If you've been injured by substandard medical care in Missouri, you might be thinking of filing a medical malpractice lawsuit. If so, it helps to understand the basics of the process before you decide to proceed to court. This article covers some key points of Missouri's medical malpractice laws, including:
Missouri, like all states, has laws called "statutes of limitations" that set limits on the amount of time a plaintiff (the person suing) has to file different types of cases in the civil court system. In Missouri, an injured person typically has two years from the date on which the medical negligence occurred to file a medical malpractice claim.
In Missouri, if the patient doesn't discover the occurrence of the malpractice or the resulting injury right away, and if they couldn't have reasonably been expected to make that discovery, the starting of the statute of limitations "clock" might be delayed. This includes situations where:
Under what's called a "statute of repose," an injured patient is barred from filing a medical malpractice case more than ten years after the date the underlying medical error occurred—even if the patient couldn't have known about the injury at any point during those ten years.
Finally, Missouri has special rules for situations in which the injured patient is a minor younger than 18. In general, medical malpractice cases involving a minor child must be filed by the time the person reaches 20 years of age.
No matter which deadline applies to your case, statutes of limitations are always strictly enforced. If you fail to get your lawsuit filed before the time limit expires, the court will almost certainly refuse to hear it.
(Mo. Rev. Stat. § 516.105 (2022).)
Missouri medical malpractice laws require the plaintiff (or the plaintiff's attorney) to file an affidavit with the court at the beginning of the lawsuit, in order to demonstrate that the claim has merit. (This document is called a "certificate of merit" in some states.) The affidavit must declare that the plaintiff has obtained the written opinion of "a legally qualified health care provider," who has stated that:
Under Missouri law, a health care provider is "legally qualified" to provide an opinion in support of the plaintiff's case if:
The affidavit must be filed with the court within 90 days of the filing of a medical malpractice complaint (the document that starts the lawsuit), unless the court finds that "good cause" exists to extend the deadline for a period of no more than an additional 90 days. If you fail to file the affidavit on time, the court can dismiss your case.
(Mo. Rev. Stat. § 538.225 (2022).)
As part of broader tort-reform efforts, many states place limits (or "caps") on the compensation you can receive if your medical malpractice case succeeds. Missouri caps a medical malpractice plaintiff's non-economic damages, which includes compensation for:
Missouri has a standard cap for noneconomic damages, and a separate one for malpractice cases involving "catastrophic injury," which under Missouri law means a medical error that results in:
By law, both of these figures are bumped up by 1.7% each year. Here's a look at the two caps for recent and future years:
You can always find the latest details on these caps on the website of the Missouri Department of Insurance.
It's important to note that Missouri has no cap on "economic" damages in medical malpractice cases. That includes lost wages, lost earning capacity, and the costs of past or future medical treatment related to the malpractice. There are no limits on compensation for these kinds of losses in a Missouri medical malpractice case.
If you've been harmed by a health care provider's mistake in Missouri, it might make sense to discuss your situation with a legal professional, and get a clear sense of your options. If you've read this far, you've probably figured out that these kinds of cases are complex from almost every angle. Having an experienced legal professional on your side is crucial if you want to get a fair result. Learn more about finding the right medical malpractice lawyer for you and your case.