How Many Medical Negligence Lawsuits Go to Trial?
Doctors and other medical professionals are responsible for providing their services competently. The laws surrounding the medical profession and personal injury are complex, and not every negligence lawsuit is resolved in court. So, how many go to trial, and what does that mean for the parties involved? Speaking with a medical malpractice attorney in Baltimore, MD can help you learn more about the process, from start to finish.
How Many Medical Negligence Lawsuits Go to Trial?
Fewer than 90% of the thousands of medical malpractice cases that are filed every year in the U.S. go to trial. Several studies have found that malpractice is surprisingly common, with 1 out of 5 adults reporting that they have experienced it at some point during their lives. Considering these statistics, the percentage of people who choose to file a claim is low, and the percentage of those who take their malpractice case to trial is even lower.
There are several reasons why most cases do not go to trial. Some cases are dropped or dismissed for reasons pertaining to insufficient evidence or a failure to follow legal protocols. Others end in a settlement offer instead of a verdict. Reaching a settlement offer and avoiding a trial can actually serve both the defendant and the plaintiff well, because doing so saves time and litigation costs.
How Can a Malpractice Claim Resolve Outside of Court?
One of the reasons many negligence cases do not go to trial is the fact that getting there requires several steps. Each step represents an opportunity to resolve the issue outside of court.
The Demand Letter
Some people choose to send the doctor a demand letter before they file a claim. As the name implies, this letter states how the doctor harmed you, and the amount of money you demand as compensation. Your lawyer can help you with the drafting. If the doctor agrees to your demands, you will not need to go to trial.
If the doctor does not respond to your demand letter, or if you decide to skip that step, you will need a medical expert to review your case. They will determine if there is enough evidence against the doctor to warrant a trial. If they decide in your favor, they will certify that your case has merit, and that there has been a breach in the standard of care applicable to health care providers in the same or similar specialty, allowing you to proceed with your claim.
At this stage, your attorney will work with the medical expert to ensure that his or her opinion conforms with the Maryland rules to ensure that a court will acknowledge the claim and allow you to proceed in filing suit.
For reasons which will be discussed later, both you and the doctor might want to resolve the issue with a settlement offer, rather than a trial. A settlement offer is a sum of money that the defendants agree to pay if you drop the claims. If you are unsatisfied with the offer, your attorney can negotiate for a higher one.
What Are the Benefits of Resolving Outside of Court?
Obviously, there is no benefit to your case being halted on its way to trial for insufficient evidence or an error in the way the claim was filed. Your lawyer can keep you informed about the protocols to help insure that it is well documented and correctly submitted. However, if you can resolve outside of court via a settlement offer, skipping the trial could benefit everyone. By resolving a case prior to trial, you save the monetary expenses of a trial, including the pretrial preparation which can be expensive depending on how many experts are expected to testify at trial. Also, early resolution of a case allows you to avoid the risk of going to trial, and potentially losing the case. Early settlement is a mechanism used to avoid risk and to ensure you walk away fairly compensated for your injuries.
Your Payout Is More Certain
Reaching a settlement offer that is acceptable to both parties is a negotiation, whereas a trial is more like a contest in which the winner takes all. If you are able to negotiate for an amount of money that is reasonable and you accept the offer, the process ends with a payout. If you go to trial, you run the risk that the judge or the jury will side with the defendant. In that situation, you will not receive anything.
You Get Your Payout Faster
Going to trial can be a lengthy process, and it is impossible to predict how much time it will take from start to finish. Many people find that it is beneficial to accept a settlement offer and skip the trial in order to get the money they need to pay for the costs of treating their malpractice injuries faster.
The Defendant’s Perspective on Settling a Negligence Lawsuit Outside Court
You might be wondering why the defendant would be interested in giving up the opportunity to get off scot free. If we look at the situation from their perspective, we see that their interests lie in saving litigation costs, minimizing the damage, and protecting their reputation. Some settlements may also ensure that the defendant does not have to face extraordinary increases in the malpractive insurance premiums. Oftentimes, the amount of the settlement will dictate the rising cost of their medical negligence insurance policy coverage.
The defendant might want to settle outside court to avoid paying a lawyer to defend them in front of a judge. Additionally, if the judge or the jury sides in your favor, the verdict might require them to pay for your litigation costs as well as their own.
Running a medical practice and practicing medicine is a time-consuming operation. When facing the possibility of a trial, doctors need to consider the amount of time it will take them away from treating their existing patients and possibly acquiring new ones.
Minimizing the Payout
If a doctor feels that the case against them is strong, they might try to settle outside of court by offering a sum of money that is less than the amount they could be required to pay in the event of a verdict against them. Essentially, they are asking you to give up the chance of a larger payout in exchange for a lower sum that is guaranteed.
Protecting Their Reputation
A doctor might not want to run the risk of losing a negligence lawsuit because of the damage it would do to their reputation. By settling the matter quietly, they can avoid incurring bad publicity as a result of their mistakes.
Your Lawyer Can Help You Evaluate Your Options
The small percentage of malpractice cases that go to trial do so because either the doctor feels strongly that they can win or the plaintiff is not satisfied with their settlement offer. If you find yourself in the position of reviewing such an offer, your lawyer can advise you on whether you should accept it or push for a trial.
You should choose a lawyer who is highly familiar with malpractice. They will be able to draw on their past experience with similar cases in order to make reasonable predictions as to whether or not a jury will look favorably on your situation.
Find a Malpractice Attorney in Baltimore, MD
Trial or no trial, you increase your chances of getting a just payout by working with a qualified attorney. With sound legal advice, you can lower the chance of having your case thrown out due to errors or insufficient evidence. If you are seeking a settlement offer, your lawyer can negotiate for an amount that is proportionate to the damages you experienced. To learn more about the top legal services in Baltimore, MD, contact Peter Angelos Law, today!