This page will look at the general laws and procedural rules that apply to medical malpractice lawsuits in Georgia, so you understand how your case might proceed.
Georgia is a large state, and Atlanta is one of the biggest metropolitan areas in the entire country. So Georgia has a very active malpractice lawsuit docket. We look at what makes a solid claim and medical malpractice settlement amounts in Georgia and how they are calculated.
Settlement Value of Georgia Medical Malpractice Cases
Medical malpractice cases have a higher average settlement value than other injury cases. Nationally, the average settlement payout for medical malpractice claims is around $300,000 to $380,000. The median settlement payout in medical malpractice cases is $250,000 to $285,000. For malpractice lawsuits against healthcare providers that go to trial and win, the average jury verdict nationally is just over $1 million.
Georgia Medical Malpractice Verdicts & Settlements
Below are verdicts and settlements from recent Georgia medical malpractice cases won in Georgia:
- $38,600,000 Verdict (2024 Georgia): In a medical malpractice lawsuit filed against Emory Healthcare, the issue revolved around the death of an 18-year-old patient following a heart transplant surgery. The central claim was the medical team’s failure to conduct a crucial chest CT scan after the installation of a heart pump in the patient a year before the transplant. This oversight led to a significant complication during the transplant procedure. During the surgery, the patient suffered massive bleeding due to a laceration to the outflow graft of the heart pump. The legal team for the plaintiff argued that this complication, which ultimately led to the patient’s death, was a direct result of Emory Healthcare’s negligence in not performing the necessary imaging study. They contended that if the scan had been conducted, it would have revealed the heart pump’s outflow graft adhered to the chest, allowing for preventive measures. The defense argued that the patient’s death was due to primary graft failure, a known risk in heart transplant surgeries unrelated to the surgery’s complications. That defense did not carry the day. A DeKalb County jury awarded $38.6 million in damages. The hospital agreed in 2024 to settle the claim without an appeal. The settlement terms are confidential, but malpractice lawyers are typically willing to allow a significant haircut on the verdict to avoid an appeal.
- $10,000,000 Verdict (2023 Georgia): A 68-year-old retired pediatric ICU nurse was admitted to Atlanta’s Piedmont Hospital with suspected bronchitis. She was mistakenly administered a feeding tube into her trachea instead of the esophagus by a nurse, leading to a punctured lung. Her Atlanta malpractice lawsuit alleges that this error went unrecognized, and a radiologist’s subsequent misreading of an X-ray resulted in a further delay in identifying the mistake. The patient eventually suffocated, fell into a coma, and, tragically, did not recover. At trial, the family’s lawyers contended that had the nurse followed the hospital’s policies correctly, the misplacement could have been detected and corrected in time. An Atlanta jury awarded the family $10 million.
- $30,000,000 Verdict (2023 Georgia): A 35-year-old hospice worker with gestational diabetes and preeclampsia was admitted to Clearview Regional Medical Center in Monroe for induced labor. After receiving an epidural, complications arose when the fetal heart monitor was displaced, making the unborn child’s heart rate untraceable. By the time the medical team intervened, the mother experienced an amniotic fluid embolism, requiring her resuscitation and subsequent hysterectomy. Her daughter was born with a severe brain injury due to oxygen deprivation. The family filed a lawsuit against the hospital and involved staff, alleging negligence contributed to these outcomes. They emphasized the mother’s continuous contractions and delayed medical responses as critical factors. The defense countered that an unpredictable amniotic fluid embolism was the primary cause. Ultimately, the jury assigned 80% liability to one healthcare entity and 20% to the attending doctor, granting substantial damages for both the mother and child.
- $10,500,000 Verdict (2023 Georgia): A symptomatic pregnant woman visited a regional healthcare facility. Despite an evaluation from a medical professional, she was sent home untreated. Tragically, her return to the hospital the following day led to the stillbirth of her twins. The woman hired an Atlanta medical malpractice lawyer to pursue a wrongful death lawsuit against the healthcare providers and their respective institutions for the premature deaths of her unborn children. The trial concluded with the jury assigning a value of $5.25 million for each child’s life.
- $4,360,000 Verdict (2023 Georgia): A well-known singer from Athens tragically died following a simple diagnostic heart procedure at St. Mary’s Hospital. The family’s cardiac malpractice wrongful death lawsuit alleged the cardiologist who conducted the procedure inflicted a tear in Molina’s left ventricle wall during cardiac catheterization and failed to adequately address the severity of this complication. The jury awarded $4.36 million in damage after three days of deliberation.
