Medical malpractice in Nebraska refers to instances where healthcare professionals fail to provide reasonable care, resulting in harm to a patient. Victims of medical negligence have the right to sue for compensation. A medical malpractice lawyer is instrumental throughout this legal process, mainly because they use their skill and experience to fight hard on behalf of victims to obtain compensation and justice for them.

Omaha Medical Malpractice Lawyers

At Liberty Law Group, our attorneys are experienced and passionate when it comes to medical malpractice cases. Oftentimes, these cases involve a great deal of evidence, science, and experts to properly bring a case and see it through to a settlement or verdict. The opposing parties in these cases, oftentimes hospitals and insurance companies, have a great deal of resources at thier disposal. Our team of dedicated medical malpractice attorneys are ready to help victims who have suffered as a result of medical negligence across Nebraska. Our firm proudly serves the communities of Omaha, Lincoln, Papillion, Council Bluffs and the surrounding areas of Eastern Nebraska and West Iowa. Including the counties of Douglas, Lancaster, Sarpy, Cass, Saunders, Washington, Dodge, and Pattawattamie. If you or a loved one has suffered as the result of medical malpractice, contact our office at (402) 865-0501 to request a free consultation to discuss your case.

Medical Malpractice Information Center

Below, Liberty Law Group covers some of the most important aspects of medical malpractice, including its various types and causes, the legal options open to victims in Nebraska, and the many ways that a malpractice lawyer can help.

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Types of Medical Malpractice

Medical malpractice encompasses a range of errors and negligence in the healthcare field, each type having its own specific scenarios and potential impacts on patients.

  • Misdiagnosis or Delayed Diagnosis – This occurs when healthcare professionals fail to correctly identify a patient’s condition or do so much later than they should. The consequences can range from minor issues to life-threatening situations. For example, failing to diagnose a stroke or heart attack promptly can lead to significant health deterioration. It’s not just about missing a diagnosis; sometimes, a misdiagnosis can lead to unnecessary treatments, causing further harm. For instance, treating someone for a disease they don’t have can expose them to harmful side effects of unnecessary medication or procedures.
  • Birth Injuries – These injuries can occur due to mistakes made during the prenatal care, labor, delivery, or postnatal care. They can affect both the baby and the mother. For the baby, this could mean physical injuries during birth, such as fractures or nerve damage, or more severe conditions like cerebral palsy or hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy (brain damage caused by oxygen deprivation). For mothers, negligence can result in injuries like vaginal tears, pre-eclampsia (high blood pressure) not being managed, or severe postpartum hemorrhage not being treated.
  • Medication Errors – These errors can occur at any point in the medication process, from prescribing to dispensing and administering drugs. A healthcare professional might prescribe a medication that interacts negatively with other medications the patient is taking. In a hospital setting, a nurse might administer the wrong dose or the wrong medication entirely. The consequences can include life-threatening reactions or long-term health issues.
  • Surgical Errors – These include a broad range of mistakes, such as operating on the wrong site, performing the wrong procedure, leaving surgical equipment inside the patient, or causing injuries during surgery. Negligence in post-operative care, leading to infections or other complications, is also included. The repercussions of surgical errors can be severe, requiring additional surgeries, prolonged recovery times, or resulting in permanent disability or disfigurement.
  • Anesthesia Errors – These are among the most severe errors in medical practice. Anesthesia mistakes can happen due to incorrect dosage, failing to monitor the patient’s vital signs, or not considering a patient’s medical history for allergies or interactions. The consequences of these errors can be catastrophic, including permanent injury, brain damage, and in the worst cases, death. Given the sensitive nature of anesthesia, these errors can happen even in minor surgeries, making them particularly concerning.
  • Failure to Treat – This type occurs when a healthcare provider correctly diagnoses a condition but fails to provide appropriate treatment. This might be due to a high volume of patients, leading to rushed decisions or oversight, or a lack of follow-up on treatment plans. It can also include premature discharge of a patient or not providing necessary referrals to specialists. The failure to treat can result in the progression of a disease or condition that could have been managed or cured if properly addressed.
  • Inadequate Follow-up or Aftercare – This type of malpractice occurs when healthcare providers do not offer adequate follow-up care after a treatment or surgery. This negligence can lead to complications being missed, such as infections or slow healing. Proper aftercare is important for recovery, and the lack of it can result in prolonged illness or additional treatments.
  • Poor Communication – Effective communication in healthcare is critical. When doctors or nurses fail to communicate properly with each other or with their patients, it can lead to serious errors. For instance, a doctor might not inform a patient about the risks of a procedure, or a nurse might not report a patient’s critical symptoms to a doctor. These lapses can prevent patients from making informed decisions or delay necessary interventions.
  • Hospital-Acquired Infections – Patients can acquire infections in a hospital setting, which can be a form of medical malpractice if it’s due to negligence. This might include improper sterilization of equipment, lack of proper hygiene practices by hospital staff, or inadequate isolation of contagious patients. These infections can be severe and sometimes more difficult to treat than the original illness.
  • Early Discharge – Discharging a patient from the hospital too early can lead to worsening of their condition. This often happens due to pressure to free up hospital beds or reduce costs. Early discharge can result in complications that require readmission, additional treatments, or emergency care.
  • Ignoring or Misinterpreting Laboratory Results – When doctors ignore or misinterpret lab results, they can miss crucial information about a patient’s condition. This can lead to incorrect treatment, delayed treatment, or no treatment at all. For example, not recognizing signs of infection or cancer in lab results can have dire consequences.
  • Lack of Informed Consent – Before undergoing any medical procedure or treatment, patients must be given enough information to make an informed decision about their care. This includes understanding the risks, benefits, and alternatives. If a patient is not properly informed and something goes wrong, it can be considered malpractice.
  • Psychiatric Malpractice – This includes harm caused by caregivers in a psychiatric setting, such as improper medication management or a violation of patient confidentiality. The consequences of psychiatric malpractice can be severe, impacting the mental and emotional well-being of patients.
  • Dental Malpractice – Dentists, like other healthcare providers, can commit malpractice. This can include incorrect procedures, unnecessary removal of teeth, or injuries during dental work. Poor dental work can lead to pain, infection, and the need for further treatments.
  • Never Events – "Never events" in medical malpractice are grave, preventable errors that should never occur with proper medical care. These include surgeries on the wrong patient or body part, incorrect procedures, leaving objects inside a patient post-surgery, severe medication errors, and patient falls resulting in serious injury or death. Other examples are patient suicide or self-harm in a healthcare facility, criminal acts like assault, severe pressure ulcers acquired in care, and the retention of a fetus after delivery. These mistakes often lead to significant legal and professional repercussions for healthcare providers.

