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State court says compensation fund has to pay up

When faced with a medical malpractice suit, many professionals choose to settle the case and avoid a lengthy and possibly costly court battle. Physicians are required to carry medical malpractice insurance to cover situations of malpractice if they arise. But in some states, the state government has a fund that exists to cover excess damages. These organizations, however, are sometimes more likely to challenge a claim of doctor negligence in a court of law.

In a case that New Mexico residents may find interesting, the Indiana State Supreme court ruled that the Indiana Patient's Compensation Fund cannot dispute the cause of a patient's injury if the medical professionals involved in the suit have settled and therefore admitted culpability in regards to the injury. So, if a doctor mistakenly amputates the wrong limb and settles a lawsuit claim because of it, the PCF cannot refuse to pay any additional compensation due to the loss of the limb.

Currently, doctors have a malpractice cap of $250,000 and there is a maximum limit of $1,250,000 for any medical malpractice suit. The PCF would be responsible for paying any compensation over the $250,000. In prior cases, PCF has been able to dispute the validity or the cause of a patient's injury, whether a medical professional settled or not. The court ruled PCF could still challenge claims where the medical professional did not settle but opted to fight the charge in court.

The ruling was based on a case of a 4-year-old boy with cerebral palsy. His parents claimed the condition was caused by fetal distress during his delivery, and that the medical staff acted in a negligent manner. The medical staff settled the lawsuit, effectively admitting that the child's condition was a result of fetal distress. That's when PCF chose to challenge the parent's petition for a greater settlement, past the $250,000 insurance payout from the medical professionals.

While this situation did not take place in New Mexico, it shows just how complicated medical malpractice cases can be. If a person is the victim of medical malpractice, it is in his or her best interests to become knowledgeable about all available options regarding compensation for pain and suffering, additional medical expenses and other expenses. An experienced medical malpractice attorney can help.

Source: Insurance Journal, "Indiana Court: Compensation Fund May not Dispute Liability in Med Mal Case," Stephanie K. Jones, Nov. 14, 2012

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