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Can Multiple Defendants Be Liable in a Medical Malpractice Claim?

Published: Oct 09, 2017 in Medical Malpractice

Under Alabama state law, a patient or their loved ones may pursue a civil claim of medical malpractice due to the negligence or act of omission by physicians or other healthcare professionals that caused injury or death to the patient. In such cases, the experience and skill of a medical malpractice lawyer can be invaluable in the pursuit of compensation which is owed for the patient’s pain, suffering, and other losses, or in the worst case scenario, wrongful death.

As it concerns personal injury and medical malpractice claims, Alabama assigns responsibility for payment of claims to defendants based on the doctrine of joint and several liability. For example, if you (as a plaintiff) sue four defendants and the court determines that all four defendants are responsible for your injuries, you may recover damages from all four of the defendants. Or you could recover damages from only one defendant, if the other three don’t have the financial resources to pay.

If a medical error or act of negligence by healthcare professionals has left you injured, you may be facing a heavy financial burden due to the cost of your medical treatment. At Belt & Bruner, P.C., our medical malpractice lawyers have the knowledge and experience necessary to help you obtain any rightful compensation to you may be owed.

Let’s discuss your case together. Call us today at (205) 933-1500, or contact us online to set up a free consultation.

Medical Malpractice Cases

The theory of negligence most often governs the application and interpretation of medical malpractice law. Negligence implies that a medical professional or healthcare provider violated a standard of care to the patient, resulting in the patient’s injury or death.

Medical malpractice can include:

  • Failure to provide proper medical treatment
  • Failure to properly diagnose a disease or other medical condition
  • Unreasonable delay in providing treatment for a disease or other medical condition
  • Misdiagnosis of a disease or other medical condition
  • Error in a patient’s prescription or medication dosage
  • Lack of informed consent

Regarding lack of informed consent, a patient may claim that a procedure performed involved a level of risk not properly disclosed by the responsible physician, and that the patient would not have submitted to the procedure had that risk been revealed. As well, an informed consent claim may be submitted by a patient when the development or nature of the surgery or treatment was changed without the patient’s authorization after initial consent was provided.

Joint and Several Liability Under Alabama Law

As a plaintiff under joint and several liability law in Alabama, you are permitted to sue multiple defendants and recover the total amount of awarded damages from any one of the defendants – referred to as tortfeasors. This holds true regardless of a particular defendant’s percentage of the fault.

The state of Alabama adheres to the doctrine of pure joint and several liability. As an example, if you were awarded a judgment of $300,000 from a medical malpractice claim you filed against three specific defendants, and a jury returns a verdict against each defendant, you may attempt to collect the entire $300,000 from any one of the defendants. Often, the defendant who has substantial assets and/or is insured sufficiently may be the object of a plaintiff’s collection efforts. You may also attempt to seek payments from the other defendants.

Alabama utilizes joint and several liability in order to correct the inequity that results from a responsible party’s lack of financial ability to pay their assigned portion. That party’s share of the awarded damages will be picked up by someone – either another defendant, or if none are capable, the plaintiff.

Protecting the Right of the Plaintiff to Recover

When one or more defendants are judgment-proof, that is, they have no assets from which to provide payment, damages cannot be collected against them. As it functions in Alabama, the doctrine of joint and several liability minimizes the possibility that the plaintiff will not be able to recover full damages. If one defendant cannot pay, the risk is shifted to other defendants who have the ability to contribute to, or if necessary, pay the full amount of the judgment.

In a situation where all defendants are judgment-proof, the plaintiff will not be able to recover damages. However, through the application of joint and several liability, the right of the plaintiff to recover is protected as much as possible.

Potential Inequities of Joint and Several Liability in Alabama

There are criticisms made against the use of joint and several liability due to the potential inequities it can bring against defendants. For example, a defendant that may have less responsibility for causing an accident may be required to bear the entire financial burden of the judgment if the other defendant – who has more responsibility- lacks any assets to pay.

Contact Experienced Alabama Medical Malpractice Lawyers

Our attorneys at Belt & Bruner, P.C. possess the skills and resources to help you achieve a successful medical malpractice claim. We know how to fight back against big insurance companies and help you obtain the compensation to which you may be entitled.

After a car crash, you’ll want an experienced Alabama personal injury lawyer, who will fight for your rights. For a free consultation with our attorneys at Belt & Bruner, P.C., call today at (205) 933-1500. We have additional offices in Montgomery, Mobile, and Huntsville to best serve you at a location most convenient to you.