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Common Types of Injuries Sustained by Malpractice Victims

The specific types of injuries that a victim of medical malpractice might sustain can vary widely depending on the circumstances. Here are some common types:

  1. Physical Injuries: These could be direct results of a procedure that has gone wrong, such as surgical errors leading to damage to organs, tissues, or nerves. For example, accidentally cutting a nerve during surgery could result in loss of sensation or movement.
  2. Infections: If sterile environments are not maintained during medical procedures, or if equipment is not properly sterilized, patients can develop serious infections.
  3. Complications from Medication Errors: Administering the wrong medication, the wrong dosage, or a medication to which the patient is allergic can lead to adverse reactions, ranging from mild discomfort to severe health complications or even death.
  4. Cancer from Misdiagnosis or Delayed Diagnosis: If a healthcare professional fails to correctly diagnose a condition in a timely manner, the patient might suffer worsened conditions. For instance, a delayed cancer diagnosis could lead to the cancer advancing to a more critical stage.
  5. Brain Damage: During childbirth, errors can result in injuries to the baby or the mother. This could include physical injuries during delivery, such as fractures or nerve damage, or oxygen deprivation leading to brain damage.
  6. Psychological Trauma: The experience of medical malpractice can also lead to psychological injuries, such as anxiety, depression, or post-traumatic stress disorder, particularly if the physical effects are severe or life-altering.
  7. Worsening of Pre-existing Conditions: In some cases, incorrect or inadequate treatment can lead to a worsening of the patient’s original medical condition.

