In this article, we’ll look at the key components of Nebraska’s medical malpractice laws, starting with the time limits on filing a medical malpractice lawsuit in Nebraska's civil court system. We’ll also look at Nebraska’s limits on damages awards and how they are paid in medical malpractice cases, as well as a few other procedural rules that could come into play.
Time Limits for Filing Nebraska Medical Malpractice Lawsuits
Like every state, Nebraska has a law known as the “statute of limitations” which sets time limits on filing any kind of lawsuit in court. Different statutes of limitations apply, depending on the kind of action you're bringing. The medical malpractice statute of limitations is usually similar to the one that applies to personal injury cases, but there are typically a few special rules and exceptions.
In Nebraska, a person injured by medical negligence has two years from the date the injury occurred -- or one yearfrom the date the injury was or reasonably should have been discovered -- to file a lawsuit. But all cases must be filed within ten years of the date the injury occurred, no matter when the harm was discovered.
If the case isn’t filed within these time periods, the court will almost certainly refuse to hear it. That’s why, if you're running up against the statute of limitations or you have questions about how the deadline applies to your case, it’s important to speak to an attorney who practices medical malpractice law in Nebraska.
Limits on Medical Malpractice Damages in Nebraska
Nebraska limits the total medical malpractice damages award that a successful plaintiff can receive after getting a jury verdict in his or her favor. In Nebraska, an injured person may receive up to $1,250,000 in total damages for medical malpractice -- or $1,000,000 in damages for an injury that occurred before 1993.
Unlike many states, Nebraska’s cap applies to all damages, not merely to non-economic damages. “Non-economic” damages include compensation for things like pain and suffering, loss of consortium, loss of enjoyment of life, and similar losses that can’t be calculated by referring to bills or receipts. In Nebraska, the damages cap affects both non-economic damages and “economic” losses like medical bills and lost wages.
Other Medical Malpractice Laws in Nebraska
Attorney’s fees in medical malpractice cases are not limited in Nebraska, but the court may review the fee agreement (i.e. the agreed-upon contingency fee that the attorney will take if the case is successful) for reasonableness.
Nebraska limits the amount any one defendant may be required to pay an injured medical malpractice plaintiff. Under Nebraska law, each defendant is responsible for paying up to $200,000 of the total damages, but no more. If the patient’s total damages award hasn’t been reached even after every defendant has paid up to his or her $200,000 limit, the remainder of the award comes from Nebraska’s state patient compensation fund.
Nebraska has a medical review panel for medical malpractice cases. Nebraska requires all medical malpractice claims to be reviewed by a medical review panel before they are filed in court, unless the injured person chooses to waive the review. The purpose of the review is for the panel to issue an opinion about whether or not the defendants failed to act according to the standard of care, which is a key consideration in proving medical malpractice.
The decision of the panel is not binding, but its decision about whether or not the defendant(s) violated the medical standard of care can be admitted in court. Using a medical review panel automatically tolls, or stops, the statute of limitations from running. The statute of limitations begins running again 90 days after the panel has given its decision.