Medical malpractice laws in Michigan went through some fairly drastic changes in the early 1990s. Here's what potential plaintiffs need to know about deadlines for getting a medical malpractice lawsuit filed, special pre-suit procedural requirements, and caps on available damages in Michigan.
A statute of limitations is a law that sets a time limit on the right to bring a civil lawsuit to court.
According to the statute of limitations found under Michigan Compiled Statutes section 600.5805(8), medical malpractice lawsuits must be filed within two years of the health care provider's action (or failure to act) giving rise to the claim. Alternatively, Michigan Compiled Statutes section 600.5838a(2) says that a medical malpractice claim must be filed within six months of when the patient's harm was discovered, or reasonably should have been discovered, if more than two years have passed. However, all Michigan medical malpractice claims must be brought within six years of the act (or failure to act) giving rise to the claim, regardless of the discovery date, except in cases where the health care provider fraudulently concealed the malpractice, or if the injury involves permanent damage to the claimant's reproductive system.
Minors (those under the age of 18), as well as those deemed legally incompetent at the time of the medical error may also take advantage of certain provisions built into Michigan's laws on medical malpractice, which effectively extend lawsuit-filing deadlines.
Every medical malpractice case in Michigan is initiated by filing a Notice of Intent to File Suit (NOI). The NOI must be in writing and must be served upon all health care providers who will be sued at least 182 days before the actual lawsuit is filed. Serving the NOI pauses the statute of limitations for 182 days. However, if the NOI does not comply with all of the statutory requirements, the 182-day tolling period is void and the claim can be dismissed if filed beyond the statute of limitations deadline.
If certain requirements are met, the notice period can be reduced from 182 days down to 91.
Michigan law requires that medical malpractice plaintiffs submit an affidavit of merit signed by a health care professional qualified under state law. The medical expert must be a licensed health care professional practicing or teaching in the same specialty as the defendant. The expert must also have the same board certifications the defendant has (if any). So, this rule would prevent a general practitioner from giving an expert opinion in a medical malpractice case against an oncologist.
The affidavit of merit must set forth the applicable standard of care, the expert's opinion that the defendant failed to meet the standard of care, the actions the defendant should have taken in order to meet the standard of care, and the way in which the defendant's provision of sub-standard care caused the plaintiff's injuries. The defendant or defendants must file an affidavit of meritorious defense, signed by a qualified expert, refuting the plaintiff's claims.
Michigan enacted a cap on the maximum amount of "non-economic damages" available in medical malpractice claims in 1993. This cap applies to the amount of compensation a plaintiff can receive for "pain and suffering" and other losses that aren't easily quantified. But there is no cap on "economic" damages in Michigan medical malpractice cases (which include compensation for past and future medical treatment, lost income, and lost capacity to earn income in the future). Get the basics on damages in a medical malpractice case.
The non-economic damages cap is adjusted for inflation each year and is now in excess of $470,000.
In cases where the plaintiff suffers from permanent paralysis (hemiplegic, paraplegic or quadriplegic) due to an injury to the brain or spinal cord, or where there is permanently impaired cognitive capacity or permanent loss of (or damage to) a reproductive body part, the cap is currently in excess of $850,000.
Learn more about damage caps in medical malpractice cases.
In Michigan medical malpractice cases, as long as the plaintiff bears no portion of fault, all health care providers whose medical negligence contributed to the plaintiff's harm are on the financial hook for the entire verdict jointly and severally. This means the plaintiff may seek to collect the entire court judgment from just one of the health care providers, from a select few of them, or from all of them. If the plaintiff is apportioned some percentage of fault (a rarity in medical malpractice cases) the defendants are liable only for their own percentage of fault, but any uncollected damages can be reapportioned among the remaining defendants according to their portion of fault after six months.
Consider this example: A plaintiff sues three doctors and secures a verdict of $100,000. Each doctor is deemed to be 25% at fault, and the plaintiff is deemed to be 25% at fault, so that the award is reduced to $75,000. The plaintiff tries to collect the entire $75,000 judgment from Doctor A. Doctor A only pays $25,000. The plaintiff can then ask the court to re-apportion the remaining $50,000 among the remaining defendants in accordance with their percentages of liability. So Doctors B and C could now each be liable for 25% of the remaining judgment, or $12,500 each.
To understand how Michigan's medical malpractice laws apply to your potential case, your best first step might be discussing your situation with an attorney. Learn more about meeting and working with a medical malpractice lawyer.