After the pain and difficulty of a medical injury, you may want to speed up the process and receive your settlement so you can get back to your life. Unfortunately, the legal process for a medical malpractice lawsuit can take a long time. The medical provider or insurance company may make a quick settlement offer that does not even begin to cover your losses. It may take months or years of legal proceedings and negotiations before the healthcare provider makes a fair settlement offer that you can accept.
When it is time to get paid, you may have questions about who will send the check, how long it will take, and what medical bills will have to be paid out of the check. A medical malpractice attorney can help you understand more about the medical malpractice settlement process and who will pay out your settlement. Contact Gilman & Bedigian today online or by phone at 800-529-6162 for help with your malpractice claim.
What Is a Medical Malpractice Settlement?
A medical malpractice settlement is an agreement between the injury victim and the medical provider to settle the case for a set amount of money in exchange for dropping the legal claims. For example, if a doctor made a surgical error and caused an injury, the patient could have a negligence claim to recover all damages caused by the doctor’s error. A settlement is an agreement for the patient to release their legal claims against the doctor in exchange for accepting an amount of money.
In most medical malpractice cases, the doctor or hospital is represented by their medical malpractice insurance carrier. The insurance company covers the doctor for medical malpractice claims up to a set amount of money. The insurance company generally takes over the legal case on behalf of the doctor, including offering a settlement amount up to the maximum amount of coverage.
When the patient agrees to the settlement amount, it will generally come as a check from the insurance company. Depending on the type of medical malpractice case, there may be multiple parties settling the case, offering separate payments. In some states, a state fund may also help cover the malpractice award.
The payment will generally go to your medical malpractice attorney. Your lawyer is the one who will deal with the insurance company to make sure you get your payment before agreeing to any legal release. Your attorney may then deduct the legal costs of the case and their fee and issue payment directly to you, the patient. Your attorney may also help you handle any insurance subrogation or Medicare claims against the payment. If you have any questions about who will pay out your medical malpractice settlement and when, talk to your lawyer.
Should I Accept the Settlement or Go to Trial?
The decision of whether to accept the settlement offer or go to trial can be complicated. You want to make sure you get the maximum amount of money for your losses but you don’t want to risk getting less money in a jury award. In most cases, your attorney can advise you about any recommended course of action and how much your case might be worth.
The reality is that the majority of medical malpractice cases never go to trial because they are settled before. Only a small percentage end up in trial, often because the doctor and insurance company know what they may be risking if they go to a trial and will offer a fair settlement rather than take their chances in court. However, there are benefits to the injury victim for settling the case instead of going to trial, including:
- Predictable outcome
- Your legal case can be over
- Avoid the risk of the jury finding there was no malpractice
- Avoid the high costs of a jury trial
- Avoid the stress of a trial
- Avoid the time and inconvenience of a long trial
However, in the end, the choice is yours to settle or not to settle. Your attorney cannot agree to a settlement without your consent. Generally, state rules of professional conduct require a lawyer to abide by their client’s decision on whether to settle the matter. For example, for a medical malpractice patient in Chicago, under the Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct 1.2, “A lawyer shall abide by a client’s decision whether to settle a matter.”
Similarly, under the Maryland Lawyers Rules of Professional Conduct 1.8, a lawyer shall not, “settle a claim or potential claim for such liability with an unrepresented client or former client unless that person is advised in writing of the desirability of seeking and is given a reasonable opportunity to seek the advice of independent legal counsel in connection therewith.”
How Will the Settlement Money Be Used?
The settlement payment will generally go to your medical malpractice attorney who can make payments out of the amount and settle their fees. Most medical malpractice attorneys work on a contingency basis. This means your lawyer won’t get paid unless you receive a settlement or jury award.
The legal costs of a medical malpractice lawsuit can include things like depositions, filing fees, postage, obtaining medical records, and hiring expert witnesses. The attorney generally covers these litigation costs and then deducts the costs from any recovery obtained. The lawyer’s fee is generally a percentage of the recovered amount.
The settlement may first be used to cover legal expenses, including the court costs and filing fees. The attorney will then generally take a percentage of the amount as payment. Contingency fee agreements can help people who don’t have a lot of money to fight for their legal rights.
If the injury victim had to take on the insurance companies alone, they may not be able to afford a legal battle because the insurance companies can make it very expensive for a patient to try and recover compensation. A contingency agreement is a way to fight the healthcare industry and insurance companies to make sure they are held accountable for negligent doctors.
Will I Have to Pay Medical Bills With the Settlement Money?
Medical bills and any other expenses for treatment should be included in your economic damages. Even future care costs can be estimated to be included in your settlement award offer. This is in addition to other damages, including pain and suffering and lost wages.
If your medical insurance paid for your medical care, they will likely want a portion of your settlement to offset their costs for care. Similar to Medicare or Medicaid, if you are receiving Medicare, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) may require payment after you receive a settlement or jury award for your injuries.
