Medical Malpractice Settlements

People seeking medical malpractice settlements should not rush hastily to court but instead take time to carefully consider all aspects of their case. This is keeping in line with Biblical principles. Proverbs says that people should not rush hastily to court. And, most cases don't ever reach court. Recent research indicates that about 80,000 patients fall victim to medical malpractice each year. Research also shows that only one out of eight victims will file a lawsuit. In approximately 96 percent of the cases involving suspected negligence the victim's lawyer and the doctor's insurance adjuster negotiate out-of-court settlements. Although out-of-court awards are often lower than jury awards, avoiding court speeds the process and saves money. Some states allow arbitration to determine medical malpractice settlements, which also speeds the process considerably. Both sides can benefit from reading what the Bible has to say concerning disputes. "Agree with thine adversary quickly, whilst thou art in the way with him; lest at any time the adversary deliver thee to the judge, and the judge deliver thee to the officer, and thou be cast into prison. Verily I say unto thee, Thou shalt by no means come out thence, till thou hast paid the uttermost farthing." (Matthew 5:25-26)

Some sources indicate that the median range for of out-of-court awards is $125,000. That is considerably lower than jury awards, which is about $235,000. Determining the exact cause of a person's injury can be complicated and time consuming. Each case has its own unique elements. One common definition of malpractice is the negligent or wrongful conduct of a practitioner that directly results in injury. Two types of awards granted in medical malpractice settlements are actual damages and punitive damages. Actual damages are compensation to cover out-of-pocket expenses, medical bills, lost income or profits, and pain and suffering resulting from the injury. Punitive damages are considered when a lawsuit involves extreme negligence and are awarded far less frequently than actual damages. A bad experience doesn't necessarily equate to malpractice. In order to prove negligence, a person generally uses expert testimony saying that no other practitioner would have acted in the same manner. Medical malpractice settlements are normally determined based not only on expert testimony, but also on available knowledge and accepted medical practices at the time of the injury. This is often referred to as the standard of care, which is defined by the medical community. However, the states define negligence.

An attorney may refuse to take a medical malpractice case for any number of reasons. After reviewing a case, the attorney may decide that credible expert testimony is lacking, or the costs of taking the case to trial are greater than the possible returns. The severity of the injury and the existence of an informed consent waiver that warned the person of the risks and possible consequences of the procedure may be reasons a lawyer refuses a case. If a person believes they have adequate reason to pursue a medical malpractice settlement, they should know that state laws allow patients access to copies of their health records. Usually a person can't sue for what they believe might have happened. And misdiagnosis is not automatically considered negligent. Malpractice is not limited to doctors. Nurses, technicians, physical therapists, and others could be sued for negligence as well. If questions persist before undergoing a procedure, check the practitioner's background and credentials. Also, it might be possible make an inquiry at the state medical board office to see if a doctor has ever been involved in a lawsuit before.

If an attorney accepts a case and decides to pursue medical malpractice settlements, he or she will most likely work based on a contingency fee system. Basically, their getting paid is contingent on winning the case and receiving a predetermined percentage of the damages awarded. Generally, state statutes control what a settlement can be based on. Past, present, and future medical expenses for treatment of the injury are taken into consideration. Other financial and economic damages and pain and suffering can be considered by juries. Unfortunately, lawsuits can be long, bitter affairs and will incur a great deal of expenses for both sides. Therefore, it is often recommended that, if a person does receive a settlement offer, they should thoroughly discuss it with an attorney. Medical malpractice settlements vary from case to case, so there is no normal or set amount that a jury must award. The jury will take into consideration the many elements involved to determine a reasonable settlement. What impact did the injury have on a person's earning capacity or life functions? For example, can the individual continue to work or is he or she unable to walk or use their arms? How the jury perceives the injured party may also significantly affect the settlement, which has no set minimum or maximum amount.

When deciding to pursue medical malpractice settlements, a person should know the definition of a few legal terms. First, is what's known as subrogation, which is a practice that allows an insurance company or person that has paid the expenses incurred as a result of the injury to recover those costs from the person determined legally liable for the injury. Another useful concept to know is called contributing negligence. This occurs because the injured person failed to exercise due care and contributed to the injury. Preponderance of evidence is when one party's evidence is more convincing than what is offered by the opposition. Finally, statute of limitations are set by law and they vary from state to state. Statute of limitations normally range from one year to seven years. In closing, following most medical malpractice settlements a release will be signed that forever prevents a person from pursuing the case again.

