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Can You Sue the VA for Medical Malpractice?

a doctor discussing with a patient

You may have heard that the government cannot be sued. This is simply not true. The misconception may come from the doctrine of sovereign immunity, which harkens back to our nation’s English origins and which survived for centuries. That all changed in 1945 when a B-25 bomber crashed into the Empire State Building. In the aftermath of that crash, Congress passed the Federal Tort Claims Act, which provides several key exceptions to sovereign immunity.

Today, injured people can maintain legal actions against the federal government, including against the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) for medical malpractice. If you or a loved one is a veteran who suffered harm due to negligent medical care provided by a doctor or other medical professional at a VA facility, you should seek legal assistance as soon as possible and learn about your rights.

At The Law Offices of Dr. Michael M. Wilson, M.D., J.D. & Associates, we are uniquely equipped to handle medical malpractice claims. Our team of legal professionals is led by an attorney who is also a doctor. We have recovered more than $100 million on behalf of our clients through the years. Contact us today to discuss your case in a free consultation.

Have You Suffered an Injury Due to Suspected Medical Malpractice?

Millions of veterans receive medical care from the VA each year. The VA is actually the largest integrated healthcare system in the country. Naturally, many veterans get great care from the VA. Also, many of the professionals who accept positions with VA hospitals and clinics are there because they love our nation’s heroes and truly want to help them.

However, poor-quality medical care has plagued the VA system for decades. Veterans can encounter doctors, nurses and other professionals who carelessly and needlessly harm them. These injuries include those involving:

If you suffered an injury in a VA hospital or outpatient clinic due to medical malpractice, you deserve compensation. You may also be entitled to compensation if your loved one died to negligent medical care in a VA facility.

How Do You File a Medical Malpractice Claim Against the VA?

Filing a lawsuit against the VA is different from suing other healthcare providers. You must first exhaust all of your remedies, or legal options, under the FTCA law. This means allowing the VA an opportunity to review the matter in an effort to settle the claim. Once you have done so and not reached a resolution, you actually file your lawsuit.

Filing an FTCA claim against the VA involves three key steps. For each step, deadlines are crucial because the entire proceeding is based on a limited exception to sovereign immunity. The three steps are:

  • Step 1 – You must provide notice of your claim to the VA. This is done by completing and submitting Form SF-95. This form preserves your claim and stops the statute of limitations from running. You have just two years from the date of your injury to file this form. If you allege wrongful death, the time limit is two years from the date of the death. You (or your lawyer) need to make sure that you submit this form in a way that allows you to prove that it was received within the two-year period of time.
  • Step 2 – Once received, the VA will review the SF-95 form along with any evidence or supporting materials submitted. The agency will have up to six months to make a determination about whether to accept or deny the claim.
  • Step 3 – If the VA denies your claim, then you can then file suit in federal court and take the matter through the standard federal litigation channels.

Doctors on meeting with the patient concerning his diagnosis.

What Are A Few Key Points About the Process of Suing the VA?

Here are three possible contingencies that can occur once notice is served on the VA:

  • The VA approves your claim but does not offer to pay as much as you want. If this happens, you can negotiate to get the best deal possible. If you reach a suitable number, the VA will present you with a release form to sign, and you will settle your case. If you can’t reach an accord, you have a right to file a lawsuit in federal court.
  • The VA denies your claim. You have an immediate right to file a lawsuit in federal court.
  • The VA ignores your claim. Sadly, this is the most common response today. The VA may sit on a claim for upwards of several years unless you take action. Still, federal courts have repeatedly held that once the notice is received by the government, if the government fails to respond after six months, you still have a right to file suit in federal court.

What Kinds of Damages Can You Recover If I Sue The VA for Medical Malpractice?

Victims of medical malpractice in a government hospital can recover the same damages as anyone else who is injured by a negligent healthcare provider. Those damages include:

  • Past and future medical expenses
  • Lost income
  • Diminished future earning ability
  • Pain and suffering
  • Emotional distress.

However, the state in which you live makes a big difference. Although the FTCA law does not have a damages cap, the federal government is allowed to defend based on state limitations on awards. In other words, an FTCA claim in one state may be subject to near-limitless awards for compensatory damages, while the same case in another state may be subject to strict limitations on awards. For example, Washington, D.C., places no cap on damages in a medical malpractice claim. Maryland, on the other hand, caps non-economic damages, which vary depending on when the lawsuit is filed. For lawsuits filed in 2019, the cap is $815,000.

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Get Help from an Experienced Medical Malpractice Lawyer Today

As doctors and lawyers, the attorneys of The Law Offices of Dr. Michael M. Wilson, M.D., J.D. & Associates are in a unique position to help victims of VA medical malpractice to understand their injuries and advise them of their legal options. For more than 30 years, we have focused on handling cases in this complex area of the law. We are ready to put that experience to work for you. Contact us today for a free consultation.

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