- $5,000,000 Verdict (2022 Georgia): Plaintiff suffered acute hypoxic and hypercapnic respiratory failure and acute respiratory distress syndrome with the need for intubation, acute kidney injury, aspiration pneumonia, septic shock, and rhabdomyolysis after anesthesia was administered. He suffered speech and cognitive impairments as a result. The lawsuit alleged that the defendants were negligent in administering the anesthesia.
- $15,319,500 Verdict (2022 Georgia): A nursing home was accused of medical negligence in allowing the death of a 77-year-old resident from a sepsis infection that developed from untreated bedsores.
- $2,350,000 Verdict (2021 Georgia): A 74-year-old woman died after doctors at the defendant Emory Clinic negligently intubated her for a prior surgical procedure, then negligently failed to report and communicate findings of the injury caused by the botched intubation afterward. A jury in DeKalb County awarded $2.3 million in damages.
- $2,100,000 Settlement (2020 Georgia): The lawsuit alleged that the doctors and hospital were negligent in failing timely diagnose and treat a woman’s cancer. Specifically, the defendants failed to properly interpret and respond to abnormal pap smear results, which would have led to a timely diagnosis of cancer.
- $4,700,000 Verdict (2018 Georgia): An adult woman died of liver failure due to mixed hepatocellular and cholestatic injury induced by the drug Ketoconazole, which had been prescribed for the decedent to treat nail fungus by the family practitioner. Her family hired a Georgia medical malpractice lawyer to bring a lawsuit claiming that the defendant failed to comply with the applicable standard of care by prescribing Ketoconazole to the decedent for 19 weeks without properly monitoring her liver function during that time.
- $20,509,284 Verdict (2016 Georgia): A 25-year-old mentally disabled male with a history of cardiomyopathy and orthopnea died of sudden cardiac death due to cardiomyopathy while undergoing a sleep study at a sleep center run by the defendant Emory University Hospital. His family hired an Atlanta malpractice attorney who filed a suit that alleged that the defendant was negligent in failing to respond promptly to signs of distress.
Can you use these cases to find the average malpractice settlement in Georgia or the appropriate settlement payout in your case? No. Example lawsuits are just one piece of the puzzle of calculating a settlement payout in a malpractice lawsuit in Georgia.
Georgia Medical Malpractice Laws
Below is a summary of Georgia’s key laws and procedural rules for medical malpractice cases.
What is Medical Malpractice in Georgia?
Under Georgia law, medical malpractice occurs when a licensed healthcare provider renders negligent or inappropriate medical care that injures the patient. Unlike many other types of professional negligence, medical malpractice usually results in dire, life-altering consequences.
When medical negligence causes physical harm or death, it cannot be undone. However, our civil justice system allows victims of medical malpractice to get financial compensation for the harm they suffered.
Proving Medical Malpractice in Georgia
To prove medical malpractice in a Georgia lawsuit, a plaintiff needs to prove three basic elements:
- the duty inherent in the doctor-patient relationship;
- the breach of that duty by failing to exercise the requisite degree of skill and care, and
- that that failure be the proximate cause of the injury sustained.
Proving both these elements is a complex and expensive process. The plaintiff needs other doctors or healthcare providers to agree to act as expert witnesses. Getting an opinion from another doctor that your case is valid is just the first step and does not guarantee success. The defendants will present their experts, who will say that the doctors did nothing wrong and that your claims have no merit.
Medical Malpractice Jury Instruction
This is the jury instruction the Georgia Supreme Court wants to see in medical malpractice case in Georgia:
For the plaintiff to show that the defendant’s alleged negligence was the proximate cause of the plaintiff’s injury, the plaintiff must present expert medical testimony.
An expert’s opinion on the issue of whether the defendant’s alleged negligence caused the plaintiff’s injury cannot be based on speculation or possibility. It must be based on reasonable medical probability or reasonable medical certainty.
If you find that the expert’s testimony regarding causation is not based on reasonable medical probability or reasonable medical certainty, then the plaintiff has not proven that the defendant’s alleged negligence proximately caused the plaintiff’s injury, and you would return a verdict for the defendant.
Do you find this confusing and slanted towards the defendant? Three justices on the Georgia Supreme Court agree with you.
Georgia Statute of Limitations for Medical Malpractice Cases
If you are considering a medical malpractice lawsuit in Georgia, you need to be aware of the statute of limitations, which sets a strict deadline on how long plaintiffs can wait before filing a claim. Georgia has a 2-year statute of limitations for medical malpractice claims. Ga. Code § 9-3-71.
