Before you decide to file a medical malpractice lawsuit in Kansas, be aware that these cases are notoriously complex. Volumes of medical records need to be sifted through and analyzed, expert witness testimony (for both sides) is often essential, and the injured patient usually needs to jump through a number of procedural hoops right at the outset. In this article, we'll look at the Kansas statute of limitations for medical malpractice lawsuits, the "medical screening panel" review process, and the monetary limits on certain kinds of losses ("damages").
First, as a quick refresher for those who aren’t fluent in "legalese," a statute of limitations is a law that puts a firm limit on how much time can pass before you must file a lawsuit over some type of injury or loss.
Like a lot of states, Kansas has a specific statute of limitations for medical malpractice lawsuits filed in the state’s court system, and it can be found at Kansas Statutes section 60-513, which gives a prospective plaintiff two years to file their lawsuit against a doctor or other health care provider.
The "clock" usually starts running on the date you were harmed by the malpractice, but the law in Kansas contains specific language about when an injury is "discovered" for purposes of the statute of limitations:
"A cause of action...shall be deemed to have accrued at the time of the occurrence of the act giving rise to the cause of action, unless the fact of injury is not reasonably ascertainable until some time after the initial act, then the period of limitation shall not commence until the fact of injury becomes reasonably ascertainable …, but in no event shall such an action be commenced more than four years beyond the time of the act giving rise to the cause of action."
In other words, you need to file the lawsuit within two years of the date on which you were actually harmed by -- or could reasonably be expected to know that you were harmed by -- the defendant’s medical error. But the larger deadline says that you can’t wait more than four years after the commission of the malpractice. So, once those four years have passed, your right to file a medical malpractice lawsuit is lost in Kansas, even if you didn’t (and couldn’t have) known you were harmed by the defendant’s wrongdoing during that time.
What happens if you try to file the lawsuit after the statute of limitations deadline has passed? You can bet that the doctor or health care facility you’re trying to sue will ask the court to dismiss the case, the court will almost certainly grant the request, and that will be the end of your lawsuit. That’s why it’s crucial to pay attention to (and comply with) the medical malpractice statute of limitations.
When a medical malpractice lawsuit is filed in Kansas, any health care provider subject to the suit can ask the court to order that a "medical malpractice screening panel" be convened to assess the merits of the patient's claims, according to Kansas Statutes section 65-4901.
These screening panels are typically made up of:
Once the panel is selected, it will hear and consider all evidence and records relevant to the plaintiff's claims, and decide:
This panel's written recommendation on the above issues is admissible in any medical malpractice lawsuit, and the panel's members will usually be able to testify at any trial.
Note: The running of the statute of limitations "clock" will be paused until 30 days after the screening panel has issued its written recommendations over the matter, according to Kansas Statutes section 65-4908.
Like a lot of states, Kansas has a law on the books that limits or "caps" damages that are available to plaintiffs in medical malpractice lawsuits.
Kansas places a limit on non-economic damages for each plaintiff in a medical malpractice lawsuit, regardless of how many defendants there are in the case. The precise amount of the cap depends on when the lawsuit "accrued," -- in the context of a medical malpractice case, that usually means the date of the underlying medical error.
Here's the breakdown of the damages cap, which is set out at Kansas Statutes section 60-19a02:
Non-economic damages include compensation for the more subjective effects of the malpractice, including pain and suffering; anxiety, worry, and sleeplessness; and scarring and disfigurement.
It’s important to note here that Kansas’s cap does not apply to the other main category of medical malpractice damages: economic damages. This includes payment of past medical bills and all ongoing future medical care, reimbursement of lost income, and compensation for diminished inability to earn a living. These kinds of damages are uncapped in Kansas, except that any jury verdict for "future economic losses" must specifically spell out the time period over which payment for such losses will be necessary, according to Kansas Statutes section 60-3408.
This article provides a brief summary of some of the Kansas laws that any medical malpractice plaintiff needs to have in mind. If you've got questions about how the state's laws will affect your potential situation, an experienced Kansas medical malpractice attorney will have the answers.