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People in the medical field are generally thought to be extremely meticulous and conscientious. Their craft requires those skills, and their patients demand them. Even the most adept medical professionals, however, occasionally experience a momentary lapse of skill and competency that can result in a patient’s injury or death. This is what led to two Georgia lawsuits that were in the top five medical malpractice verdicts of 2022.

A patient at an addiction treatment center died due to medical malpractice by the facility’s physician. The physician discontinued medication that kept the patient’s bipolar disorder at bay. As an apparent result of the physician’s action, the patient’s mental health turned for the worse, resulting in him getting killed in a road accident following his discharge from the center for violating house rules. The court awarded the plaintiffs $77 million in compensation for the patient’s life value, pain and suffering, attorney fees, and punitive damages. 

In another case, the victim suffered a brain stem stroke during a chiropractic treatment. The catastrophic stroke resulted in brain damage that left the victim paralyzed. The jury found that the physicians failed to diagnose the stroke and provide appropriate treatment. The victim received $46 million in non-economic damages and $29 million in economic damages for medical expenses.

Malpractice cases like these can be burdensome and even life-changing. Hence, it is important for us to know what to do in such situations. This article discusses the basics of medical malpractice in Georgia, including the laws and regulations related to filing a medical malpractice lawsuit. It also provides legal resources that can help the victims and answer some of their frequently asked questions.

What Qualifies as Medical Malpractice in Georgia?

In Georgia, medical professionals have a duty to provide patients with competent healthcare. If they cause harm or injury to a patient due to a lack of skill or competency, a medical malpractice lawsuit may be filed against them. The following are some of the most common types of medical malpractice cases in Georgia:

  • Misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis of an illness.

  • Anesthesia mistakes and surgical errors, including leaving a foreign object inside the patient’s body.

  • Wrong medication or improper administration of medication.

  • Misreading of test results.

  • Negligent handling of patients’ records.

  • Failure to obtain informed consent.

Even if the patient gave informed consent prior to the administration of any invasive operation or procedure, they may still sue if the medical provider did not adhere to the proper standard of care. 

Medical malpractice and medical negligence are sometimes used interchangeably. Their meanings, however, are slightly different. 

Medical malpractice happens when a healthcare provider does not adhere to the professional standard of care, resulting in harm to a patient. For a case to be considered medical malpractice, the plaintiff should establish that the medical professional has a duty of care to the injured patient. They should also prove that there was a breach of duty and that it was the direct cause of the injury. Furthermore, the plaintiff must provide evidence that they suffered damages. 

On the other hand, medical negligence is a more general term for an action or inaction of the healthcare provider that does not meet the standard duty of care expected from them. A healthcare provider’s negligence does not automatically count as medical malpractice unless there is proof that it is the direct cause of the patient’s injury or death.

Who Can You Sue for Medical Malpractice in Georgia?

People who are qualified to perform surgery or provide medication in exchange for compensation must exercise a reasonable level of care for their patients. Any injury or death brought about by a lack of competence and care is considered a tort for which damages may be awarded

Victims may file medical malpractice claims against healthcare providers, such as hospitals, urgent care and assisted living facilities, hospice care, pharmaceutical companies, and nursing homes. They can also file a lawsuit against doctors, surgeons, nurses, anesthesiologists, pharmacists, and psychologists.


Good Samaritan Laws apply to medical professionals who render, in good faith, emergency services at the scene of an accident to victims without any compensation.

  • Healthcare providers, including medical professionals, licensed hospitals, nonprofit organizations, and public schools, who voluntarily provide services are exempt from liability unless it is established that the patient’s death or injuries resulted from gross negligence or willful misconduct.

  • Any person, association, organization, or entity may not be held liable for injuries or deaths as a result of trying to prevent, minimize, and repair damages during unexpected situations. These may include biological, nuclear, or chemical emergencies, pandemics of infectious diseases, and catastrophic acts of nature, including earthquakes, floods, fire, storms, and wave actions.

  • A person is immune from civil liability when providing emergency care or treatment with an automated external defibrillator.

Georgia Sovereign Immunity Law limits and, in certain situations, prohibits the ability of victims to file a case against government offices and their employees. The constitutional doctrine does not allow Georgia courts to hear lawsuits against the state without its express consent. The state also has the right to waive sovereign immunity for its officers, employees, authorities, or agencies. In addition, Georgia imposes a damage cap of $1 million for a single occurrence, regardless of the number of government entities, and $3 million for the state’s aggregate liability per occurrence. It also does not allow awarding punitive or exemplary damages prior to the judgment.

