Medical care and treatment provided by military hospitals and clinics is subject to the same level of scrutiny as any other healthcare facility. However, who is providing this care often makes a world of difference. Military healthcare facilities are essentially under the control of the federal government, so when there is an incident involving medical malpractice, victims often wonder if they even have a right to sue.
New Laws Open Doors
For many years, an impenetrable roadblock stood in the way of many medical malpractice claims against military facilities and it was known as the Feres Doctrine. In short, this doctrine was established based on a Supreme Court case in which the courts established that active duty service members were not authorized to sue the government for medical malpractice, even when negligence was to blame.
Only dependents, retirees and veterans were granted this right. However, in 2019, new laws were passed that now allow service members, regardless of duty status, to sue for medical malpractice.
Statute of Limitations
Again, based on new guidelines, any person who has received treatment at a military healthcare facility and has been injured due to negligence can sue for malpractice, but it's important to remember that this right is not an open-ended one. The government does have strict guidelines in place that require you to file your initial claim within a certain period.
To further complicate the matter, the clock starts at the time the malpractice incident occurred, not at your point of discovery. For instance, if a medical doctor failed to provide a cancer diagnosis in 2018, and the victim did not receive an official diagnosis of cancer from a civilian doctor until 2019, the clock would begin in 2018, not 2019. Consequently, it's best to file a claim as soon as possible.
It should come as no surprise that anytime you have to deal with the government, the journey will be complicated. In addition to time limitations on claims, the federal government also has protocols in place that determine with whom the victim of medical malpractice must file the claim. According to the standards, you must file a claim with the judge advocate office associated with your branch of service.
For an active duty service member, this office would match their current service, for veterans and retirees, it's the branch they served in while active, and for spouses and dependents, it's the branch of the sponsor. Not filing the claims with the appropriate advocate will further delay the process.
If you believe you have experienced a case of medical malpractice at a military treatment facility, you need to speak with a medical malpractice attorney. Cases involving these facilities are often complex in nature given the amount of red tape involved, you'll want an attorney on your side.