The Utah legislature, in general, has enacted several restrictive rules governing the filing of medical malpractice suits. In passing the Utah Health Care Malpractice Act, the legislature declared that the number of malpractice suits have increased in recent years and should be curbed because it believed that it has resulted in increased malpractice insurance costs and, consequently, higher health care costs in general. Based on this declaration, it appears that the legislature views malpractice claims negatively and does not intend to enact rules that assist malpractice claimants but, rather, stand on the side of health care providers. The maze of procedural requirements has become increasingly complex, and those who wish to pursue birth injury malpractice claims should seek the assistance of experienced counsel in Utah such as the expertise provided by Charles H. Thronson, Attorney at Law, who can advise you each step of the way.
Limitations on Time Period for Filing a Malpractice Suit
In Utah, the legislature has passed a rule preventing individuals from filing a malpractice claim once two years has passed from the date an injury was incurred or should have been discovered. At most, courts are permitted to consider a claim four years after the date of the alleged negligent act, omission, or occurrence by a health care provider. If the health care provider has actively tried to conceal the negligent act which prevented the plaintiff from discovering the misconduct, these claims must be filed within one year after the plaintiff discovers, or should have discovered, through the use of reasonable diligence, the fraudulent concealment.
The Requirements for Advanced Notice to the State
Prior to filing a malpractice suit in court, the malpractice statute requires plaintiffs to notify the Utah Division of Occupational and Professional Licensing (DOPL) of their intent to file a suit. Plaintiffs must request a hearing with DOPL in order to permit DOPL from deciding if the case has any merit. DOPL will construct a panel of experts depending upon the kind of case. It usually includes 2 -3 health care professionals and an attorney with malpractice experience. During the hearing by the panel, each side is permitted to provide arguments to the panel regarding the alleged malpractice, and the panel can ask questions and ultimately decide whether the claims have merit. This permits defending health care providers from issuing subpoenas for information to gain access to medical records and begin evaluating claims in advance of litigation. Regardless of the panel’s ruling on merit, plaintiffs will still be able to file a claim in court.
Cap on Damages
Utah has enacted a highly restrictive cap on the amount of non-economic damages that plaintiffs may recover in a malpractice suit. Non-economic damages are intended to compensate individuals for disability or disfigurement, mental and physical pain and suffering, loss of companionship or consortium, loss of general enjoyment of life, and losses pertaining to one’s reputation. In Utah, non-economic damages are capped at $450,000. This is distinguishable from economic damages, which would include past and future medical care, lost income, lost earning capacity, loss of household services, and property damages. There is no cap on economic damages in Utah.
Notably, Utah has no mandatory insurance requirements for health care providers, and does not have any form of patient compensation fund. Plaintiffs who suffered catastrophic malpractice injuries that have a high dollar value face the risk of not receiving any compensation for their injuries if their treating physician was uninsured.
The restrictive rules for malpractice claims in Utah make it a complex process to try to recover compensation for birth injury claims. Charles H. Thronson, Attorney at Law, is a seasoned advocate in Utah with years of experience in pursuing claims against medical professionals for birth injuries and can provide you with the expertise you need to navigate Utah’s restrictive statutory scheme for malpractice actions. Do not hesitate to contact our firm today for an initial consultation by calling (800) 532-0021 or by completing our online form.