When a medical malpractice lawsuit is heading to a jury, the parties involved generally settle the case before it gets to trial. Settlement is the most common outcome of a medical malpractice case, where the injury victim agrees to take the amount offered and drops the legal claims against the doctor. With a settlement, you can be certain of the award you will receive and can avoid the time and expense of going through trial.
The amount you can receive in a medical malpractice settlement depends on several factors. Every medical injury case is different and a consultation with an experienced malpractice law firm is the best way to find out how much you may be able to receive in a settlement. To find out what legal options you may have to recover medical bills, lost income, and compensation for your pain, contact an experienced medical malpractice law firm for legal advice.
Settlement Process in a Medical Malpractice Case
What is a settlement in a medical malpractice case? The settlement is an agreement between the parties to drop the legal claims in exchange for a settlement award. In most cases, the settlement negotiations come after the initial demand and after the lawsuit is filed. At some point, the insurance company for the doctor will make an offer to “settle” the case. It is up to you to decide whether to accept the offer or to continue pursuing a lawsuit.
The settlement process occurs over the life of the lawsuit. Malpractice cases can take years and it may take years before the defendants finally make a fair settlement offer. One of the reasons why the cases take so long is that there may be a lot of important medical information to review. During the discovery phase of litigation, the parties exchange documents, evidence, testimony, reports, and answers to individual questions.
After discovery is over, your attorney may have a much better idea of your case, including the strengths and weaknesses. For example, you may have strong evidence to show the doctor made a mistake but without clear evidence your injuries were caused by the mistake. After compiling all the evidence and expert reports, your trial lawyer may also have a better idea of how much you may be able to recover in damages.
Settlement negotiations can take place anytime from before the lawsuit is filed up until a jury makes their decision. Almost 90% of personal injury cases are settled before they go to trial. The legal claims are settled based on an agreement between the plaintiff and the defendants.
There are good reasons why both the plaintiff and defendants would settle the case instead of taking it before a judge and jury. A jury trial for a medical malpractice case takes a lot of time, effort, and expense. A complicated malpractice trial can take days or weeks to pursue. Settling the case before it goes to trial can save the parties a lot of time, money, and stress.
There is always some level of uncertainty in a jury trial. Even if the injury victim believes they have a good case, the jury may decide in favor of the doctor, which could leave the injury victim with nothing. On the other hand, even if the doctor thinks they have a good case, a jury could decide they don’t like the doctor and award the injury victim millions of dollars in damages. Jury decisions can be very unpredictable.
It is important to understand that you are in control of the settlement agreement. Your attorney will negotiate with the insurance company and defense lawyers. Your lawyer will advocate for your best interests and make sure you are not being taken advantage of. Your attorney will be able to advise you of the legal options and settlement negotiation strategies but the ultimate decision is up to you. Your attorney won’t agree to a settlement without your approval.
One of the most important factors in finding a medical malpractice lawyer is open communication. It is important to have an open dialogue with your lawyer throughout the litigation process. You may want a lawyer who is available to answer your questions and will keep you informed of any updates. This will help you evaluate the settlement offers or make the decision to take the case to trial.
Settlement or Jury Trial
To use an example, consider a patient who undergoes surgery and suffers a serious infection because the doctor forgot to take out some surgical sponges. The patient suffers pain for weeks after the surgery and has to undergo an additional surgery to remove the sponges when the problem is discovered. The patient talks to a Chicago medical malpractice lawyer who tells them they have a strong case for compensation.
The lawyer files a lawsuit against the doctor in Illinois state civil court, on behalf of the patient. The doctor’s insurance company responds and files an “answer” as part of the lawsuit. Over the course of a few months, the parties exchange information, documentation, records, and responses to specific questions. The patient has about $100,000 in medical bills, lost about $50,000 in income from being unable to work, and wants to be compensated for the pain they suffered.
The insurance company offers to settle the case for $100,000. The patient knows that would not even cover the cost of their losses and denies the offer. The case is about to go to trial where the patient may be able to recover anywhere between $0 and $1 million. The insurance company offers $200,000 just before trial and the patient can decide whether or not to accept.
On the one hand, $200,000 would cover the costs of medical bills and lost income and partially compensate the patient for their pain and suffering. Alternatively, by taking the case to trial, the patient runs the risk of losing and getting nothing in compensation. The trial could also result in a successful case with the jury awarding the patient $1 million. In the end, the patient accepts the settlement because of the uncertainty of taking the case to trial.
