When to Sue for Medical Malpractice in Washington State

medical malpractice washington state
Have you experienced medical malpractice at the hands of a health care provider? Learn the steps to take to sue for medical malpractice Washington State.

Medical professionals have a duty to provide the best care possible to each patient. When they neglect this duty, serious harm can result. If you have experienced medical malpractice or are unsure if your situation qualifies, this article will provide you with guidance and important information.  

In this article, we’ll walk through Washington State medical malpractice laws to help you get a better understanding of what qualifies and what your legal options are. 

Read on to learn when to sue for medical malpractice in Washington State. 

What qualifies as medical malpractice in Washington State?

Washington State medical malpractice laws are complex and require careful examination prior to building up a case. A skilled attorney will work on your behalf to achieve the best possible resolution in your medical malpractice case

To prove medical malpractice in Washington State, one or more of the following must be proved by a preponderance of the evidence. Revised Code of Washington, Section 7.70.030

  1. That injury resulted from the failure of a health care provider to follow the accepted standard of care; or
  2. That a health care provider promised the patient or his or her representative that the injury suffered would not occur; or
  3. That injury resulted from health care to which the patient or his or her representative did not consent.

While the above may appear straightforward, there are legal definitions and codes connected to them that add to the complexity. For instance, the meaning of “health care provider” can cover many individuals and even organizations. According to RCW  7.70.020, there are many occupations that qualify as a health care provider, including:  

  • Acupuncturist
  • Eastern medicine practitioner
  • Physician
  • Osteopathic physician
  • Dentist
  • Nurse
  • Optometrist
  • Podiatric physician and surgeon
  • Chiropractor
  • Physical therapist
  • Psychologist 

In addition, employees of a medical professional or the facility that the professional was employed by at the time also fall under the definition “health care provider.”  

There are also specific definitions in place for the term “informed consent” and for what qualifies as failure to receive informed consent on the part of the health care provider. For example, the Revised Code of Washington, Section 7.70.050 lays out multiple elements that are needed to prove failure to receive informed consent. Two of the elements are: 

  1. That the health care provider failed to inform the patient of a material fact or facts relating to the treatment;
  2. That the patient consented to the treatment without being aware of or fully informed of such material fact or facts.

The codes above are just a fraction of the Washington State medical malpractice laws. Proving medical malpractice in Washington State requires legal counsel that is knowledgeable and experienced. 

Read on to learn about how much time you have to file a lawsuit, according to Washington State medical malpractice law. 

Washington State medical malpractice statute of limitations

A person who wishes to sue for medical malpractice has to do so within a specific time frame. The Washington state medical malpractice statute of limitations is found in RCW 4.16.350. It specifies that the claim against a health care provider must be brought: 

“within three years of the act or omission alleged to have caused the injury or condition, or one year of the time the patient or his or her representative discovered or reasonably should have discovered that the injury or condition was caused by said act or omission, whichever period expires later.”

In other words, in the majority of cases, a patient can file a lawsuit against a health care provider within three years of the act (or lack of action) that led to the injury. However, if the injury could not have been reasonably discovered within that time frame, then you have one year from the date of discovery to file a lawsuit.  Despite this, the maximum allowable time to file a lawsuit is eight years.  

This is merely an overview of the Washington state medical malpractice statute of limitations. It is important to know that the law covers specific exemptions for the rule and details about the age of the patient, the situation that led to the discovery and other important factors that play a role in whether or not a lawsuit can be filed. 

It is wise to consult with a medical malpractice attorney Washington State to learn about how the statute of limitations applies to your specific case. 

Mandatory mediation for medical malpractice cases

Washington State medical malpractice laws are full of procedures and stipulations that both you and the other party must abide by. One such requirement is the mandatory mediation of health care claims. 

Under Section 7.70.100 of the Revised Code of Washington, mediation between the two parties is required before the case may go to trial. In mediation, both parties meet and attempt to come to a settlement with the assistance of an unbiased third party. This unbiased individual is known as the mediator. 

Washington State medical malpractice laws specify that the mediator must be a qualified individual. Section 7.70.100 goes on to state that the mediator must: 

  • Have experience or expertise related to actions arising from injury occurring as a result of health care.
  • Be a member of the state bar association who has been admitted to the bar for a minimum of five years or who is a retired judge. 

Having a skilled medical malpractice attorney in Washington State is a necessity when going through the mediation process. An attorney with a deep understanding of Washington State medical malpractice laws can negotiate skillfully on your behalf. This opens the door for you to recover damages without having to take the case to trial. However, if trial remains the best course of action, you have that option under Washington State medical malpractice law.  

Revised Code of Washington, Section 7.70.120 states that the mandatory mediation, “may not be construed to abridge the right to trial by jury following an unsuccessful attempt at mediation.”

In other words, you still have the right to take your case to trial if no agreement is reached during the mandatory mediation. 

Mediation can provide a path to a smooth resolution for the individual who files a lawsuit against the health provider, but it is not the only option for recovering damages. The next option is to take the case to trial. 

Build a solid case for medical malpractice in Washington State 

Experiencing medical malpractice is not only physically damaging, but it can also take a toll on your mental and emotional wellbeing. 

At Will & Will, we understand the harmful and lasting effects that medical malpractice inflicts. Our team of skilled medical malpractice lawyers in Washington state will work on your behalf to get the best possible results. With over 35 years of combined experience, we understand Washington State medical malpractice law and are here to help.

Furthermore, we stick to a “no fees unless we win” policy. You do not pay our fee unless (or until) a settlement is reached or we win at trial. We care about our clients and are here to get you the best possible outcome. Contact us today to learn how we can fight for you. 

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