions on expert testimony in malpractice cases.

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. Minnesota has modified this rule such that a defendant is responsible only for that defendant's proportionate share of damages based upon an assessment of relative fault, except where the defendant is more than 50% responsible for the plaintiff's injury or is proved to have acted with actual malice.

Statute of Limitations

Medical malpractice actions must be commenced within four years of the date of the act or omission giving rise to the injury. Under Minnesota law, except in cases of medical malpractice, the statute of limitations begins to run upon a minor's eighteenth birthday. For malpractice claims, a lawsuit must be filed within one year of the minor's eighteenth birthday, but not more than seven years after the date of injury.

Limits on Attorney Fees

Contingent fees in medical liability cases are based on the award after adjustment for collateral source benefits.

Additional Rules

A medical malpractice claimant must file an affidative attesting that an expert has been consulted in relation to the case.

There is discretionary periodic payment of future damages in excess of $100,000.00.

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.