The bottom line is, many good medical malpractice cases do not end up in a civil suit, because the damages are too small. Medical malpractice lawsuits are so costly to prosecute, that if the damages are only a few thousand dollars, it will not be worth it for an attorney, or their client, to bother bringing one.
It sounds unfair, but the way our system of justice is set up does not allow cases with minimal injury to get prosecuted. The one benefit is, only the most serious cases of medical negligence will end up in civil court, keeping our court system from becoming overwhelmed by unlikely suits.
What Other Options are There?
If your medical malpractice attorney determines that it would not be economical to file a medical malpractice lawsuit in civil court, there are other ways of getting some compensation for your injury. One of the most common things you and your attorney can do is to discuss the issue with the hospital’s “risk management officer”. Most hospitals have one, and their sole purpose is to minimize legal liability in cases of medical negligence.
The risk management officer may be able to get patients compensated for all the medical expenses incurred as a result of the medical malpractice. While this will be a much smaller amount of money than what would be obtained from a civil suit, it helps to cover costs associated with medical negligence injuries.
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What Makes a Valid Medical Malpractice Case?
The definition of medical malpractice is an act or omission by a health care provider that deviates from what is the accepted standards of practice in the medical community. This act or omission then causes injury to the patient. Medical malpractice is basically professional negligence by a health care professional that leads to an injury or complications on the part of the patient.
In a medical malpractice suit there is the plaintiff and the defendant. The plaintiff is the patient or the family of the patient while the defendant is the health care provider. For a case to meet the medical malpractice definition the plaintiff must be able to prove their case. Some of the things that the plaintiff will need to prove include:
- A duty was owed by the hospital or health care provider.
- The duty was not acted upon. In short, the provider failed to provide the standard of care.
- The breach of duty caused an injury to the patient
- Losses. The plaintiff must be able to prove that there were damages, otherwise a medical malpractice suit is not applicable even if the provider was negligent.
Once it is established that your case is indeed a valid instance of medical malpractice, the economic factors must be considered.
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Money Matters: The Economics of a Malpractice Case
The fact is, pursuing a medical malpractice claim is very expensive. Your attorney will have to spend tens of thousands of dollars or more investigating the case, hiring a medical professional to examine the details and testify as an expert witness, and spend a lot of the law firm’s resources preparing the case.
If your injury doesn’t merit an award or settlement that is large enough to cover all of your attorney’s expenses, then it’s not viable for them to take your case.
It’s an unfortunate fact that while many people are injured and do have a good case, they are unable to get an attorney to pursue their claim because they just cannot afford it. If you were given the wrong medication, but you’ll recover in a few weeks, then it’s likely not worthwhile to pursue your claim.
However, if you were caused any kind of permanent injury or disability, or you required multiple unnecessary surgeries and have been (or will be) unable to work for a significant period of time, then it may be worthwhile to seek compensation through a medical malpractice lawsuit.
The Bottom Line: Always Talk to an Attorney
It’s important that anyone who’s been caused harm by the negligence of a doctor talk to an experienced medical malpractice attorney. Medical malpractice lawsuits are very complicated, and it’s impossible to determine exactly which cases deserve a shot at recovery unless you’ve had experience handling them. Talking to an attorney experienced in malpractice cases is the best way to find out what options are available to you.
Even if your potential claim doesn’t merit a lawsuit, an attorney will be able to give you other options, such as reporting medical negligence to the licensing authority.