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Where Medical Malpractice Occurs in Nebraska

  • Hospitals – Hospitals are common settings for medical malpractice. They are busy environments where doctors and nurses handle numerous cases simultaneously. This can sometimes lead to errors. Common mistakes in hospitals include surgical errors, medication errors, and failures in diagnosing or treating conditions promptly. Hospitals also have a higher risk of hospital-acquired infections due to the concentration of sick individuals in one place.
  • Private Clinics and Doctor’s Offices – Medical malpractice isn’t confined to large hospitals in Nebraska. It can also occur in smaller settings like private clinics and doctors’ offices. In these places, misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis is more common. This could be due to limited resources for testing or less specialized knowledge compared to a large hospital. Additionally, medication errors can occur, especially if the clinic or office does not have good systems for tracking prescriptions and patient histories.
  • Nursing Homes and Long-Term Care Facilities – Nursing homes and long-term care facilities in Nebraska are also prone to instances of medical malpractice and sometimes even abuse or neglect by nursing home staff. Given the vulnerable nature of their residents, these facilities may witness errors in medication, neglect in providing proper care, or failure to respond properly to medical emergencies. The difficulties involved in managing chronic illnesses in elderly patients also increase the risk of medical errors.
  • Psychiatric Facilities – In psychiatric facilities, malpractice can take the form of improper medication management, violation of patient rights, or inadequate treatment leading to harm. These facilities must balance the need for effective treatment with the protection of patient rights, and failure to do so can result in significant harm.
  • Home Healthcare – With the rise in home healthcare services, there’s a potential for medical malpractice in this setting too. Errors in medication, inadequate monitoring of the patient’s condition, or failure to provide necessary treatment can occur, often made worse by the lack of oversight that might be available in a more formal healthcare setting.

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Popular Medical Facilities in Douglas County, Nebraska

  • Nebraska Medicine – Nebraska Medicine is one of the largest healthcare providers in the region. It includes Nebraska Medical Center, which is known for offering comprehensive care and a wide range of specialties, including cancer treatment, heart care, and neurology. They are affiliated with the University of Nebraska Medical Center.
  • CHI Health Creighton University Medical Center – This facility is part of the CHI Health network and is affiliated with Creighton University. It offers a variety of services including emergency care, maternity services, and heart and vascular care. The hospital is also known for its educational programs in the medical field.
  • Methodist Hospital – This hospital is part of the Nebraska Methodist Health System. Services available at this location include cancer care, women’s health, and orthopedics.
  • Children’s Hospital & Medical Center – From checkups to advanced treatments for serious illnesses and injuries, Children’s Hospital & Medical Center focuses on the healthcare needs of children.

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Popular Medical Facilities in Lancaster County, Nebraska

  • Bryan Medical Center – This is a major healthcare provider in Lancaster County. It offers advanced care in several specialties including heart care, neurology, and cancer treatment.
  • CHI Health St. Elizabeth – This hospital offers a range of services including burn and wound care, maternity services, and a comprehensive cancer center.
  • Lincoln Surgical Hospital – This is a specialty hospital focused primarily on surgery. It offers a variety of services including orthopedic, spine, and cosmetic surgery.
  • VA Nebraska-Western Iowa Health Care System – Serving veterans in the area, this facility provides comprehensive healthcare services including mental health care, rehabilitation services, and specialized care for veterans.

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Statute of Limitations in Medical Malpractice Cases

The statute of limitations for medical malpractice cases in Nebraska, according to Nebraska Revised Statute §25-222, sets specific time limits within which a person must file a lawsuit if they believe they have been harmed by professional negligence.

Two-Year Standard Limitation

Generally, a victim of medical malpractice in Nebraska has two years from the date of the alleged negligent act or omission to file a lawsuit. This means if a doctor or healthcare professional did something wrong (or failed to do something they should have), the victim has two years from that time to start legal action.

Extension for Discovery

Sometimes, a victim might not realize right away that they’ve been harmed by a medical error. The law accounts for this by allowing an individual to start a lawsuit within one year of discovering the issue. However, this extension also applies if there are facts that should have reasonably led to the discovery of the issue, even if the individual didn’t actually discover it until later. Whichever of these dates comes first is the one that matters.

Absolute Ten-Year Limit

There’s an absolute limit of ten years for filing a lawsuit, no matter when the individual discovered the issue. This means that no lawsuit for medical malpractice can be started more than ten years after the date when the medical service that caused the issue was provided.

Special Rules for Certain Plaintiffs

If the victim is under the age of 21, has a mental disease or disorder, or is imprisoned, then the statute of limitations is basically stopped (known as being tolled) until the individual reaches the age of 21, been declared competent, or has been released from prison.

