The term "malpractice" refers to claims for damages based upon a professional's failure to exercise the appropriate standard of professional care.
It is important to remember that most medical professionals are highly competent and conscientious, and most things laymen think are malpractice aren't. A bad result does not equal malpractice. However, no one is perfect, and some studies indicate that medical errors are a major cause of disability and death in the U.S. With "managed care" restricting doctors' decisions and forcing fewer doctors and nurses to care for more patients in a day, serious mistakes are inevitable.Strict two Year Statute of Limitation for Medical Malpractice
Georgia has a strict two year statute of limitation on medical malpractice cases. While there are limited circumstances to extend the time period, it is extremely dangerous to count on any extension.
In order to pursue a claim for medical malpractice, it is important to get to an experienced attorney at least six months to a year before expiration of the two-year statute of limitation, in order to allow adequate time for case evaluation, finding appropriate expert witnesses, and preparation of the case before filing suit.Standard of Care for Medical Malpractice
The standard of care for physicians is that they must exercise such reasonable care and skill for their patients as, under similar conditions and like surrounding circumstances, is ordinarily employed by the medical profession generally. Hospitals owe their patients the duty of using ordinary care to furnish equipment and facilities reasonably suited to the uses intended and such as are in general use under the same, or similar circumstances in hospitals of approximately the same size serving similar areas or communities.
The question of whether the standard of care has been violated is almost always an exhaustive and expensive battle of experts. The out of pocket expense to take a medical malpractice case to trial often approaches $100,000. Lawyers who handle malpractice cases on a contingent fee contract while advancing the considerable expense must be careful in screening the economic viability of cases.Emergency medicine - Gross Negligence, Clear and Convincing Evidence
In cases arising in hospital emergency departments in Georgia, the plaintiff must prove gross negligence by clear and convincing evidence. That is an extremely difficult burden for a plaintiff to meet.m However, court decisions hold that that it is generally for a jury decide whether that standard has been met.Affidavit Requirement
In Georgia, malpractice cases ordinarily expert testimony from a member of the same profession as to the standard of care and how it was violated. The expert must have be regularly engaged in practice or teaching three of the past five years in the same area of practice or specialty, with sufficient frequency to establish an appropriate level of knowledge, as determined by the judge, in performing the same procedure, diagnosing the condition or rendering the treatment which is alleged to have been performed or rendered negligently by the defendant. There is no longer a grace period for filing the expert affidavit after the suit is filed. If there is no malpractice affidavit, the suit will be dismissed.
The malpractice affidavit requirement applies to malpractice claims against architects, attorneys, certified public accountants, chiropractors, clinical social workers, dentists, dieticians, land surveyors, medical doctors, marriage and family therapists, nurses, occupational therapists, optometrists, osteopathic physicians, pharmacists, physical therapists, physicians' assistants, professional counselors, professional engineers, podiatrists, psychologists, radiological technicians, respiratory therapists, and veterinarians.Expert Testimony Rules
Georgia has adopted the Federal rule on admissibility of expert testimony, with specific reference to a body of Federal case law that gives judges broad discretion to screen expert testimony and summarily throw out of court cases in which they disapprove of the plaintiffs experts. In addition, the legislature stated its intent "that the courts of the State of Georgia not be viewed as open to expert evidence that would not be admissible in other states."