Kentucky Medical Malpractice Laws

If you're filing a medical malpractice lawsuit in Kentucky, understand the statute of limitations lawsuit-filing deadline and the Medical Review Panel process.

Before you decide to file a medical malpractice lawsuit in Kentucky, be aware that these cases are notoriously complex. Strict procedural rules need to be obeyed, volumes of medical records need to be sifted through and analyzed, and the plaintiff's "burden of proof" is substantial. In this article, we'll take a look at the Kentucky statute of limitations deadline for medical malpractice lawsuits, the state's "medical review panel" requirement, and more.

The Kentucky Medical Malpractice Statute of Limitations

First, some background for readers who may not be fluent in the language of "legalese": A statute of limitations is a state law that sets a limit on the amount of time you have to file a lawsuit.

You can find Kentucky’s statute of limitations for medical malpractice lawsuits at Kentucky Revised Statutes section 413.140(1)(e), and it says that this kind of case must be filed within one year "after the cause of action accrued." So, the next logical question is, when does a medical malpractice cause of action "accrue"? The Kentucky statute of limitations goes on to provide an answer: "the cause of action shall be deemed to accrue at the time the injury is first discovered or in the exercise of reasonable care should have been discovered." In other words, once you know (or should know in the eyes of the law) that you were harmed by a medical error, the "clock" starts running on the one-year period within which you must get your case filed.

There is also a larger catch-all filing deadline (known as a "statute of repose" in legalese) in Kentucky, which says that any medical malpractice lawsuit "shall be commenced within five years from the date on which the alleged negligent act or omission is said to have occurred." So, once five years have passed since the alleged malpractice was committed, your right to file a medical malpractice lawsuit is lost in Kentucky, even if you didn’t know (and couldn’t have known) that you were harmed by malpractice during that time.

Having read all of this, you’re probably wondering what happens if the statute of limitations filing deadline has passed and you try to file the case anyway. In that situation, you can count on the defendant (the doctor or hospital you’re suing) asking the court to dismiss the case, and the court granting the motion. Once that happens, that’s the end of your lawsuit. So, it’s easy to see why it’s important to pay attention to the Kentucky statute of limitations and understand the deadline as it applies to your situation.

The Medical Review Panel Process in Kentucky Medical Malpractice Claims

Kentucky Revised Statutes Chapter 216C says that no medical malpractice lawsuit can be filed against a health care provider unless the injured patient:

  • files the proposed complaint (the document that would ordinarily start a civil lawsuit) with a Medical Review Panel, and
  • the panel issues an opinion as to the merits of patient's complaint.

The panel must consist of one attorney and three health care providers, and a complicated set of rules is in place for selecting, challenging, and dismissing proposed members of the panel.

Once selected and seated, the panel reviews medical records, considers witness testimony, and evaluates any other relevant evidence. Then, within 30 days, the panel must give an opinion on:

  • whether the evidence supports a conclusion that the defendant health care provider(s) complied with the appropriate medical standard of care in treating the plaintiff, and
  • whether the defendant's conduct was "a substantial factor in producing a negative outcome for the patient".

A few more notes:

  • If the patient ends up filing a lawsuit, the panel's report is admissible as "expert opinion", but is not considered conclusive as to either the defendant's liability or the patient's injuries.
  • No complaint needs to be filed with the Medical Review Panel if 1) all parties (the plaintiff and all named defendants) agree in writing to forgo the process (the agreement must be attached to the initial lawsuit filing), or 2) if the parties agree to submit the dispute to binding arbitration, or 3) if the lawsuit was filed prior to March 2017.
  • If over nine months have passed and the medical review panel hasn't issued an opinion, the plaintiff can go ahead and file the medical malpractice lawsuit in Kentucky's court system.

No Medical Malpractice Damages Cap in Kentucky

A number of states have legislated a "cap" on the amount of compensation a plaintiff can receive in a medical malpractice case. The controversial impact of laws like this is that, even where a plaintiff establishes the defendant’s liability for malpractice, there is a limit on the actual amount of damages the jury can award, regardless of the extent of the plaintiff’s specific losses.

There is currently no cap on medical malpractice damages in Kentucky (including on compensation for things like pain and suffering), so an injured patient is free to recover for all financial losses that can be attributed to the defendant’s malpractice.

This article provides a brief summary of some of the Kentucky 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 Kentucky medical malpractice attorney will have the answers.

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