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The Basics of Virginia Medical Malpractice Law

There are many types of medical injuries that can result in medical malpractice claims in Virginia. Birth injury, an error in anesthesia administration, and misdiagnosis are all medical acts that could give rise to a Virginia malpractice claim.

If you believe you have sustained an injury as a result of a healthcare professional's improper medical care, then you may have a legitimate medical malpractice claim. One of the first steps you should take before filing a claim is to educate yourself about the basics of Virginia malpractice law.

What Is Virginia Malpractice?

Each state establishes its own medical malpractice laws. Although the specifics of each state law vary from one state to another, the basic definition of what constitutes medical malpractice does not change.

In Virginia, medical malpractice occurs when a healthcare professional or institution commits medical negligence that then results in a patient injury. Medical negligence occurs when the medical provider breaches, or violates, the standard of care.

A standard of care is the generally accepted practices and procedures used by medical professionals in a particular geographical area when treating a patient with a particular disorder or illness. A number of factors can alter this standard of care, including the patient's overall health and age. One part of a medical malpractice lawsuit is relying on experts to help establish what this standard of care should have been and proving that the doctor breached it.

It is not enough, though, to only prove that the doctor breached this standard of care. Rather, you and your Virginia medical malpractice attorney will have to prove that this breach directly caused your injuries. This too will require the outside expertise of medical experts.

Virginia Medical Malpractice Statute of Limitations

As part of each state law, a statute of limitations is established. This statute specifies how long a patient has to file a claim against a medical provider. Under Virginia malpractice law, this limit is two years.

The starting point for Virginia's statute of limitations is the point at which the injury occurred or when treatment for the condition ends. For incidents where a foreign object is left in the patient, the patient has up to one year from the date the object is discovered or reasonably should have been discovered.

Because of the statute of limitations limits the amount of time a patient has to bring a claim, it is important that you reach out to a medical malpractice lawyer as soon as you think you might have a case.

Damage Caps in Virginia Malpractice Cases

The compensation that a victim of medical malpractice seeks in court is known as damages. There are multiple types of damages, including compensatory, non-economic, and punitive. Some states have enacted caps to limit the amount of money that can be awarded for each type of damage. Virginia imposes caps on all types of damages.

Compensatory damages are those that compensate the injured patient for actual costs. These actual costs can include current and future medical bills as well as wages lost due to days of work missed.

Non-economic damages compensate the patient for intangible costs. This includes things such as pain and suffering.

Punitive damages are awarded to a patient as a way of punishing a medical provider for reckless behavior. To be awarded punitive damages, a patient and his or her attorney must show that the medical provider's medical negligence involved one of several factors, including malice or fraud.

Under Virginia malpractice law, the total amount of damages that can be awarded to an injured patient is $2 million. The total amount of punitive damages that a patient may receive cannot exceed $350,000.

If you have any additional questions regarding Virginia malpractice law, you should contact a medical malpractice attorney near you to request a consultation.