How Often Does a Medical Negligence Lawsuit Go to Court?
When you seek medical care, you are placing your health in a practitioner’s hands and trusting them to provide you with competent service. Unfortunately, sometimes patients receive substandard care. Navigating the laws surrounding the practice of medicine can be overwhelming and leave you wondering how to file a negligence lawsuit. Contacting an attorney in Baltimore, MD, will help you determine the best course of action for pursuing justice.
How Often Does a Medical Negligence Lawsuit Go to Court?
Medical negligence occurs when a healthcare provider’s services do not adequately meet the medical standard of care. If the provider’s negligence is a reason or contributing factor in their patient suffering an injury, then the negligent action is considered malpractice. Most malpractice lawsuits do not make it to trial, and a recent study by the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics found that approximately 93% of malpractice cases don’t reach a courtroom.
The high settlement rate found in malpractice lawsuits frequently works in favor of the individual seeking compensation, also referred to as the claimant. However, the medical practitioner, also known as the defendant, is often motivated to settle out of court as well, as it allows them to decrease the legal fees associated with the lawsuit and avoid negative publicity.
Understanding Medical Negligence
Many individuals believe that if they have had a poor experience with a healthcare provider or underwent an unsuccessful procedure, they are a victim of negligence. This belief is untrue, as specific criteria must be met for negligence to be established and a malpractice lawsuit to be filed. You will need to consider four factors when determining if you have a claim:
1. The Patient-Doctor Relationship
The first element required to prove negligence is the existence of a doctor-patient relationship. A care provider-patient relationship places the duty of care on the physician or medical team. When you are the patient of a doctor and tell them about your symptoms, that doctor is responsible for performing specific steps to diagnose or rule out health conditions.
2. The Medical Duty of Care
The medical duty of care is the standard care-providers behaviors are held up to when evaluating if they meet legal expectations. When considering the defendant’s behaviors, we must look at how a reasonable and thorough care provider would behave in the same situation. The medical doctor selected for comparison should have similar educating and training.
When you work with an attorney in Baltimore, MD, they can help connect you to a physician capable of serving as the medical expert in your lawsuit. A statement from this expert can set a standard of care for the case and help you receive the compensation you are owed.
3. Breaching the Duty of Care
Once the standard of care has been determined, you have a yardstick to compare your doctor’s actions to and decide if they met the standard of medical care. Remember, action and inaction can both be considered negligent: it depends on the situation.
If a responsible, similarly experienced doctor would have taken the same step as the defendant, your doctor’s behaviors most likely do not qualify as a breach of care. However, if your doctor did breach the duty of care, then it’s time to evaluate the last aspect to consider when evaluating medical negligence.
4. The Breach Caused or Contributed to Your Harm
Finally, your doctor’s negligent actions must have caused you harm. Even if they behaved poorly, if their actions did not directly result in your injury, you will not be able to prove negligence in a medical malpractice lawsuit.
Steps to Filing a Negligence Lawsuit
Contact a Malpractice Lawyer in Baltimore, MD
An attorney can assist you in ascertaining whether your situation satisfies the requirements to complete a malpractice claim. As malpractice claims reside at the intersection of personal injury law and medical practice law, the many complexities can leave you feeling lost. Working with an attorney offers you the greatest opportunity to file a lucrative malpractice claim and receive the compensation you are due, regardless of whether your claim goes to court.
Once you commit to working with an attorney, they will begin examining the details of your case. They will evaluate what actions and events occurred before, after, and during your injury. Additionally, your lawyer will need access to your diagnosis, medical records, and test results to understand your medical conditions ad injuries.
Secure a Medical Expert
A subject matter expert will be found to weigh in on your doctor’s behavior. This individual will assess how the doctor’s actions, or inactions, were the direct cause of your injury or illness. Finding a reliable expert is essential to the success of your claim, and your attorney will help you find a trustworthy and experienced practitioner.
If your claim is against several practitioners, you will need an expert who works in each of their treatment areas. For example, if you have filed a lawsuit against your oncologist and anesthesiologist, you will need two experts to establish the care standard.
Research Your Care Provider
Unfortunately, if a doctor has treated you negligently, they have likely done the same to others. Although no one wants to think of others suffering, if your doctor has been accused of medical malpractice or negligence before, those claims can be used to support your own.
In addition, prior lawsuits, complaints, or even disciplinary actions show that this practitioner has failed to fulfill their duty of care to others, increasing the validity of your claim. Sometimes doctors with previous lawsuits are more inclined to offer you a generous settlement since they don’t want more negative attention drawn to their actions.
Valuation of Damages
Damages are the costs associated with your injuries. For example, missed wages due to your injuries, medical bills from having the injury treated, and even pain and suffering are damages you can request compensation for in your lawsuit.
However, you can’t simply select a number that sounds appealing. You will have to be able to prove that the damages you are claiming are comparable to what you lost due to your injury. Your attorney will help you gather documentation to support the damages you claim and can help you put a number on factors that are challenging to determine the value of, such as pain and emotional distress.
Resolving Your Case Outside of Court
The Demand Letter
Your attorney may advise sending a demand letter before filing the claim. This letter lists the ways the doctor’s negligence harmed you and the amount of compensation you are seeking. If the doctor agrees to your demands, as many do, you will not have to escalate to filing a lawsuit. Your attorney will help you craft the letter to ensure it is professional and contains all necessary information.
After receiving your demand letter, the doctor may choose to accept your demands, which is, of course, the preferred outcome. However, the doctor will likely respond to your letter with a settlement offer. If you are happy with the offer, you can accept it. If you are not, your attorney can negotiate for a better one. Make sure you have taken any ongoing medical bills into account because once you have accepted an offer, you will not be able to pursue damages in the future.
Whether your claim goes to trial or not, working with a malpractice attorney increases your odds of getting a payout for your injuries. Individuals who pursue compensation without legal help are less successful and risk having their filing discarded due to mistakes. With a lawyer looking out for your best interest, you can feel confident seeking financial restitution for your damages. For help with your legal needs, contact Peter Angelos Law today.