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Submitting to a Medical Review Panel

Before filing a medical malpractice lawsuit in court, the person who believes they’ve been harmed (the plaintiff) usually needs to first present their case to a medical review panel. This step is designed to provide an impartial review of the complaint. However, Nebraska law allows the plaintiff the option to bypass this panel and directly file the lawsuit in court if they choose.

Panel Selection Process

The medical review panel typically includes one attorney and three doctors, all licensed in Nebraska. The attorney acts as an advisor but does not have a voting role. The selection of panel members involves a detailed process. Physicians engaged in active practice are eligible for selection. Each party to the action has the right to select one physician, and these two physicians select the third. If a hospital is involved, an additional hospital administrator is selected.

Reviewing the Case

Once the panel is formed, they review all relevant evidence, including medical records, X-rays, laboratory test results, witness depositions, and more. The panel’s goal is to assess whether the evidence supports the claim that the healthcare provider failed to meet the standard of care or if the standard was met. They also determine if there are any significant questions that need to be resolved in court.

Impact of the Panel’s Opinion

The opinion of the medical review panel is not final or binding, meaning it doesn’t dictate the outcome of a potential court case. However, it can be used as evidence if the case goes to court. It provides an expert viewpoint on the medical aspects of the case, which can be influential. Both sides are free to present additional evidence or witnesses in court that might support or counter the panel’s opinion.

Pausing the Statute of Limitations

A significant aspect of this process is that the statute of limitations (the deadline to file a lawsuit) is paused from when the complaint is submitted to the panel until 90 days after the panel issues its opinion. This pause provides the plaintiff with time to undergo the panel review process without losing the legal right to file the lawsuit due to time constraints.

Benefits of the Medical Review Panel

The primary purpose of the medical review panel is to assess medical malpractice claims objectively before they escalate to court. The panel’s review helps in understanding the medical issues involved and the legal implications. Also, by presenting all facts and providing an expert opinion, the panel aims to encourage both parties to settle the claim, potentially avoiding a lengthy and costly lawsuit. Finally, if a case does go to court, the panel’s findings can provide a foundation for the case, potentially making the court proceedings more efficient.

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Potential Damages in Medical Malpractice Cases

In a medical malpractice case, the damages that a patient can recover are generally divided into several categories, each meant to compensate for different types of losses or harm suffered due to the medical error.

  • Economic Damages – These are damages that have a specific monetary value and are related to the financial losses caused by the medical malpractice. This includes medical expenses for treatments needed because of the malpractice, both past and future. It also covers lost wages if the patient couldn’t work due to their injury, and loss of earning capacity if the patient can’t earn as much in the future because of their injury.
  • Non-Economic Damages – These are damages for losses that don’t have a direct monetary value but still significantly impact the victim’s life. This includes pain and suffering, which refers to the physical and emotional distress caused by the injury. It also covers loss of enjoyment of life if the patient can no longer participate in activities they used to enjoy, and loss of consortium, which is about the impact of the injury on the patient’s relationship with their spouse.
  • Punitive Damages – Punitive damages are applicable in rare cases where the healthcare provider’s conduct was especially reckless. These damages are designed to punish the wrongdoer and deter similar conduct in the future.
  • Limitations on Damages – In Nebraska, there’s a $2,250,000 limit on damages in a successful medical malpractice lawsuit. This limit is known as a "damages cap." Unlike some states where the cap only applies to non-economic damages (like pain and suffering or emotional harm), Nebraska’s cap is on the total amount of damages. This includes both economic and non-economic damages. In Nebraska, this cap applies no matter how many defendants are involved in the lawsuit. So, if an individual is suing a hospital, a surgeon, and an anesthesiologist, the cap is the same as if the individual were just suing one of them. This cap is designed to control the costs of malpractice lawsuits, but it can also mean that patients who have suffered serious harm might not get fully compensated for all their losses.

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Frequently Asked Questions about Medical Malpractice Lawsuits

What is medical malpractice?
Medical malpractice occurs when a healthcare professional, such as a doctor or nurse, fails to provide the standard of care that is expected in their field, resulting in injury or harm to the patient. This might include misdiagnosis, surgical errors, medication mistakes, or neglect in patient care.

