Can a Medical Malpractice Case Be Reopened After a Settlement?
If you have suffered a medical malpractice injury, you probably have a lot on your plate. Between treating the injury, managing lost wages, and navigating the laws surrounding compensation, you might be feeling overwhelmed. It is important to know that if you accept a settlement offer from the hospital too quickly, you might lose the opportunity for a higher payout. Our medical negligence lawyers in Baltimore, MD can help you understand the rules pertaining to your claim.
Can a Medical Malpractice Case Be Reopened After a Settlement?
Usually, it cannot. The language of most settlement offers is written to prevent you from legally re-opening your claim after you have signed the paperwork and received your payout check. Doctors and hospitals often try to take advantage of injured patients who are overwhelmed by their medical bills and lost wages.
While it can be tempting to accept a first offer to get immediate relief from the expense of an injury, it is better to wait until you can talk with a lawyer. In order to accept a settlement offer, you will be required to sign a document called a settlement release. By signing it, you release the doctor and the hospital from any future liability.
What If the Injury Requires Additional Treatment After the Settlement?
Even if you find that your injury was more serious than you thought when you accepted the settlement offer, you will not be able to reopen the claim. You will be obligated to pay for subsequent treatments out of pocket if the payout does not cover all of your expenses. That’s why a hospital might try to persuade you to accept an offer before you can understand the true cost of your injury.
How Settlement Offers Work
What Is a Settlement Offer?
A settlement offer is typically contained in a legal document called a Release of Claims. This Release will state an amount of money that the defendant agrees to pay the plaintiff in exchange for resolving the matter outside of court. If you accept it, you agree to close your claim.
Who Is Allowed to Sign a Settlement Offer?
The settlement offer is a matter to be resolved between the defendant and the plaintiff. That means that the parties’ respective lawyers cannot sign any documents to make the offer official or to invalidate it after the fact.
Doctors can try to benefit from the fact that patients who are ignorant of the law are allowed to sign settlement offers without receiving legal guidance. However, if you have not yet signed a settlement offer, your lawyer can help you review it.
Can You Negotiate for a Higher Settlement Offer?
Yes! You do not need to accept the first settlement offer you receive. To receive the highest compensation possible, it is important to speak with a medical malpractice attorney. Your attorney can help you understand what the payout for your injuries would likely be if a jury issued a verdict in your favor. He or she can handle communications between you and the defendant, relaying their offers and negotiating for more.
What Are the Benefits of Settling Outside Court?
Accepting a settlement offer is not necessarily a bad thing even though it closes the claim. You just need to be sure that the amount being offered is appropriate.
If you choose to take your case to trial, you run the risk of the jury siding against you. In that situation, you would not receive any payout. Additionally, jury trials can be quite lengthy. Accepting a settlement offer is a way to get your payout faster and without spending your time preparing for a trial or risking the chance of an appeal of the trial verdict.
Why Do the Defendants Issue Settlement Offers?
With the help of a skilled attorney, you might be able to negotiate a settlement offer that is worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. Why are defendants incentivized to resolve your claim in this way? For them, it can help avoid the bad publicity that would come with a malpractice conviction. They might also consider the fact that a jury could potentially order them to pay more than the offer specifies.
In addition to taking on less risk and avoiding damage to their reputation, doctors consider the litigation costs of going to court. In addition to paying their own legal expenses, they might be required to pay yours as well, depending on the outcome of the case. These expenses would come on top of the opportunity costs related to the time spent away from their practice as they focus on preparing for the trial and attending court sessions.
When Should You Accept a Settlement Offer?
You should only accept a settlement offer after you have sat down with a lawyer who can review it against the injury you incurred. This will help determine whether or not the amount being offered is sufficient.
During your meetings, you and your lawyers will estimate the true cost to treat the injury, including all of the damages you are legally entitled to claim. Your lawyer can go over the details of your case with an eye for how a judge or a jury might react if it went all the way to trial. With these considerations in mind, he or she will advise you on whether you should accept the offer, negotiate for more, or push for a trial.
What Damages Should a Settlement Offer Reflect?
Your lawyer will fight to maximize your settlement offer by arguing for all of the damages that deserve compensation. Medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and emotional damages can all be factored into your claim.
Trips to the ER, follow-up appointments, visits to a doctor other than the one who injured you, and sessions with specialists should all be covered by your payout. Other medical expenses can include the cost of medication and any special equipment you might need in your home.
If you needed to take time off work and lost income as a result, you can include the amount you missed on your claim. Beyond wages, this category can include tips, bonuses, promotions, benefits, and income from self-employment.
Pain and Suffering
Pain and suffering is a subjective category of damages that exists to allow plaintiffs to be compensated beyond the tallied costs of treating their injuries. In court, juries are instructed to use their judgment when assigning a value to this type of damage. Your lawyer can help you determine how much to claim for pain and suffering based on the amount a jury would likely come up with.
This category accounts for the emotional toll an injury can take. Like pain and suffering, the process of assigning a value to emotional damages is subjectively based on a potential jury verdict. The category includes:
- Loss of activities you enjoy
- Psychological stress
Maximize Your Offer With Medical Negligence Lawyers in Baltimore
Only you are allowed to sign a settlement offer, but that doesn’t mean you need to deal with your medical malpractice injuries alone. Working with an experienced attorney in Baltimore can help you account for all of your damages. Once the true cost of the injury is calculated, your lawyer will work to build your case and fight for a just outcome. If you would like to learn more about how our medical negligence lawyers can assist you, contact Peter Angelos Law, today.