Comparative Fault in Indiana Medical Malpractice Cases

The Indiana Medical Malpractice Act governs most lawsuits based on injuries that a person suffers because of the negligence of an Indiana hospital or medical provider. When an Indiana pharmacist, medical resident, nurse, doctor, or surgeon causes injuries because they deviated from a reasonable standard of care, they may face liability under the Act. To collect damages, a medical malpractice victim must also overcome any issues surrounding their own fault or contribution to their injuries.

Under Indiana, law, courts measure negligence by comparing the negligent actor’s conduct against that of someone acting under similar circumstances. Using this framework, a plaintiff must prove that the healthcare provider breached a reasonable standard of care. To meet this burden, plaintiffs must present testimony from a similarly situated healthcare provider. This provider must be able to address applicable standards of care and opine on whether the defendant departed from this standard.

Further, plaintiffs may need to address a defendant’s assertion that the plaintiff contributed to their injuries and damages. Generally, Indiana negligence lawsuits apply the modified comparative fault standard. Modified comparative fault means that each party’s fault will factor into the total amount of damages that the plaintiff can receive. Under Indiana law, a plaintiff that is more than 51% responsible for their injuries will not be eligible to recover for their damages. However, the state’s Comparative Fault Act does not apply to medical malpractice lawsuits.

Indiana medical malpractice lawsuits attribute fault and damages based on the harsh common law doctrine of contributory negligence. Under this system, a plaintiff who possesses any degree of negligence or fault towards their injuries will be barred from recovery. This means that even if a plaintiff were only 1% negligent, they would not be able to recover any damages.

For example, in a recent federal appellate court opinion in a medical malpractice case, the court found that a plaintiff’s negligence may have contributed to his injuries. In that case, a nurse practitioner failed to educate a man about his severe hypertension or monitor the disease’s progress, despite treating him for four years. The man’s hypertension developed into severe kidney disease, requiring dialysis and a transplant. The man filed a medical malpractice lawsuit against the healthcare provider, and the court found that the practitioner was negligent, and the man did not contribute to his injuries. The appeals court vacated the finding, holding that the lower court did not conduct an appropriate comparative negligence analysis. Under that jurisdiction, the courts must look beyond the patient’s subjective understanding and compare their knowledge to that of a similarly situated reasonable person. They ultimately found that the man had external clues about his condition and failed to act on those clues, and therefore they remanded the case for further analysis.

Have You Suffered Injuries Because of a Negligent Indiana Healthcare Provider?

If you or a loved one suffered injuries because of a negligent Indiana doctor, nurse, or another healthcare professional, you should contact Parr Richey Frandsen Patterson Kruse. Retaining an Indiana medical malpractice attorney is crucial because of the state’s harsh contributory negligence doctrine. The attorneys at our law firm have extensive experience handling Indiana medical malpractice lawsuits. We have a deep understanding of the Indiana Medical Malpractice Act, and appreciate what is at stake for our clients. If you are successful, you may be entitled to compensation for the injuries you sustained. Contact our office today at 888-532-7766 to schedule a consultation with an attorney at our law firm.