However, you may not have to pay all your medical bills as part of the settlement. As a patient, you may be able to negotiate your medical bills to reduce the expenses, leaving you with more money in your pocket after getting your settlement. Your attorney may also be able to negotiate with the hospital to reduce your medical expenses.
How Much Is a Medical Malpractice Settlement Worth?
Every medical malpractice case is different and the settlement amount can vary depending on several factors, including:
- Age of the victim
- Type of injury
- Extent of injuries
- Emotional distress
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of earning potential
For example, a patient who suffers a broken arm because of a negligent doctor may be injured for a couple of months and have a few thousand dollars in medical expenses. In contrast, the medical expenses for a child who suffers a severe birth injury could be millions of dollars for the rest of the child’s life.
National Medical Malpractice Payment Statistics
There is not always a lot of public information about medical malpractice settlement amounts. Many healthcare providers want to keep this information as quiet as possible because they don’t want to alert possible victims of medical errors about how common these serious medical mistakes can be. When a doctor does settle a case, they don’t want their patients to know that they made a mistake and caused others serious injury.
According to the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), a survey of medical malpractice amounts paid from 1992 to 2014 averaged over $329,000. The amount of payment varied based on medical specialty, the extent of injury, and category of malpractice alleged. From 2009 to 2014, the average medical malpractice payment amounts included:
- Anesthesiology – $354,038
- Cardiology – $368,350
- Colon and rectal surgery – $345,438
- Gastroenterology – $390,538
- General surgery – $329,437
- Internal medicine – $333,540
- Neurology – $459,857
- Neurosurgery – $487,043
- OB/GYN – $447,034
- Pathology – $473,957
- Pediatrics – $413,324
- Radiology – $366,009
- Thoracic surgery – $423,929
These numbers represent medical malpractice claims reported to the National Practitioner Data Base from 2014, almost 10 years ago. Anyone who has been to the doctor or has a medication prescription understands how much medical costs have increased over the past decade. The average amount of medical malpractice settlements are likely much higher today than it was in 2014.
Medical Malpractice Payments in Chicago, Baltimore, and Philly
In Maryland in 2021, there were 224 medical malpractice payments made, with 4 of those payments amounting to $2 million or more. In Pennsylvania, there were 613 medical malpractice payments, with 7 payments of $2 million or more. In Illinois, there were 289 medical malpractice payments reported, with 13 of those payments amounting to $2,000,000 or more. Keep in mind, these are not all malpractice payments in those states but only those reported to the NPDB.
Examples of Settlements By Experienced Medical Malpractice Attorneys
Some examples of settlement and jury trial awards amounts from trial attorneys at Gilman & Bedigian include:
- $55,000,000 verdict in Martinez v. Johns Hopkins Hospital
- $21,000,000 verdict in Norfleet v. Harbor Hospital
- $13,300,000 verdict in Kenyetta Lewis v. Upper Chesapeake Medical Center
- $5,360,000 verdict in Berger v. Chucker, M.D.
- $4,200,000 verdict in Richard and Gail Dalletezza v. Charles L. Schnee, M.D. and Hennessy, Shuey & Schnee, Chartered
- $3,500,000 verdict in Gomez v. University of Maryland Medical Center
- $3,000,000 verdict in Uriah Evans, et al. v. University of Maryland Medical Systems Corporation
- $2,600,000 verdict in Sobo, et al. v. Vincent D. Hayes, M.D., et al.
- $2,500,000 verdict in Williams v. Hemphill
Our attorneys have won three jury verdicts of over $20 million and more than a dozen jury verdicts of over one million dollars. However, most cases end up settling before going to trial. In addition to these jury verdicts, our firm has 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 in jury verdicts for his clients and is an invitee of the Multi-Million Dollar Advocates Forum.
How Much Can I Receive in a Settlement?
The amount you can receive in a settlement will depend on your individual situation. A settlement or jury award is generally based on damages or the value of your case. Damages in a medical malpractice lawsuit generally include economic damages and noneconomic damages. Economic damages are the costs of the injury, including:
Noneconomic damages can also be significant. These costs may not have an obvious value in dollars but are still real losses. Noneconomic damages can include:
- Pain and suffering
- Economic distress
- Loss of companionship
- Loss of enjoyment in life
For someone who suffers a permanent disability or severe injury, their losses may not be known at the time of the lawsuit. The damages may have to estimate the likely future costs of the injury to be included in the settlement. Future expenses can be determined with an economic expert who can estimate the costs of an injury, generally including a high, low, and middle average to help estimate the losses.
Where Can I Find Out More About a Medical Malpractice Settlement?
The first step to recovering a settlement award from a negligent doctor or hospital is to talk to a professional. A medical malpractice attorney can explain the process, your legal options, and how much your award might be worth. There is a limited amount of time to file a medical malpractice lawsuit so reach out to an attorney as soon as you learn about a possible medical mistake.
If you want to know if you have a malpractice claim after a medical injury, talk to an experienced medical malpractice attorney. Contact experienced medical malpractice trial attorneys Gilman & Bedigian online or at 800-529-6162 for a free consultation.