How do I know if I have a medical malpractice case?
To have a viable medical malpractice case, the patient must demonstrate that the healthcare professional owed a duty of care, breached this duty by deviating from standard practices, and directly caused injury or harm as a result.

What is the statute of limitations for medical malpractice in Nebraska?
In Nebraska, the statute of limitations for medical malpractice claims is generally two years from the date the injury was discovered or reasonably should have been discovered. However, no claim can be filed more than ten years after the act of malpractice, regardless of when it was discovered.

What kind of damages can be recovered in a medical malpractice lawsuit?
Damages in a medical malpractice lawsuit may include compensation for medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and sometimes punitive damages. Nebraska imposes a limit on how much damages a plaintiff can receive.

How long does a medical malpractice lawsuit take?
The duration of a medical malpractice lawsuit varies greatly depending on the complexity of the case, the amount of evidence, the willingness of parties to settle, and the court’s schedule. It can range from several months to a few years.

Do I need an attorney for a medical malpractice lawsuit?
While it’s technically possible to pursue a medical malpractice claim without an attorney, it is not recommended. An experienced attorney can help clients understand their legal options and next steps. They know how to effectively negotiate with insurance companies.

Can a medical malpractice case be settled out of court?
Yes, many medical malpractice cases are settled out of court. Settlements can provide compensation to the victim while avoiding the unpredictability and public exposure of a trial. However, it’s important to have legal representation to ensure a fair settlement.

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Role of a Medical Malpractice Lawyer

Guidance and Evaluation

When someone believes they are a victim of medical malpractice, it can be overwhelming to understand whether they have a valid case. A medical malpractice lawyer first helps by evaluating the situation. They will listen to the patient’s story, review medical records, and often consult with medical experts. This process helps determine if there was indeed a breach in the standard of care, and if this breach directly caused harm or injury.

Legal Expertise and Representation

Medical malpractice cases are complex. A malpractice lawyer has the knowledge and experience to get through the difficult parts of the case effectively. They know the legal and medical terminology well and handle all legal aspects of the case, from filing the lawsuit to representing the victim in court.

Dealing with Insurance Companies

Healthcare providers and hospitals typically have insurance policies to cover malpractice claims. Dealing with these insurance companies can be daunting for an individual. Medical malpractice lawyers are skilled negotiators who can communicate and bargain with these companies to seek a fair settlement for the victim. They ensure that their clients are not pressured into accepting low settlements and advocate for their rights and interests.

Maximizing Compensation

Victims of medical malpractice often face significant financial burdens due to medical bills, lost wages, and long-term care costs. A medical malpractice lawyer aims to secure the maximum possible compensation for these expenses, as well as for non-economic damages like pain and suffering. They understand how to calculate these damages and present them effectively in negotiations or court proceedings.

Emotional Support and Advocacy

Apart from legal support, these lawyers also provide emotional backing to the victims. Facing a medical malpractice situation can be stressful and traumatic. Having a dedicated professional who not only understands the legal challenges but also provides support and reassurance can be invaluable for victims, especially as these cases do not get resolved overnight.

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Additional Resources

Medical Malpractice Requirements Under Nebraska Law – View the Nebraska Legislature to learn more about the preliminary steps that victims must take prior to filing a malpractice lawsuit. Learn about the purpose and role of the medical review panel and how it affects the legal process.

$26 Million Award Received in Medical Malpractice Lawsuit – A Nebraska jury awarded a victim of medical malpractice a record amount of $26 million in damages. The defendant was ordered to pay for a lifetime of care for the victim in this case. They were also ordered to pay $4 million to the parents of the victim.

Medical Malpractice Statistics – Overview of medical malpractice claims and nationwide statistics on medical malpractice lawsuits. State by state breakdown of medical malpractice payouts and information on the various types of claims.

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Hiring a Medical Malpractice Lawyer in Nebraska | Liberty Law Group

At Liberty Law Group, our attorneys represent injured plaintiffs in medical malpractice cases across Nebraska and Iowa. Our firm proudly serves the communities of Omaha in Douglas County, Lincoln in Lancaster County, Papillion in Sarpy County, and the surrounding areas of Dodge County, Washington County, Saunders County, and Cass County. We also represent people in Council Bluffs, Pattawattamie County, Iowa. If you or a loved one has suffered as the result of medical malpractice, contact our firm at (402) 865-0501 to request a free consultation to discuss your case.

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