One of the most honorable professions in the world is without a doubt being a member of the military. People who are ready to give their lives for their country don’t deserve only our respect, but also top-notch medical care. This goes for both active and retired service members.
Unfortunately, that is not always the case. From time to time, doctors make a mistake and their negligence can cause serious mental and physical damage to the patient. Going through something like this is never easy, but it’s important to stand up for yourself and take appropriate steps to protect your or your loved one’s rights.
If you or a family member have experienced this type of careless behavior of medical personnel, these are the options at your disposal.
What Does Military Malpractice Claim Entail?
First, you need to understand that when it comes to claiming a military negligence claim, the procedure differs from those in which civilians and private hospitals are involved. The law looks at military doctors differently and protects them from this type of lawsuits. However, this doesn’t mean they cannot be held responsible for what they did. There’s always a way!
Another thing that has to be clear is that, depending on the location where malpractice took place, two separate laws apply. The first one is the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) and it applies to negligent behavior in US military hospitals and VA medical centers. Under this act, you have two years to file a claim. However, the condition is that you are not an active or retired member.
The other one is the Military Claims Act (MCA) that is connected to injuries caused by the medical professional in the army hospitals that are located overseas. The time frame in which you must file a claim is the same as for FTCA.
The Stages of the Process
Before filing a lawsuit, you have to submit an administrative claim with the appropriate military agency. The deadline for this is two years from the moment you become aware of your injury. However, you should do this as soon as possible. Although you are not obliged to have an attorney, an experienced legal professional will be able to help with your claim in more ways than one. After all, these procedures are very complex and you need someone who knows how things work.
Before you hire a lawyer, make sure you schedule an informative meeting. The majority of them are offering a free consultation and during this visit, you can present your case to them and ask them questions. Someone who has already gone through similar cases will be able to explain how the procedure works. Also, based on the evidence you provide them with, they will give you their professional assessment of whether you have a chance of winning.
It’s important to gather as many medical documents supporting your claim as possible. These will be used as evidence of malpractice and will give agency insight into what happened. They have 6 months to respond. If you decide in your favor, there’s no need to sue. On the other hand, they might offer to pay you less than you requested, and then it’s up to you to decide whether you’ll accept it or move forward with legal actions.
The Feres Doctrine and The Winds of Change
Ever since 1950, the so-called Feres Doctrine has been preventing active service members from suing the government for malpractice. This means that injured soldiers and other military personnel cannot file a claim against doctors or civilians working in the army facilities and ask for compensation. It has been obvious for decades that this approach is outdated and simply unfair.
The number of people who have tried to start a medical malpractice case due to injury or the death of the loved one has been increasing in the last several years. Still, the Feres Doctrine was always blocking them from moving forward with legal actions.
However, things are changing. The government has taken the first step to transforming this sort of behavior. Although the Feres still stands, the enactment of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020 (NDAA) has created a limited exception to the Doctrine. The settlement process is limited to under $100,000 but it’s nevertheless the move in the right direction.
Those affected by the negligent behavior of medical professionals in the military should be compensated for their troubles. Given the complexity of this legal sphere, they should find a lawyer who already has handled similar cases and who will walk them through the whole process.