Georgia Medical Malpractice Lawyers
Georgia is a large state and Atlanta is one of the largest metropolitan areas in the country. Thousands of medical malpractice cases get filed in Georgia's civil courts each year. Like all states, Georgia has its own unique rules and statutory laws governing the liability of medical professionals and the right of patients to sue them. Although Miller & Zois is based in Maryland, we regularly handle cases in Georgia through a partnership with local counsel.
Anyone who is considering a medical malpractice lawsuit in Georgia needs to be familiar with the state's malpractice laws because they can have a major impact on the value of your case or whether you have the right to sue at all. The 3 laws in Georgia that can have the biggest impact on prospective malpractice plaintiffs are: (1) the statute of limitations for medical malpractice claims, (2) the “Affidavit of Expert” requirement, and (3) the maximum cap on certain damages in malpractice cases.Georgia Statute of Limitations for Medical Malpractice Cases
Medical malpractice lawsuits in Georgia are subject to a simple 2-year statute of limitations. O.C.G.A. § 9-3-71. The language of the statue states that “an action for medical malpractice shall be brought within two years after the date on which an injury or death arising from a negligent or wrongful act or omission occurred.”
Unlike most other states, Georgia does not follow the so-called “discovery rule” for determining when the 2-year limitation period begins to run in a malpractice case. Under the discovery rule, the 2 years would not begin until the plaintiff discovers (or reasonably should have discovered) the malpractice. Instead, Georgia’s 2-year limitations period begins to run on the date that the injury occurs, even if the plaintiff does not reasonably discover the malpractice until later.
In most misdiagnosis cases, the injury begins immediately upon the misdiagnosis. The misdiagnosis itself is considered to be the injury and not the subsequent discovery of the proper diagnosis.Georgia 5-Year Statute of Repose in Medical Malpractice Cases
In addition to the 2-year statute of limitations on medical malpractice cases, Georgia also has a statute of repose that imposes a maximum 5-year time limit on all malpractice claims regardless of discovery, tolling or other issues that could extend the limitation period. The 5-years begins to run from the “date of the injury.”Exceptions That Can Extend the Georgia Statute of Limitations
There are only 2 limited exceptions that can extend the Georgia statute of limitations period in malpractice claims: (1) fraud; and (2) minority. The fraud exception applies if it can be shown that the doctor intentionally concealed the malpractice or prevented the plaintiff from discovering it (e.g., destroying medical records; lying about what happened, etc.). In this situation the limitations period can be "tolled" until the fraudulent concealment is overcome. The minority exception is applicable in cases where plaintiff is a child at the time of the injury.Affidavit of Expert Requirement
In order to file a medical malpractice lawsuit in Georgia, all plaintiffs must first get an affidavit from a qualified expert (i.e., another doctor of the same specialty as the defendant(s)). The affidavit is basically a written statement from a qualified expert witness which certifies that the plaintiff has "reasonable grounds" for his or her malpractice claims. This means that just to file a malpractice lawsuit in Georgia, a plaintiff first has to get another doctor to review the case and confirm that the doctors were negligent.
This procedural requirement is designed to prevent the filing of frivolous medical malpractice lawsuits. Most states have enacted very similar requirements for medical malpractice claims.No Cap on Medical Malpractice Damages in Georgia
In 2005, Georgia’s legislature enacted a law that imposed a maximum cap of $350,000 on non-economic damages (i.e., pain & suffering) that can be awarded in medical malpractice cases. In 2010, however, the Georgia Supreme Court struck down that law on the grounds that it violated the State Constitution. The ruling from the Georgia Supreme Court leaves very little chance that a new cap will ever be enacted. Georgia does have a cap on punitive damages in malpractice cases.Litigating Medical Malpractice Cases in Georgia
In Georgia, getting a medical malpractice lawsuit in the correct venue can make a huge difference for the plaintiff. There are really only 2 jurisdictions in Georgia that are consistently favorable to plaintiffs in tort cases. The first is Fulton County, which is where Atlanta is located. The second is DeKalb County, which is just outside of Atlanta. All other counties in Georgia are generally not going to be very favorable to malpractice plaintiffs.Georgia Medical Malpractice Verdicts & Settlements
Below are verdicts and reported settlements from recent medical malpractice cases in Georgia.
- Dorsey v Kepner (2022) $5,000,000: adult-male plaintiff suffered permanent brain damage as a result of alleged negligence during anesthesia by defendant doctor. Jury in Atlanta awarded $4,000,000 to plaintiff and another $1,000,000 to his wife for loss of companionship claim.
- Fox v Emory Healthcare (2019) $2,350,000: wrongful death of 74-year-old woman was allegedly due to negligent medical care during a biopsy procedure at defendant hospital. Jury found in favor of the plaintiff estate on its allegations of medical malpractice against and awarded the plaintiff $2,350,000 in damages.
- Lewis v Emory Clinic (2015) $12,510,000: 25-year-old male died of sudden cardiac death due to cardiomyopathy while undergoing a sleep study at a sleep center run by defendants.
- Ellison v. Grady Memorial Hosp. (2014) $1,500,000: infant was born with severe brain damage caused when he was deprived of oxygen during birth. The suit alleged that doctors and the hospital were negligent in failing to be prepared for an emergency C-section when complications arose during delivery.
- Merritt v Grady Memorial Hosp. (2014) $17,500,000: 19-year-old male shooting victim suffer severe brain damage when his breathing tube came out for 8-minutes during surgery.
If you have a potential medical malpractice case in Georgia, call our attorneys today at 800-553-8082 for a free consultation.