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In 2019, an Alabama family won a $30 million medical malpractice lawsuit over the death of a loved one while in the hospital. The victim, Johnny Sledge, was taken to DCH Regional Medical Center on December 27, 2013, after being injured in a shooting incident in Tuscaloosa. However, he died two hours later because the on-call general surgeon who was meant to operate on him never arrived.

Sledge’s family sued the surgeon and other people related to the incident for damages. According to their attorneys, the patient died as a result of a combination of errors and incompetence in hospital protocols and procedures for trauma calls. 

Medical malpractice is the third leading cause of mortality in the U.S., trailing only heart disease and cancer. In Alabama, 26,572 Adverse Action Reports and 2,606 Medical Malpractice Payment Reports were recorded between 1990 and June 30, 2023, according to the National Practitioner Data Bank. In terms of medical malpractice payments, Alabama ranked 30th nationwide, as it accounted for $274 million of the national total. 

If you've been injured as a result of medical malpractice, it’s essential that you know your rights. In this article, we will go over Alabama's medical malpractice laws, including who can be sued, examples of medical malpractice, the deadline for filing a lawsuit, and the amount you can seek as compensation for the losses you suffered. 

What Qualifies as Medical Malpractice in Alabama? 

Medical malpractice is also known as medical liability in Alabama. The Alabama Medical Liability Act sets the rules for medical liability actions in the state. Specifically, it defines what constitutes medical malpractice, including the standard of care and the type of healthcare providers you may sue. Medical malpractice occurs when a healthcare provider fails to comply with the standard of care, causing injury or death. Some common types of medical malpractice claims in Alabama are:

  • Birth injuries.

  • Failure to diagnose the right illness.

  • Anesthesia errors.

  • Surgical mistakes.

  • Failure to treat the injury or illness.

  • Prescribing the wrong medicine.

If you or a loved one want to know if you have the grounds to file a medical malpractice claim, you can speak to a lawyer for an evaluation of your case.

Note that Alabama law does not differentiate between medical malpractice and medical negligence. Both terms refer to the damaging behavior of a healthcare provider toward a patient. However, medical negligence is a broader term, and medical malpractice is treated as a type of negligence. 

Who Can You Sue for Medical Malpractice in Alabama?

If you believe you have legal grounds to make a medical malpractice claim, the next step is to find out who should be held responsible for the resulting injury. Under Alabama medical malpractice laws, plaintiffs can sue the following types of healthcare providers:

  • Medical practitioners, including physicians and surgeons.

  • Dental practitioners.

  • Licensed optometrists and chiropractors.

  • Pharmacists.

  • Medical institutions such as hospitals, offices, or clinics containing facilities for diagnosis, examination, treatment, or care for human illnesses.

  • Professional corporations, including medical or dental professional associations.

  • Other healthcare providers, who are defined as any person or professional corporation employed by hospitals directly involved in the provision of healthcare services.


Good Samaritans: Alabama law protects doctors, dentists, nurses, and rescue squads from responsibility when they provide emergency care or first aid (in good faith) in the event of an accident. This means they cannot be held liable for civil damages if they fail to provide the injured individual with additional medical treatment or care. 

Agents of the state: State employees are often covered by sovereign immunity, which means they cannot be sued for any injury, death, or other losses in specific situations. Thus, medical malpractice claims against healthcare providers employed by government-owned institutions are complex. The plaintiff must prove that sovereign immunity is not applicable to the defendant or the situation that led to the suit. This is what happened in Matthew Cranman’s case.

Cranman sued University of Alabama health service physicians for failing to appropriately diagnose his disease as cancer despite multiple visits to the hospital for treatment. Both the trial and civil appeals courts ruled that the defendants were protected by state-agent immunity. In 1999, the Alabama Supreme Court agreed with the lower courts but changed its opinion in 2000 after motions for consideration. It ruled that, based on the actions of the defendants, they are not immune from liability.

The Supreme Court identified actions that are not within the scope of state-agent immunity, such as when the state agent acts in bad faith, with malice or fraudulent intent, or under an incorrect interpretation of the law.

