Why You Should Never Accept a Settlement Before Talking to a Malpractice Attorney
Have you or someone you love been the victim of medical malpractice? It’s more common than you might think. Despite our incredible advances in medical science, human error can always complicate even the simplest procedure. Whether you were given the incorrect medicine or had a treatment that led to further problems, you have the right to speak to a malpractice attorney. Never is that more important than when you’re offered a settlement by the hospital or practitioner.
You may be tempted to simply take the settlement and move on. Especially in cases of wrongful death or life-altering malpractice, many people choose this route as it provides a semblance of quick closure. However, you may be passing up an opportunity to improve your life and those of others. Before accepting any settlement agreement, consider speaking to an experienced malpractice lawyer, like the ones at Peter Angelos Law.
Why You Should Never Accept a Settlement Before Talking to a Malpractice Attorney in Baltimore
Why Are You Being Offered a Settlement?
This is one of the most important questions to stop and ask yourself. If the hospital or private practice’s office has already sent you a settlement offer, it’s not just out of the goodness of their hearts. It’s a slight admission of guilt, even if the contract states otherwise. After all, if they were confident that their staff had done nothing wrong, why would they extend this offer in the first place? They’re looking to avoid more trouble.
The vast majority of medical malpractice cases are settled out of court, but not before first having a lawyer file for a lawsuit. Accepting the first offer in a malpractice case is akin to not negotiating your salary when you interview for a job. By taking the matter to court, or at the very least threatening to do so, you increase your leverage and create a more favorable situation for you and your family. It’s not just about the money.
Settlement Offers Can Be Deceiving
At first glance, you might see a fairly large sum and think that you’re receiving appropriate compensation for your damages from the settlement offer you’ve been given. However, these settlements also come with several caveats that you may not be aware of. Most settlements absolve the medical facility and its professionals of any and all responsibility for complications that arise down the road. They rarely include any guarantee of future care. What if your condition worsens?
Furthermore, they may also limit your ability to discuss the details of your case. Part of the reason settlements are preferred by hospitals is that they can keep the case out of the public spotlight. However, as we will see, this can have detrimental effects on others in the future. Finally, the amount you’re offered may not be remotely close to what you are entitled to receive by law. It’s in your best interests to consult a malpractice attorney.
What Can You Potentially Get in Court?
Initial settlement offers are almost always low bids. The potential payout in court is much higher. However, hospitals know that settlement offers are attractive. They give you money now without the process of going to trial. In addition, there’s no risk associated with taking a settlement offer. Going to trial, however, could result in you losing the case and receiving nothing. Hospital staff will likely inform you of this in an attempt to scare you away from going to trial.
Make no mistake, if you have already been offered a settlement, it is highly unlikely that your case will fail in court. Especially if you have a strong legal team behind you, you stand to make far more in court than you ever could from a settlement. This is because settlements are always based on the maximum payments allowed by law. Let’s take a closer look at these values.
Baltimore adheres to the Maryland civil code, which stipulates how much you can be awarded in court for your damages. Damages are divided into two categories: economic and non-economic. Economic damages are uncapped, meaning you can reclaim as much as you can prove. Initial settlement offers routinely undervalue this portion of your claim as they have little knowledge of how your life was personally affected. What factors weigh into the calculation of these damages?
Anything you can count and demonstrate qualifies here. Did you miss work because of injuries related to the faulty procedure? Did you have to pay someone else to help you around the house? How much did you spend out of pocket for your care? You can even include travel expenses to and from the medical facility. Many people underestimate these damages only to realize later they should have received much more in the form of compensation.
Non-economic damages are those that cannot be quantified. They don’t show up on a receipt. We commonly refer to these damages as “pain and suffering”. The law in Baltimore limits these damages to a specific number, which is adjusted every year by $15,000. It currently stands at $890,000. In the event of wrongful death, that number is slightly higher than $1,000,000.
These damages are also known as punitive damages because they are meant to act as a deterrent to negligent or irresponsible behavior. However, they are often vastly underestimated when you are given a settlement offer. After all, what hospital would impose punitive damages upon itself? Instead, most settlements focus on the medical costs and include a modest amount for pain and suffering.
The Intangible Value of a Lawsuit
If you’ve looked up medical malpractice lawsuits in Baltimore recently, you may have read some astounding headlines. One such lawsuit against Johns Hopkins Bayview resulted in a record-breaking award of $229.6 million dollars. While the plaintiffs cannot legally receive that amount due to the aforementioned limitations, jury decisions like these can have a major impact. By grabbing national attention, these rulings highlight problems in the medical system and encourage hospitals to fix them.
Your decision to take your case to court is also a decision to stand up for yourself and anyone else who may have been injured by malpractice at the same location. Many people, understandably, choose not to take this course of action. But know that doing so may just be what’s needed to produce actual systemic change at the facility. Your decision may save other lives.
What Should You Do When You Receive a Settlement Offer?
With all this in mind, what is the best action to take when you are given a settlement offer by a hospital or practitioner? Before you sign anything, take time to review the terms and conditions and how the amount was determined. Never allow anyone to pressure you into signing right away. We would strongly encourage you to take your settlement offer to a malpractice attorney so that it can be reviewed properly by someone with experience.
At Peter Angelos Law, we have helped dozens of clients to reach a better result, whether through additional mediation outside of court or by taking the case to trial. You have the right to pursue fair compensation for your damages. If you’ve received an offer or you’ve been the victim of malpractice, call Peter Angelos Law today to speak to one of our representatives.