Doctors, nurses, dentists, pathologists, technicians, hospitals, nursing homes and any person or entity that provides medical care are at risk of medical malpractice if they fail to adhere to the accepted standards of practice and care for the particular procedure. A lawyer can appraise and pursue a medical malpractice case only after obtaining all the relevant medical records and interviewing all available witnesses. Plaintiff as well as defense lawyers find medical review services useful when it comes to reviewing these voluminous medical records. Medical malpractice cases are mostly settled without trial – maybe consequent to medical teams realizing that human error may have contributed to the injury in question. Or the cost of a settlement may be more acceptable than trial expenses. Statistics reveal that the number of malpractice cases settled through judgment shows a downward trend. For instance, as per the State of Tennessee’s 2015 Healthcare Liability Report, out of the 1,645 claims in 2014, only 41 were closed in court; 367 claims were resolved via settlement or alternative dispute resolution services. In 2010, the total number of closed claims was 2,332. In the year 2011, the state’s medical malpractice regulations changed and the non-economic damage awards were limited to $750,000. The malpractice cap is set at one million dollars for cases that involve a catastrophic injury or loss. These reforms may be the reason for the steady decrease in the number of medical malpractice cases since 2011.
However, there may be cases wherein settling is not an option because the principle behind the particular lawsuit may have extensive implications. Or in other cases the settlement offered may be unacceptable. Such cases go to a trial and medical malpractice attorneys strive to ensure that the eventual award for damages is fair for the plaintiff. When considering a reasonable settlement offer instead of a court trial, lawyers consider certain important factors.
- Actual damages, time off work, increased medical costs, and other related expenses
- Costs associated with the case
- Expenses the plaintiff may incur in the future because of the injury caused through medical negligence
In cases where a common condition, defective equipment or some other aspect has repercussions for a large section of society, malpractice lawyers may decide to pursue the case through the court, which is more worthwhile.
Recent news highlighted a rare medical malpractice plaintiff’s verdict in Centre County, Pennsylvania. In this case, a couple was awarded nearly $1 million after a weeklong trial over an undiagnosed infection of the spine after surgery. The Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts statistics and other sources say that this appears to be only the third medical malpractice plaintiffs verdict reported in the county in at least 16 years. The 12-member jury handed down the unanimous $997,500 verdict on September 16. $200,000 was for past loss of earnings, $450,000 for future loss of earning, $35,000 for past non-economic damages, $300, 000 for future non-economic damages, and $12,500 to the plaintiff’s wife for loss of consortium.