Pursuing a medical malpractice claim in Missouri

A patient who decides to file a medical malpractice claim in Missouri should know that there are complex state laws governing caps on total damages, the statute of limitations for claims as well as other restrictions. Consultation with experienced counsel can help an injured party to understand their options before beginning the process.

When to file a claim and the process

Medical malpractice claims in Missouri must be filed either within two years of the injury, or within two years of the patient’s or health care provider’s discovery of injury or damage to the patient. This statute of limitations has a hard limit of ten years for extension from the initial event, even if discovery of the damage or injury occurs after that ten-year limit.

For a medical malpractice case to begin, a plaintiff must file an “affidavit of merit” within 90 days of initiating the lawsuit. The plaintiff must also provide a medical expert who can verify that the medical practitioner in question failed to meet a reasonable standard of care toward his patient that is expected in the medical community, which resulted in the patient’s injury or death.

Caps on damages

Missouri law had a hard cap on damages until a Missouri Supreme Court decision in 2012 struck these laws down. New laws in 2015 changed the limits to $400,000 for non-economic damages, including pain and suffering, and $700,000 for catastrophic damages such as brain injury or vision loss.

In spite of these caps, it is possible that a jury can award damages greatly in excess of these caps in the case of gross negligence. In a fairly recent case, the jury awarded $17.6 million in punitive damages for medical malpractice involving prescription drugs.

The plaintiff had become severely addicted to three different prescriptions of opioids prescribed by his physician over a period of four years. The expert witness found that the doses prescribed were “colossal and reckless”.

While not all medical malpractice cases yield such results, it is important to realize that just having a legitimate claim is only the beginning. Proving medical malpractice is challenging and requires knowledge of complex rules as well as insights on current medical procedures, diagnoses and treatments.