Paid silence in medical malpractice settlements

Non-disclosure provisions are often included in final settlements for medical malpractice cases.

Every state has its own laws governing medical malpractice claims. In New Jersey, such cases must be initiated within two years of the date that an injury took place. However, the State of New Jersey legislature website notes that an exception to this statute of limitations is made in situations in which an injury or error is not known at the time it occurs. In these cases, the two-year period begins on the date that the problem is or should have been discovered.

A single medical error can result in long-lasting personal injuries for victims. Disabilities, brain injuries, loss of limbs and more are some of the consequences that people must endure when healthcare professionals fail to provide appropriate treatment.

Seeking compensation for losses and injuries

Patients and family members are able to pursue appropriate compensation when they have been the victims of a serious medical error or negligence. The JAMA Internal Medicine notes that it is common for malpractice settlements to include provisions requiring the silence of plaintiffs once the agreement is signed. In some situations, defendants have been known to offer more damages to plaintiffs in exchange for the security of knowing the case will not be discussed.

Medical professionals prefer non-disclosure clauses in these settlements because they can continue to practice in their specific area without worry. There is no threat to their future ability to work in their field and their reputations can remain intact.

Victims denied access to medical error information

In addition to victims being asked to remain silent about malpractice cases, some information is not even allowed to be provided to them. The Patient Safety Act went into law in New Jersey in 2004. NJ.com explains that the law attempted to encourage hospitals to conduct thorough internal investigations of all complaints. To this end, it allowed records pertaining to these investigations to remain sealed. This includes during litigation. Neither plaintiffs nor their attorneys can have access to this information.

This provision is not popular with everyone in New Jersey, including the family members of an alleged birth injury victim. According to the parents, their daughter's seizure disorder was caused by an error during her birth. As part of their lawsuit in the case, the family requested records that included those from the hospital's own investigation. The request was denied and that denial was upheld by the New Jersey Supreme Court.

What should patients do when errors are suspected?

A medical error is a serious matter and action is always needed at these times. Contacting a lawyer who understands the nuances of medical malpractices cases is recommended.

Keywords: medical, malpractice, hospital, doctor, error