Under the sovereign immunity law, the state has no liability for injuries resulting from:

  • Any action or failure to act by a state official or employee acting with reasonable care in carrying out a law, rule, or ordinance, regardless of its validity.

  • The act or omission of performing a discretionary function or responsibility by an official or employee, whether the discretion is misused or not.

  • Civil disturbance, rebellion, riot, malicious prosecution, libel, or slander.

Individuals who are seeking to file a lawsuit against a government agency or employee must submit a notice of claim in writing within 12 months of the date of the incident or the date when the injury is discovered. 

Medical Malpractice Liability Insurance Requirements

Georgia does not require healthcare providers to carry medical malpractice insurance. However, some hospitals and healthcare facilities require malpractice coverage to work in their facilities. This type of insurance protects healthcare providers from financial and reputational risks. Medical malpractice insurance rates vary based on a person’s specialty. 

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

The statute of limitations for medical malpractice cases in Georgia is two years. This means that medical malpractice claims must be filed within two years of the date when the negligent or wrongful act occurred. In wrongful death cases, the patient’s family or personal representative must file a lawsuit within two years of the date of the victim’s death. 

In addition, the state implements the statute of repose, which allows the patient or the family to sue the negligent party not more than five years from the actual date of the malpractice. 

Exceptions to the Statute of Limitations

  • If a foreign object, such as a needle, a broken scalpel, or a sponge, has been left in a patient’s body, the deadline is one year from the date of the wrongful or negligent act or omission.

  • If the victim is a minor, the statute of limitations clock does not begin prior to their seventh birthday. The statute of repose does not run before a minor’s 10th birthday. However, their parents may claim damages if the minor is seriously injured.

  • If the victim is legally incompetent, the statute of limitations may be tolled until the patient recovers.

  • If the plaintiff is filing a claim against a government entity or personnel, the deadline is one year from the discovery of the injury. 

What Do You Need to Prove in a Georgia Medical Malpractice Case?

In a medical malpractice lawsuit, the plaintiff must prove the following elements to hold the defendant liable for damages: 

  • Duty of care.

  • Breach of the medical standard of care.

  • The cause-and-effect relationship between the breach and the patient’s injury or death.

  • Actual damages as a result of the injury.

In some medical negligence cases, the injured patient has no direct evidence of how they got injured because they were unconscious or sedated during the alleged malpractice. The plaintiff may use the res ipsa loquitur principle, which means the thing speaks for itself, to help with their case. This doctrine applies when the following elements exist:

  • The type of injury that the patient sustained would not have happened if there had been no negligence.

  • The injury must have been due to an instrumentality or agency under the defendant’s sole control.

  • The injury must not have been a result of the plaintiff’s voluntary contribution or action.

  • The injury must have occurred without any intervening cause that could have resulted in the injury.

Affidavit of Expert

The plaintiff in a medical malpractice case must file a certified medical expert’s affidavit in addition to the initial complaint. Qualified medical experts are typically doctors, nurses, or medical professionals who can interpret technical and complex information for judges, jurors, lawyers, and adjusters. Failure to file an affidavit of expert will most likely lead to the dismissal of a medical malpractice lawsuit. However, the judge may allow the plaintiff to re-file the affidavit. 

How Much Can You Sue for Medical Malpractice in Georgia?

There is no fixed settlement amount in medical malpractice cases in Georgia. The amount is unique for each case. However, any compensation should cover the damages that the plaintiff has suffered. 

Several other factors also affect settlement amounts, including the age of the victim, the type and extent of the damage, the quantity and quality of the evidence presented, the reliability of the medical records, the degree of medical misconduct, and the effect the injury has had on the plaintiff and their family.

Types of Damages

When a patient is injured due to a medical provider’s negligence, they are entitled to recover compensation for their injuries from the responsible party. The types of damages that they can recover are similar to damages that can be obtained in personal injury cases. 

Economic Damages

Economic damages are monetary losses that victims of medical malpractice incur. These include lost wages and future earnings. Medical expenses, including physical therapy, rehabilitation, surgical procedures, and hospitalization costs, are also considered economic damages. 

If the victim passes away due to medical malpractice, their surviving family or probate estate may receive compensation to cover medical, funeral, and burial expenses.

Non-economic Damages

Non-economic damages are intangible losses that the patient has suffered due to the negligence of healthcare providers. These include pain and suffering, mental anguish, loss of enjoyment, lost companionship, and anxiety. 

