If you live in Nebraska and are thinking of filing a medical malpractice lawsuit, there are some important state laws that you need to know about. These cases are often extremely complicated, but it can be helpful to understand the basics of the process before you get started. In this article, we'll look at some of the key components of Nebraska's medical malpractice laws, including:
Like every state, Nebraska has a law that puts a limit on the amount of time an injured patient has to file a medical malpractice lawsuit. This law, known as a "statute of limitations," gives a plaintiff (the person filing the lawsuit) two years from the date the alleged malpractice occurred to bring the claim to court. But the law provides an exception (called the "discovery rule") in situations where the injured person didn't discover—and couldn't reasonably have discovered—the health care provider's medical error within the two years following the alleged malpractice. In that case, the plaintiff must file the lawsuit within one year of the date the provider's negligence was discovered or "from the date of discovery of facts which would reasonably lead to such discovery, whichever is earlier."
However, Nebraska law also has a broader time limit for filing a medical malpractice lawsuit called a "statute of repose." Under the state's statute of repose, all medical malpractice claims must be brought within ten years from the date of the health care provider's alleged negligent action (or inaction)—even if you couldn't have known about the malpractice or your injuries during those ten years.
Finally, Nebraska law has a special rule for cases where, at the time of the injury, the potential plaintiff is:
In those situations, the statute of limitations is "tolled" (paused) until the person turns 21, is deemed mentally competent, or released from incarceration.
It's important to note that these deadlines are strictly enforced; if the case isn't filed within the applicable time period, the court will almost certainly refuse to hear it. That's why, if you're running up against the statute of limitations or you have questions about how the deadline applies to your case, it's essential to speak with an experienced Nebraska medical malpractice attorney.
Under Nebraska law, a potential medical malpractice plaintiff must submit the proposed complaint to a medical review panel before filing the lawsuit (unless the injured patient actively waives the right to a panel review; in that case, the patient may proceed directly to court). The review panel process is intended to bring the parties together, present all of the facts in the case, and encourage the parties to settle the claim and avoid a lawsuit.
A Nebraska medical review panel is typically composed of one attorney and three doctors licensed to practice medicine in the state. Once the panel is formed, its members will consider all of the relevant evidence—including medical records and witness testimony—and issue an opinion within 30 days. The panel's opinion will determine whether:
The panel's opinion isn't binding, but it (or any report of a minority of the panel) can later be admitted in court. However, the panel's opinion isn't conclusive: Either side is free to call witnesses or present evidence that counters the panel's opinion.
Finally, that the statute of limitations will be paused from the date the injured patient submits the proposed complaint to the panel until 90 days after the panel issues its written opinion.
This is only a basic overview of the medical review panel process in Nebraska. You can find all of the details at Neb. Rev. Stat. §§ 44-2840 through 44-2847.
Nebraska law "caps" (or limits) the amount of compensation ("damages") you can receive if your medical malpractice claim succeeds. In most states that cap damages in medical malpractice cases, the limits apply only to noneconomic damages—such as pain and suffering or emotional harm—and not to economic damages, such as the costs of medical care or lost income.
Nebraska law, though, caps the total amount of damages that a plaintiff may receive, including compensation for economic losses—and it applies to all defendants in the case. So that means that even if your injuries will require expensive ongoing medical care, the damage cap still applies. And if your lawsuit includes separate claims against, for example, a hospital, a surgeon, and an anesthesiologist, the damage cap would be the same as if you had sued only one health care provider.
In Nebraska, the damage caps vary depending on when the alleged malpractice occurred, as follows:
(Neb. Rev. Stat. § 44-4825 (2022).)