Compared with other injury-related legal claims, a medical malpractice lawsuit is usually a fairly complex undertaking. That's true in every state, not just Nevada. Legal issues and medical evidence can get very complicated very quickly in these cases, and the plaintiff (the injured patient, or his or her legal representative) needs to understand the special procedural rules and compensation limits that come into play. In this article, we'll look at some key Nevada medical malpractice laws, including the "affidavit of merit" requirement and the statutory lawsuit-filing deadline.
Like a lot of states, Nevada has a specific "statute of limitations" that anyone looking to file a medical malpractice lawsuit must abide by. For those who aren't fluent in legalese, a statute of limitations is a law that sets out a strict limit on the amount of time you have to go to court and get the case started. In Nevada, that means filing not only the initial complaint but also a sworn affidavit from a qualified expert medical witness who states that your case has merit (more on this in the next section).
You can find Nevada's statute of limitations for medical malpractice lawsuits at Nevada Revised Statutes section 41A.097, and it states that "an action for injury or death against a provider of health care may not be commenced more than 3 years after the date of injury or 1 year after the plaintiff discovers or through the use of reasonable diligence should have discovered the injury, whichever occurs first."
What if Nevada's three-year deadline has passed, but you try to file the lawsuit anyway? It's a safe bet that the doctor or health care facility you're trying to sue will file a motion asking the court to dismiss the case, and the court will almost certainly grant the motion. If that happens, that's the end of your lawsuit, and you've lost the right to ask the court to provide you with a civil remedy for even the most egregious and harmful medical error. That's why it is so crucial to pay attention to the statute of limitations as it applies to your case.
The most common exception to the medical malpractice statute of limitations deadline in Nevada comes into play when the defendant doctor or health care provider "conceal[s] any act, error or omission upon which the action is based and which is known or through the use of reasonable diligence should have been known" to the defendant. In that situation, the statute of limitations is "tolled" or stops running for as long as the concealment of the alleged malpractice continues.
Whenever a medical malpractice lawsuit is filed in Nevada's civil court system, state law says that the court "shall" dismiss the lawsuit if it is filed without an accompanying affidavit from a qualified medical expert, in which he or she:
This is just a summary of the main points of Nevada's affidavit of merit requirement. Read more details at Nevada Revised Statutes section 41A.071.
It's important to note that when a court dismisses a medical malpractice lawsuit for failure to file an accompanying affidavit of merit, the dismissal is considered "without prejudice," which means that the plaintiff gets the chance to fix the problem, file an affidavit of merit that compiles with Nevada law, and proceed with his or her malpractice case.
Like a lot of states, Nevada has a law on the books that limits (or "caps") non-economic damages in medical malpractice cases, effectively limiting the amount of money that a successful plaintiff can receive, even after a jury has heard all the evidence at trial and found the defendant liable for medical malpractice.
Nevada's cap on noneconomic damages in medical malpractice cases is set at $350,000. That is the maximum amount that the plaintiff may receive, regardless of the number of defendants, as compensation for noneconomic damages. You can find this law codified at Nevada Revised Statutes section 41A.035.
So, what are noneconomic damages? They are meant to compensate the plaintiff for the negative effects of medical malpractice that aren't easily calculable; losses that are more subjective from plaintiff to plaintiff. They include compensation for pain and suffering, inconvenience, disfigurement, and similar harm caused by the defendant's malpractice.
It's important to keep in mind that Nevada's cap on medical malpractice damages does not apply to economic damages, which are losses that include the plaintiff's past medical bills, cost of future medical care, reimbursement of lost earnings, compensation for harm to the plaintiff's ability to work because of the malpractice, and any other provable losses that can be tied to the malpractice and/or to the medical treatment that was made necessary by it.
If you're looking for more specifics on Nevada's medical malpractice laws and how they apply to your potential case, it may be time to discuss your situation with an experienced medical malpractice attorney in your area.