In a medical malpractice case, it is sometimes possible to hold more than one party liable for injuries. Whether or not it is possible depends largely on the circumstances of the case and the state's laws. If you believe that more than one party is responsible for medical-related injuries, here is what you need to know.
What Is Joint Liability?
In personal injury law, joint liability is the principle that responsibility for an injury and damages is shared by more than one party. For instance, if you were incorrectly diagnosed by both a specialist and your general doctor, you could argue that both doctors are equally responsible for any damages that resulted.
If the court agrees with you, both doctors would be responsible for paying the total of your claim or settlement. There is no set percentage of how much each doctor pays. The bottom line is that you have the right to collect from both doctors until you receive the amount you are owed.
What Is Several Liability?
Several liability applies to medical malpractice cases differently than joint liability in that it actually assigns a percentage of the blame to each medical care provider named in a claim or lawsuit. Using the previous example, if the specialist is considered to have caused 60 percent of your damages, he or she would be responsible for paying that percentage of the settlement or award.
Can You Choose Between Joint and Several Liability?
Whether or not it is possible to ask the court to opt for joint or several liability, or some combination of both, depends largely on the state in which you live. If you live in a state that allows for both, you can opt for a combination.
If a combination is allowed, even though the specialist would be considered to be most responsible for your injuries, you could collect your award or settlement from just one of the doctors or split the amount owed between the two. How the split is made is typically left to the plaintiff.
However, if you live in a state that does not allow combining the two principles, you will have to present your case according to the law.
An experienced attorney can help you determine what your state's laws are so that you can identify who is ultimately legally responsible for your injuries and damages. To help protect your right to pursue action against more than one party, consult with an attorney as soon as possible to avoid a statute of limitations issue and learn more.