Medical Malpractice Liability Insurance Requirements 

While Alabama doesn't require medical professionals to carry medical malpractice liability insurance, it's still recommended to have one. The standard liability limitations for medical malpractice insurance in the state are $1 million per occurrence and $3 million total per year. 

What Is the Statute of Limitations in Alabama for Medical Malpractice Cases?

The statute of limitations for medical malpractice cases in Alabama is generally two years. This means you must file a case within two years of the medical practice incident, or you will be barred from getting compensation. Some of the exceptions to the rule are as follows:

Statute of Limitations for Minors

Minors have a separate statute of limitations for filing medical malpractice claims. Minors under the age of 18 have four years to file a medical malpractice lawsuit. So, if the victim was under four years old when they were injured, they have until the age of eight to launch an action. 

Discovery Rule

It’s important to establish when the medical malpractice occurred to avoid missing the deadline for filing a suit. But what if you discover the injury after the two-year limit has passed? Does it mean you are barred from suing? It depends. If you reasonably could not have discovered the injury on time, you may use the discovery rule.

For example, suppose you had a surgical procedure to treat a disease. Two years later, you began to feel uneasy and discovered that the surgeon had left a foreign object inside you during a check-up. In this instance, you can file a case under the discovery rule. The discovery rule in Alabama allows you to launch a case within six months of discovering the medical error.

Statute of Repose

The statute of repose is the absolute deadline for bringing an action against the party liable for medical malpractice. This means that after this period, the deadline can no longer be extended. In Alabama, the statute of repose for medical malpractice claims is four years. 

As an example, consider the case of George Cutler. In 2015, Cutler sued the University of Alabama Health Services Foundation, P.C., and the neurologist who examined him after a motorcycle accident in 2005. Cutler claimed that the doctor neglected to notify him of a brain tumor identified during an MRI scan and that, instead, he was told it was a bruise. 

In his complaint, Cutler alleged that the tumor eventually caused a legal injury in 2015. But the Jefferson Circuit Court dismissed his claim because he brought it after the statute of repose had expired. The Supreme Court upheld the dismissal, stating that Cutler would have been unable to demonstrate that his legal injury occurred outside of the four-year period of repose. 

Wrongful Death

If your loved one died because of a healthcare provider's failure to uphold their duty of care, the statute of limitations is also two years. However, it starts from the date of death, not when the injury was discovered.

What Do You Need to Prove in an Alabama Medical Malpractice Case?

As the plaintiff, you have the burden of proving that the defendant failed to exercise reasonable care, skill, and diligence, causing you injury. According to the AMLA, various factors must be proven, such as:

  • The plaintiff owed the defendant a standard of care that is generally provided by other healthcare practitioners in the same line of practice.

  • The defendant failed to treat the plaintiff with the standard of care.

  • The failure resulted in injury or death.

Written Complaint

While Alabama doesn't require the plaintiff to submit proof before a case can begin, there are still things that are required to strengthen your claim. A written complaint is one of the paperwork required when pursuing a medical malpractice lawsuit. It must include a detailed specification as well as a factual explanation of each act and omission asserted by the plaintiff to hold the healthcare provider liable for damages. These details include the date, time, and location of the act or acts. If you fail to provide relevant information in the complaint, your claim may be dismissed. 

Medical Expert Witnesses

The standard of care that the defendant should have provided to you is one of the most important elements to prove in a medical malpractice lawsuit. What exactly is it? How did the defendant violate those criteria to begin with? It is required to have a medical expert testify that the defendant did breach the standard of care in order to prove this issue. However, the medical expert must meet the following criteria:

  • Has a license from the appropriate regulatory board or agency in Alabama or some other state.

  • Has been trained or experienced in the same discipline or school of practice as the defendant.

  • Has practiced in the same discipline or school of practice in the year preceding the alleged breach of the standard of care.

  • Is certified by an appropriate American board in the same specialty if the defendant is board certified.

How Much Can You Sue for Medical Malpractice in Alabama?

The amount you can get in an Alabama medical malpractice lawsuit depends on the factors influencing your case. These include the extent of the injury and the parties involved in a case. To better prepare for your claim, consider the services of a medical malpractice lawyer who can guide you throughout the process. 

