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Utah Medical Malpractice Law - An Overview

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

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

Utah limits noneconomic damages in medical malpractice caases to $400,000.00, adjusted for inflation after July 1, 2002.

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 Utah there is a mandatory offset for collateral source payments, except where the payor has subrogation rights.

Rules for Expert Witnesses

Utah does not impose special restrictions on expert witness testimony.

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. Utah has abolished joint and several liability, such that each defendant is liable for damages in an amount proportionate to that defendant's degree of fault for the plaintiff's injuries.

Statute of Limitations

Medical malpractice actions must be commenced within two years of the date of the act or omission giving rise to the claim, or within two years of the date the injury was or should have been discovered. If the medical malpractice claim involves a foreign object found within the body of the plaintiff, the action must be filed within one year of the insertion of the object or one year of the date the plaintiff discovers or should have discovered the presence of the object. However, under no circumstances may a medical malpractice action be commenced more than four years from the date of the act or omission giving rise to the injury. Under Utah law, a statute of limitations begins to run on a minor's eighteenth birthday; however the one year limit relating to the discovery of a foreign object applies to all plaintiffs without regard to age or disability.

Limits on Attorney Fees

A contingent fee may not exceed 1/3 of the plaintiff's award.

Additional Rules

Voluntary pretrial screening panels may be requested. Panel recommendations are not admissible at trial.

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.