Value of Your Malpractice Claim
The value of your medical malpractice claim is based on damages. Damages in a medical malpractice case are based on the compensatory losses caused by the medical error. A malpractice award is intended to put you into a similar position you would have been if the error had not occurred. Damages are generally made up of a combination of economic damages and non-economic damages.
Economic and Non-Economic Damages
Economic damages are the financial costs associated with the injury. This can include money you had to pay out because of the injury, outstanding medical bills, and loss of income caused by the injury. The most common economic damages after a medical injury include:
- Medical expenses
- Future medical costs
- Costs of home modifications
- Lost wages
- Diminished earning capacity
- Lost business opportunities
Most of your economic damages after a malpractice case will come in the form of medical expenses and lost income. If you have suffered a permanent injury, you may require continuing medical care for years to come, which should be included in your calculation of damages. A temporary injury may mean loss of income for a few days or weeks but a disabling injury may mean that you will never be able to work again. Economic damages after a permanent disability may include loss of income for the rest of your life.
Noneconomic damages can be more difficult to define. For example, after a back injury caused by a negligent surgical procedure, the injury victim may be left with chronic back pain. A back injury could mean you can no longer participate in activities you previously did, like gardening, running, or playing with your kids. What is the value of a debilitating injury that has long-term consequences?
Non-economic damages include losses that do not have a clear dollar value. Common non-economic damages in a medical malpractice case may include:
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of a limb
- Loss of enjoyment in life
- Emotional distress
- Disfigurement and scarring
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Family loss of companionship or support
Maximum Medical Improvement
Maximum medical improvement (MMI) is an important term in calculating damages. Generally, an injury victim will not know the extent of their injuries until they get to a point of maximum medical improvement. This is the point where their condition cannot be improved any further with medical treatment. After this point, the extent of disability will be known and experts may have a better idea of how much continuing medical care will be required in the future.
How Do You Calculate Future Costs and Losses?
You may have a good idea of how much you have in existing medical bills and lost wages but how do you calculate the future damages from an injury? Future medical costs are generally determined with the help of an expert. An expert witness in medicine can evaluate the extent of the medical injury and determine the range of cost that the continuing treatment will require. This is also based on statistics and inflation. Generally, an expert will come up with a high to low projection of expected costs.
Similar with future loss of earning capacity, an expert can make an estimation of the amount of money the victim would likely have earned over the course of their working life, together with benefits, and pay raises. This can also be applied to a young person who was injured before they had much of a working career, based on average earnings and projections.
Expert Reports on Future Expenses and Losses
Damages and expenses may be estimated based on the work of medical experts, life care planning experts, disability experts, and occupational experts. Experts can evaluate the medical records and injury victim to present a report on future expenses and losses. The defendant and plaintiff may each have their own medical experts. Experts may also testify before the jury to help the jury determine the proper award in a medical malpractice case.
Gilman and Bedigian Record Awards and Settlements
In the medical malpractice legal community, experienced trial attorneys like Charles Gilman and H. Briggs Bedigian have a strong reputation as seasoned trial attorneys with a proven record of successfully fighting for their clients. This includes fighting to get the maximum settlement available for their clients who have suffered a medical injury. Our attorneys won three jury verdicts of over $20 million and more than a dozen jury verdicts of over one million dollars, including a $55 million award in a birth injury case. That record of success is something the insurance companies take seriously in making a strong settlement offer.
These jury verdicts are in addition to the numerous multi-million dollar pretrial settlements, with several cases settling for our clients in excess of $10 million dollars. Founding attorney Briggs Bedigian has won over $100,000,000.00) in jury verdicts for his clients, and continues to increase that amount, and is an invitee of the Multi Million Dollar Advocates Forum.
The lawyers for the insurance company know that when they see Gilman & Bedigian as the attorneys for a medical injury victim, they are facing an experienced legal team that focuses on holding negligent doctors accountable for their actions. Our strong reputation gives us a strong starting position when engaging in settlement negotiations.
How Much Is My Case Worth?
Evaluating a medical malpractice case can be complicated. There are a lot of factors that go into figuring out how much you can receive in a medical malpractice settlement, including the type of injury, extent of damages, and strength of the evidence in your case. The best way to find out how much your medical malpractice case might be worth is to talk to an experienced attorney with a focus on these types of cases.
An experienced medical malpractice lawyer can review your case, get a medical expert’s individualized review, and help you understand your legal options to file a claim against the hospital, doctors, and health care providers responsible for the error. Contact experienced trial attorneys who have successfully represented medical injury victims and their families to recover financial compensation. Contact Gilman & Bedigian online or at 800-529-6162 for a free consultation.