A few hours after becoming a father to a healthy baby girl, Walter Daniel became a widower.
His 33-year-old wife, U.S. Navy Lt. Rebekah Daniel, bled to death at Naval Hospital Bremerton in Washington. She never had the chance to hold her precious daughter.
How did a low-risk pregnancy involving a healthy young woman end in such tragedy? To this day, Daniel can’t answer that question. He tried to sue the military for malpractice in 2014, but his lawsuit was tossed out like old basic training boots.
But that wasn’t because he lacked evidence to support his case. Truth is, his case never had a chance, thanks to a famous 70-year-old Supreme Court ruling called the Feres Doctrine.
Fast-forward a few years, and we’re on the cusp of change. A 2019 NDAA provision has tamed the Feres beast just a bit, allowing military members and their families to file medical malpractice claims. Finally, they will be able to hold negligent doctors accountable for their mistakes!
Have you or a family member suffered harm from military doctors within the past 2 years? You can take action! Now, remember the process is still very different for military dependents, veterans, and retirees than it is for active duty members. Let us explain!
Step 1: File An Administrative Claim
Hold on! There’s something you need to do before you can break out your boxing gloves.
First, you must file a claim against the military branch in question. It’s essential to do this within two years of finding out that you or your loved one was a victim of malpractice.
To file a claim, gather all the evidence you can. Speak with a lawyer, and dig up those documents, records, receipts, etc. If you want to win, you’ll need to show some proof!
Example items for evidence:
►Proof of a doctor-patient relationship.
►A record of what actions the healthcare provider took.
►Testimony of the actions the provider should have taken. (Clinical practice guidelines are sometimes used for this.)
►Evidence that the doctor’s actions resulted in harm or injury. (You must make it clear that your condition is due to malpractice, and not to an underlying medical condition.)
►Proof of damages. These include medical treatment expenses, and loss of income.
Step 2: Wait for the Outcome
Once you have submitted your claim with evidence to back it up, you’ll have to wait for the Department Of Defense to review and investigate it. They have six months to check a case and respond to it.
Here are the three potential outcomes:
►Your case is approved. Congrats! The military agency will pay you the amount requested and you can accept the settlement.
NOW, the next two scenarios do not apply for active duty members of the military. The Feres Doctrine wasn’t overturned but revised, so until that happens members of our military still cannot sue the federal government. But here’s what the others can do:
►Your case is approved, but the military only agrees to pay some of what you requested. You can either accept the partial payment, or reject it and file a federal lawsuit, if applicable under the Federal Torts Claims Act. If you choose to go the lawsuit route, you must do so within six months.
►Your case is rejected. You won’t receive any compensation. If this happens, you might have the option to file a federal lawsuit, as discussed below.
Limitations to Making a Claim
Taking action against the military for medical malpractice isn’t always a straight-forward process. It’s best to go over your options with a lawyer. Also, there are a few limitations:
►You cannot file a claim for injuries that were the result of medical malpractice in a combat zone.
►The military won’t accept claims for injuries that took place over 2 years ago. However, you may file a claim in 2020 for an incident that occurred in 2017.
►You can’t file a civil suit in federal court for a medical malpractice case involving the military, if you’re an active duty service member.
Contact a Medical Malpractice Lawyer Today
So the revision to the Feres Doctrine isn’t perfect and definitely has its limitations, but it is still a giant step forward. Service members now have a way to fight back. The revision came at the end of 2019, so the process is still developing, so stay tuned for updates. If you or your loved one suffered from medical malpractice involving the military, please reach out. We’re here to help! Don’t wait for time to run out. Get started on the administrative claim process today by filling out this quick contact form.