In the state of Vermont there are no damage caps on the amount of damages the claimant can recover in a medical malpractice action. Vermont also follows a “modified Comparative Negligence rule” that says if the claimant is found to be in part negligent, the award of damages he/she would receive is diminished in proportion to the fault. Vermont also does not have special restrictions on the testimony of an expert witness but has been effective in the implementation of arbitration panels which screen potential lawsuits before they move to trial, thereby helping to control costs.
In the event of a medical malpractice claim, the suit must be filed within 2 years from the date the malpractice occurred, or 2 years from the date the claimant was aware of the injury. This is then subject to a statute of repose, which places a 7 year absolute limit on when a case can be brought. The statute of repose does not apply in cases of fraud or cases involving a foreign object left in the body. For cases involving a foreign object left in the body, the limitation is 2 years from the date of discovery period.
In the case of someone who is rendered mentally incompetent the same time limits apply, but are tolled, or paused, until the disability is removed. In the case of a minor these statutes are also applied but they do not begin until the child’s 18th birthday. The only other exception to these rules is that the statute of limitations may be extended if the defendant fraudulently concealed his or her actions.
Vermont has taken proactive steps to keep its doctors. In many states, due to an adverse medical malpractice environment, doctors have been fleeing to find relief from high medical malpractice insurance premiums and predatory practices of plaintiff attorneys. One of the most effective tools Vermont has utilized is its implementation of arbitration panels. These panels screen potential lawsuits before they go to trial, essentially serving as a litmus test to weed out frivolous lawsuits. This has helped control costs and since 2000 the number of physicians practicing in Vermont has increased.