Medical Malpractice Litigation

Many fear that medical malpractice litigation is driving up the costs of health care around the country, but in actuality very few cases go to court and a majority of those that do are not found to be true cases of negligence. Thousands of victims each year experience some type of medical error. Costs add up in extra medical expenses, time off from work, pain and suffering, and in worst case scenarios, loss of life. Most are settled out of court. Lawyers are very selective about which cases to handle, choosing to only cover suits they feel are solid and will be reimbursed for more than the cost of the case itself, which often run over $100,000. Before taking on medical malpractice litigation suits, legal counselors must consider various factors that make such cases very complex and different from other types of legal action.

Malpractice occurs when a doctor, surgeon or other health care practitioner proven to be negligent in treating a health condition. Negligence can take two forms: either action was taken that resulted in injury or failure to take action caused serious injury or death. Patients can sue a health care professional of not diagnosing a problem or misdiagnosing a condition, not providing appropriate treatment, not obtaining proper consent for a procedure, or an unreasonable delay in treating a diagnosed condition. For medical malpractice litigation to result favorably, the victim must be able to demonstrate that negligence or substandard care occurred, resulting in serious and lasting harm to the patient. Cause and effect must be clearly delineated. If an error occurred, but the patient was not harmed, damages cannot recover financial retribution. The burden of proof is on the patient, not the doctor or medical facility. This is often established through the opinions of health care professionals in the field, a thorough review of medical records and individual circumstances. But proving below standard care is very subjective, depending on the degree of skill, training and experience of that particular health care practitioner. Often, both sides will solicit testimony from different professionals and present two very different opinions in court, making deciphering the truth very difficult for jurors.

Rulings for medical malpractice litigation often depends on limitations imposed by state governments. Many states limit the amount of financial retribution a victim of negligence can receive in a trial. Others limit the fees that lawyers charge to their clients. Some states require special court procedures to be followed like panels to screen claims or arbitration to take place instead of a trial. Often considered a preferable solution, arbitration involves both sides to choose an arbitrator and agree on an impartial third arbitrator to arrive at an agreeable solution for all parties. The process was created to be a speedy alternative to long-drawn trials, but with complications in selecting arbitrators can sometimes drag the process into weeks, months, and even years. Sometimes, patients do not receive a thorough investigation into their issue. Facts may be omitted. Preparations can be minimal. Politicians argue that these medical malpractice litigation laws are passed to increase patient safety and limit insurance premiums by keeping people out of court, but opponents argue that they leave medical facilities and practitioners little incentive to make improvements to avoid such lawsuits.

During his time on earth, Jesus often healed the sick and made parallels between the need for medical care and the need for repentance. "But when Jesus heard that, he said unto them, They that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick." (Matthew 9:12) Medical malpractice litigation wasn't nearly as expensive in Biblical times as it is today. Many victims and lawyers usually have to choose whether to let go of a claim or pursue it at a financial loss as a matter of principle. For many, the cost of litigation far exceeds the amount of the restitution. Most lawyers take cases on a contingency basis. Fees are usually a percentage, usually around a third, of the final settlement, minus court costs. Although unusual, some will ask for a retainer covering fees and costs allowing the client to keep the entire settlement, but with court costs so high, few victims can afford this option.

Most attorneys will only choose medical malpractice litigation cases they feel have a solid chance of receiving big settlements. For every one they accept, many are refused. But just because a case has been declined by one lawyer doesn't mean that another won't pick it up. However, victims of malpractice should look for experienced legal counsel who not only has experience with malpractice cases, but has also tried similar cases. Most malpractice lawyers specialize in very narrow fields such as birth trauma, surgical errors, or misdiagnoses. Find out how many cases the firm has taken to trial and if they have the financial resources to do so. Clients will need to provide all medical records and the names of physicians seen. All health conditions, even those not associated with the case, will be under review. Pre-existing conditions are examined to see if they contributed to the injury. Be prepared to answer written questionnaires or attend depositions, live testimony usually held at the law firm.

Cases dealing with medical malpractice litigation usually must be initiated within a certain time frame to be considered. Some claims, such as delayed diagnoses, are simply difficult to prove negligence. Law firms vary according to which cases will be accepted and which ones will be turned down. Consider the situation carefully before deciding whether or not to begin a litigation. If the basic premises of malpractice are difficult to prove, chances are that legal counsel will be hard to find. Always research firms before soliciting them for legal advice. Reputable lawyers will be honest about their assessment of the case and the probability of success.

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