Georgia used to have a $350,000 cap on non-economic damages in medical malpractice cases. This limit would increase to $700,000 if there was more than one negligent party. However, in 2010, the Georgia Supreme Court declared these limits unconstitutional.

Punitive Damages

In some cases, the court awards punitive damages, which include exemplary and vindictive damages, to solely punish, deter, or penalize the defendant. It is given when clear and convincing evidence proves that the defendant engaged in willful misconduct. The plaintiff must also prove that the defendant showed fraud, intentional malice, or extreme carelessness. 

Georgia does not impose a limit on punitive damages if the defendant is found guilty of intentionally causing harm by failing to act. If the case involves product liability, the law mandates that 75% of the amount be paid into the Office of the State Treasurer. 

Modified Comparative Fault System

Georgia adheres to a modified comparative fault system, under which the plaintiff may recover damages even if they are partially at fault. However, if they are found to be 50% or more responsible for their injuries, they may not recover any compensation at all. For instance, if the total compensation is $100,000 and the court finds that the plaintiff is 20% at fault, the damages that they will receive will be reduced by $20,000, leaving them with just $80,000, or 80% of the total. If the plaintiff is found to be equally responsible as the defendant, then they will not receive compensation for their injuries. 

Methods of Obtaining Compensation

Sometimes, a medical malpractice lawsuit is settled before it goes to trial. The process involves filing a lawsuit, agreeing on a settlement prior to the date of the trial, drafting and signing a settlement agreement, and withdrawing the lawsuit. 

The advantages of filing a lawsuit during settlement negotiations are to demonstrate the plaintiff’s resolve and to initiate the discovery process. This could also persuade the defendant to raise their offer to an acceptable level.

Another method of obtaining compensation for medical malpractice is arbitration. If the plaintiff and defendant agree, they should file a petition with the court to request the appointment of a referee. Typically, the court designates an attorney who is an active member of the State Bar of Georgia. 

The arbitration process may be informal, but the decision of the arbitrator is legally binding. The arbitrator will make a decision after hearing the facts of the case and the arguments of each party. It is possible to appeal the decision by presenting proof that the arbitrator’s findings were unsupported by evidence or obtained by fraud.

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

Pursuing a medical malpractice lawsuit involves costs, which include lawyer, expert witness, and court services fees. The duration of the medical malpractice case may also have an effect on costs. Some cases are resolved within a few months, while others may take several years. The longer the case, the more expensive it becomes. 

Some lawyers offer a payment arrangement that depends on the outcome of the case. Under this scheme, the plaintiff can pursue a medical malpractice case without paying upfront fees. Instead, the lawyer is paid a contingent fee or a portion of the plaintiff’s award after winning the case. In medical malpractice cases, the most common contingent fee ranges from 40% to 50% of the plaintiff’s award. The state does not impose limits on the contingency fee that a lawyer can charge the plaintiff.

Another expense to be considered is expert witness fees. The cost varies based on their expertise and how much time they need to work on the case. Their work involves reviewing documents, traveling time, and giving testimonies at the pre-trial dispositions and the trial. Other expenses include fees for getting copies of the medical records and for filing the case in court.  

Legal Resources for Medical Malpractice Victims in  Georgia

Georgia Composite Medical Board

The Georgia Composite Medical Board enforces the Medical Practice Act, which regulates healthcare providers, including physicians, genetic counselors, acupuncturists, anesthesiologists, and physician assistants. It reviews and investigates consumer complaints concerning medical practice violations, such as delayed or missed diagnoses, inappropriate prescribing, sexual assault or misconduct, and substandard medical care. 

Consumers may file a complaint online or through mail. GCMB is authorized to revoke, suspend, reprimand, and fine physicians and their assistants. Its office is located at 2 MLK Jr. Drive SE, East Tower, 11th Floor, Atlanta, GA 30334, and the contact number for complaints against licensees is (404) 463-8903.

State Bar of Georgia

The State Bar of Georgia maintains rules for lawyers who are practicing in the state. It also conducts disciplinary proceedings against legal professionals who violate the bar’s codes of ethics and discipline. Georgians may find a lawyer, file a complaint, and seek legal aid through their website. The State Bar of Georgia’s office is at 104 Marietta St. NW, Suite 100, Atlanta, GA 30303. Its contact numbers are (404) 527-8700 and 1-800-334-6865.

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