Written by attorney Frank Edward Morris

All Washington State Medical Malpractice Claims Must Be Brought under the Provisions of RCW 7.70

All claims for medical malpractice or medical negligence in the State of Washington are controlled by RCW 7.70. If your injuries occurred as result of health care, your claim must be made in compliance with the provisions of RCW 7.70.

RCW 7.70.020 defines and list the professions licensed by the State of Washington to provide health care, and whose conduct is therefore controlled by RCW 7.70. The statute includes every type provider licensed by the State to provide any form of health care in Washington. The Act covers all providers, not just main stream medical doctors. The statute inculdes care provided at hospitals, clinics and other business entities that employ staff to provide health care.

No award will be made for injuries occurring as a result of health care unless the plaintiff proves (1) the provider failed to follow the accepted standard of care, (2) the provider promised the injury would not occur, or (3) the provider failed to obtain informed consent from the patient. RCW 7.70.030 These are the only basis for bringing a medical negilgence claim in Washington.

To prove a claim based on the provider's failure to follow the accepted standard of care, the plaintiff must prove that the provider failed to exercise that degree of care, skill and learning expected of a reasonably prudent health care provider at that time in the profession or class to which he belongs, in the state of Washington, acting in the same or similar circumstances. RCW 7.70.040

The burden of proving these elements of professional negligence is placed totally on the patient. The patient must prove these elements by a preponderance of the evidence. The patient must prove that it is more likely than not that the provider was negligent, and that the provider's negligence was the proximate cause of the injury claimed by the patient. There is no burden of proof placed upon the health care provider. The plaintiff must prove their claim or the case will be diismissed.

A claim for professional negligence by a health care provider must be commenced within three years of the negligent act or omission, or within one year of the time that the patient discovered, or reasonably should have discovered, that the injury was caused by the negligent act or omission. To commence an action the plaintiff must file their complaint in the proper court and serve the defendant provider with a copy of the summons and complaint.

RCW 4.16.350 RCW 7.70 provides the basic structure for pursuing a claim for injuries caused by a health care provider, but there are additional statutes which may effect the claim and should be reviewed prior to commencing the action.

Additional resources provided by the author

Revised Codes of Washington 7.70 and 4.16

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