Types of Damages

There are mainly two types of compensatory damages one may claim in a medical malpractice claim: economic and non-economic damages. Economic damages are those that are easier to calculate, such as medical expenses and lost wages. Non-economic damages are harder to quantify and are non-financial in nature. These include pain and suffering as well as loss of quality of life.

When it comes to damage caps, Alabama has none for medical malpractice cases (including wrongful death). This is due to the Alabama Supreme Court ruling that restrictions on medical malpractice awards are unconstitutional. The ruling stems from Barbara Moore's medical malpractice case against the Mobile Infirmary Association in 1991. 

Although Moore won the case, the trial court reduced her non-economic damages to $400,000 because of a law that placed a limit on such compensation. Moore appealed to the Supreme Court, which in turn ruled that the statutory cap on non-economic damages was unconstitutional.

In addition to compensatory damages, medical malpractice plaintiffs may also be awarded punitive damages. The purpose of this type of damages is to punish the defendant for their intentional and malicious actions. However, unlike non-economic losses, punitive damages are capped in Alabama. The law states that punitive damages must not be more than three times the compensatory damages or $1.5 million, whichever is greater.

Negligence System

Alabama is one of the few states that uses a contributory negligence system. This means if you are partially at fault for your injury, you are completely barred from getting compensation. There are, however, certain exceptions to this rule. Contributory negligence is not applicable to minors under the age of seven. People with mental disabilities are also exempt. 


While you can seek compensation in court, you can also resolve a case through arbitration. In this case, you and the defendant have agreed to settle the dispute outside of court. The case must be submitted to a group of neutral arbitrators, who will hear the questions in the dispute in accordance with the American Arbitration Association's standards. If both parties agree to the provisions, a legally binding agreement must be signed.

How Much Does It Cost to Pursue a Medical Malpractice Case in Alabama?

When pursuing a medical malpractice case in Alabama, you need to consider the fees that you will incur in the process. 

For starters, you must pay your attorney. In medical malpractice lawsuits, most attorneys are paid on a contingency basis. This means that the lawyer is compensated only if the plaintiff wins the case. Instead of hourly pay, they will receive a percentage of the damages that you will be able to recover. The percentages vary, but they mostly range from 25% to 40%, with 33% being the most common percentage used. 

Another factor that can influence the amount you pay when pursuing a case is expert witness fees. The greater the expertise needed to review a case, the larger the fees. 

The last major factor you need to consider is court fees. In Alabama, filling costs can range from $100 to $500. 

Legal Resources for Medical Malpractice Victims in  Alabama

Alabama State Bar

Since 1879, the Alabama State Bar has served attorneys and the general public. It offers a number of programs aimed at improving the administration of justice and increasing the availability of legal services throughout the state. One of its primary services is the Lawyer Referral Service, which allows interested clients to apply for a referral to a qualified lawyer suitable for their situation. To begin acquiring a referral, people can fill out the application form. Individuals interested in learning more about the LRS may email

Alabama Free Legal Answers

Alabama Free Legal Answers is an online legal advice clinic that answers civil legal questions for free by pro bono attorneys. It tackles inquiries from a wide range of civil legal topics, such as health and disability, civil rights, family, divorce, and education. Interested individuals can get started by registering an account. 

Alabama State Board of Medical Examiners

The Alabama State Board of Medical Examiners is a regulatory and administrative state agency that investigates medical malpractice complaints. It specifically handles reports from licensees and certificate holders on final judgments or settlements from medical malpractice lawsuits. It also assesses insurance companies' medical malpractice reports. People can email for more information.

Alabama Board of Dental Examiners

The Alabama Board of Dental Examiners is the state organization in charge of licensing and overseeing dentists and dental hygienists. Alabamians can also bring a medical malpractice complaint against a dental practitioner if they breached the Dental Practice Act while treating their patients. The board then evaluates the case and decides how to sanction the dentist if they are found guilty. For further information, contact Compliance Officer Kevin Lane at or at 205-985-7267.

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