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What is the Montana Medical Legal Panel?

When a patient is injured or suffers a worsened medical condition due to doctor error in Montana, they may decide to bring a medical malpractice lawsuit and seek monetary compensation. But before they can file a lawsuit with the court, the patient must present his or her case to the Montana Medical Legal Panel.

The panel was established in 1977. Its purpose is to discourage the filing of medical malpractice lawsuits where the evidence does not permit a reasonable person to infer that malpractice has occurred.

Six members of the panel review each case. In the typical case, three panel members will be medical doctors and three will be attorneys. The doctors and attorneys must be licensed to practice in Montana.

The panel has the duty to answer two questions in each case: first, whether there is substantial evidence that malpractice occurred; and second, whether there is a reasonable medical likelihood that the malpractice injured the patient.

The decision of the panel is not binding, and its decision and reasoning in the case are not admissible in court. But a patient will not be allowed to proceed with a medical malpractice case unless he or she has submitted the case for review by the panel and the panel has made a decision. Importantly, the running of the statute of limitations is tolled, or paused, on a medical malpractice claim while it is under review by the panel.

Review by the panel is just one of the procedural hurdles that must be overcome when preparing and filing a medical malpractice lawsuit in Montana. An experienced law firm can make sure a patient's claim complies with this and other legal requirements.

Source: Montana Legislature, Mont. Code Ann. Title 27, Part 6, accessed Aug. 27, 2016

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