You expect to receive reasonable care when visiting a doctor. Indeed, trust is placed in a doctor’s hands every day by millions of people. But just like the rest of us, doctors make mistakes, and oftentimes those mistakes can result in life-changing injury or death. Sometimes the mistake might just be an unfortunate oversight, other times it might be gross negligence or even recklessness. Yet because the burden of proof is high and juries tend to favor doctors, medical malpractice lawsuits are often complex and difficult to win.
The Biggest Challenges That Medical Malpractice Claims Present
Medical malpractice lawsuits are almost always complex endeavors, and the majority result in defense verdicts. This is because medical malpractice claims can face numerous challenges, including:
- High burden of proof: To win a medical malpractice lawsuit, you must prove that the doctor breached the standard level of care, and that breach caused you provable injury or harm.
- Difficulty convincing the jury: Medical concepts are often highly technical and explaining them persuasively to a jury can be tricky. Jurors tend to highly respect doctors and will stringently hold the plaintiff to their burden of proof.
- Defense-favored legal hurdles: Medical malpractice cases usually have a statute of limitations, which bars lawsuits from being brought against the doctor after a certain amount of time has passed. In some cases, certain healthcare providers may be immune from lawsuits altogether.
- Cost of litigation: Often requiring extensive evidence gathering, planning, analyses, and expert testimony, medical malpractice lawsuits can be highly resource-consuming.
How To Win Your Case
To win a medical malpractice lawsuit, you must convince the jury that your doctor failed to meet the accepted standard of care and that failure caused you injury. This is a complicated process that requires a team of lawyers with significant skill, experience, and expertise.
Form a Solid Legal Team
Having the right team of lawyers is crucial to the success of a medical malpractice lawsuit, even more so than typical personal injury cases. Technically complex and difficult to win at trial, medical malpractice lawsuits require lawyers who specialize in medical malpractice or have significant experience in handling medical malpractice cases.
A qualified team of medical malpractice lawyers has the expertise to analyze and interpret large amounts of medical evidence and have access to proficient medical experts. They can also identify settlement opportunities and skillfully negotiate a favorable outcome.
Importantly, an experienced team of medical malpractice lawyers can cover the high costs that come with presenting a strong case. Unlike inexperienced attorneys, they won’t be afraid to spend big on quality resources such as renowned experts. Most medical malpractice lawsuits are billed on a contingency basis — the attorneys cover all costs until victory is secured — you do not pay unless you win.
Prove the Elements of Medical Malpractice With Strong Evidence
Duty of care: The doctor being sued had a professional duty of care owed to you. You must prove that the doctor you’re suing was the doctor who provided the care that caused your injury. A patient might have consulted several doctors and received different care, or enough time might have passed between the treatment and injury that the doctor’s care can no longer be considered related to the injury.
Breach of duty: The doctor failed to uphold that duty of care; they did not act in accordance with the accepted standards of the medical profession. To prove the doctor made a medical error as you claim, you must show that another doctor under the same circumstances would not have acted the same way.
Causation: That failure to uphold the duty of care caused injury or harm to you. You must prove that the breach of duty of care caused you the injury, not some other cause like another doctor’s treatment, a medicine you took not prescribed by this doctor, an unhealthy lifestyle, faulty home remedies, unnecessary risk-taking, etc.
Damages: You suffered actual, provable damages as a result, whether physical, emotional, or financial. You must prove your current damages (e.g., lost wages, medical bills), and reasonably forecast any future damages, as well as appropriately value any non-economic damages (e.g., emotional distress, pain and suffering).
The standard of proof is preponderance of evidence. That is, you must convince the jury that there’s a greater than 50% chance your claims are true. This is no easy task: Proving the elements of medical malpractice is a complex undertaking that requires significant legal expertise and access to qualified medical expert witnesses. Experienced medical malpractice attorneys will have the skill and know-how to maximize strong evidence, including leveraging expert testimony, to secure a favorable outcome.
Get Medical Expert Testimonies
Medical experts are licensed healthcare professionals who have specialized knowledge and experience in a particular medical field. They are called upon in medical malpractice lawsuits to provide credibility and technical expertise, often in the form of medical opinions or interpretations of medical evidence. Juries tend to find their testimony highly persuasive. As such, medical expert testimonies are crucial in medical malpractice lawsuits.
Experienced medical malpractice attorneys have access to better medical experts who can present more persuasive testimony. Good medical experts are costly. A qualified team of medical malpractice attorneys can cover the higher costs, whereas inexperienced attorneys might have to settle for less expensive options. Identifying and preparing the right expert for testimony are also important skills possessed by experienced medical malpractice attorneys.
Strategically Negotiate Fair Compensation
Pinpointing settlement leverage and opportunities is an important part of injury law practice, especially one that specializes in medical malpractice. Because medical malpractice lawsuits are highly resource-consuming and complex, insurance companies are often willing to settle. They’re even more likely to settle against a team of trial-capable attorneys who are ready, competent, and willing to battle in court.
A qualified team of medical malpractice attorneys can help you precisely determine the value of your case by considering the extent of your injuries and calculating past and future damages. They can also help you write compelling demand letters that’ll command immediate attention and persuade settlement.
The Average Medical Malpractice Lawsuit Settlement
Investigation and evidence-gathering begin as soon as you retain a medical malpractice attorney. Their legal team will evaluate the strength of your claims and calculate the extent of damages. After a strong case is built, your lawyer will submit a demand to the insurance company of the healthcare provider. This marks the beginning of settlement negotiations.
The settlement value of a case is generally the total of economic damages plus non-economic damages. Economic damages are those that can easily be calculated in dollar amounts, like medical bills, lost wages and future earning capacity, etc. Non-economic damages are the opposite — they’re harder to put exact dollar amounts to — like emotional distress and pain and suffering.
The average payout for a medical malpractice case is $329,565. Of the cases that go to trial, only around 20% result in a verdict for the plaintiff. Settlement amounts can range from under $10,000 for minor cases to over $1,000,000 for permanent disabilities due to severe negligence. Most cases will settle in the middle range of $10,000 to $500,000.
Get Our Experienced Attorneys on Your Case Quick
Medical malpractice cases require the expertise of experienced attorneys to help you navigate the process. They can help you best understand your rights and options, guide you through the legal process, negotiate a settlement, and if necessary, fight for you in court. Because a statute of limitations is in place for most medical malpractice cases, you should act quickly before it’s too late.
McEldrew Purtell provides resources to law firms handling complex medical malpractice cases. We have world-class medical malpractice attorneys at the ready. Contact us today if your firm is looking for more manpower or expertise.