Under this statute, a medical malpractice case must be filed within two years of the injury or death allegedly caused by medical negligence or two years of the date that the plaintiff reasonably should have discovered the injury. O.C.G.A. § 9-3-71 (a) underscores that this two-year limit also applies to claims of wrongful death caused by medical malpractice.
Georgia 5-Year Statute of Repose for Medical Malpractice
Georgia also has a 5-year statute of repose that applies to medical malpractice lawsuits. This absolute maximum deadline applies over and above the 2-year statute of limitations. Under the statute of repose, all malpractice claims must be filed within five years of the date of the injury caused by medical negligence, regardless of when the injury was discovered.
Statute of Limitations for Georgia Birth Injury Cases
Georgia has a special statute of limitations that applies to malpractice cases in which the patient is under five years old at the time of the injury. This is mostly applicable to Georgia birth injury cases. When the child is under five years old at the time of the malpractice, the medical malpractice lawsuit must be filed by the child’s 7th birthday. If the injury was not discoverable by their 7th birthday, they have under their 10th birthday to file.
Expert Affidavit Required for Georgia Medical Malpractice Cases
Under Georgia law (Ga. Code § 9-11-9.1), all medical malpractice lawsuits must be supported by an affidavit from a qualified medical expert (i.e., a doctor of the same specialty as the defendant). The affidavit must state that the expert has reviewed the facts of the case and, in his or her opinion, there is evidence of medical negligence. The case will be dismissed if the expert affidavit is not filed with the complaint.
In the bigger picture, Georgia law, specifically O.C.G.A. § 24-7-702(c), says that for all professional malpractice cases, including medical malpractice, any expert who talks about the expected level of care must have a valid license from the proper authority for their profession at the time when the alleged mistake happened. They also must be practicing their profession or teaching it.
For medical malpractice cases, there are even more rules under O.C.G.A. § 24-7-702(c)(2) for an expert’s testimony to be allowed. Like many states, Georgia has a lot of hoops to jump through to file and maintain a medical malpractice lawsuit. One fundamental rule found in O.C.G.A. § 24-7-702(c)(2)(C) is that an expert in a medical malpractice case must usually belong to the same medical field as the doctor being accused of malpractice.
Emergency Room Malpractice Law in Georgia
Our malpractice lawyers believe Georgia goes overboard in protecting emergency room doctors. Under OCGA § 51-1-29.5 (c), medical malpractice arising from emergency medical care provided in a hospital’s emergency department, obstetrical unit, or a surgical suite following emergency treatment, a physician or health care provider can only be held liable if it’s proven with clear and convincing evidence that their actions constituted gross negligence.
So this law establishes a demanding liability standard for plaintiffs in emergency medical care situations. The higher threshold for proving negligence reflects these specialized conditions, ensuring providers aren’t unfairly penalized for decisions in high-pressure and often unpredictable emergency environments. But the “reasonable doctor” standard bakes into the negligence calculus of these specialized conditions, so we should not set the bar so high.
No Cap on Damages in Georgia Malpractice Cases
The Georgia legislature previously passed a law imposing a maximum cap on the amount of non-economic (pain & suffering) damages that could be awarded in medical malpractice cases. In 2010, however, the Georgia Supreme Court struck down that law because it violated the state constitution. (See Atlanta Oculoplastic Surgery, P.C. v. Nestlehutt, 691 S.E.2d 218 (2010)) As a result, there is currently no cap limiting the amount of pain and suffering damages for medical malpractice cases in Georgia. Georgia courts are also thankfully not quick to disturb large jury verdicts in medical malpractice lawsuits.
Georgia Follows Modified Comparative Fault
In medical malpractice cases in which the plaintiff’s own negligence is partly to blame for their injuries, Georgia courts apply the legal rule known as modified comparative fault. Under comparative fault, a plaintiff’s damages are reduced by their percentage share of fault. So if a plaintiff is found to be 10% at fault for their own injuries, their damages would be reduced by 10%.
Under the modified version of comparative fault adopted in Georgia, if a plaintiff’s share of fault exceeds 50%, they are totally barred from recovering any damages.
Contact Miller & Zois About Georgia Medical Malpractice Cases
Contact Miller & Zois today for a free consultation about potential medical malpractice cases in Georgia. Call us at 800-553-8082 or get a free online consultation.