February 17, 2015 by Steve Levine

When Should You Sue For Medical Malpractice?

stethoscope is located in a medical bookFiling a medical malpractice lawsuit is no walk in the park. A malpractice lawsuit can cost you tens and even hundreds of thousands of dollars in fees, not to mention the time it will take to bring forth a claim. In the process, you will also open yourself up to public scrutiny. Another important thing to note about malpractice lawsuits is that, unlike other types of personal injury claims, medical malpractice case trends indicate a tendency of siding with the doctors and other health professionals, as well as healthcare providers, instead of the injured plaintiff. Even if you won a case, settlement is not guaranteed as a doctor has the unique ability to refuse to settle, regardless if the settlement amount is covered or not by his insurance provider. To put it lightly, a malpractice case involves lots of work, lots of headache and has little to no guarantee of a successful settlement. Many people would like to sue their doctors for malpractice. Before they do, they will want to know all the risks and consequences of such a move.

Does your case legally qualify for medical malpractice?

Before you file a medical malpractice lawsuit against your doctor, you must consider whether your case meets all the legal conditions in order to qualify for a medical malpractice claim. Did your doctor breach medical standards and did you suffer as a result of that breach? Be as clear and as honest as you can be. Would you still be suffering if the doctor did not neglect the medical standard? If you can answer clearly with a “yes” and “no” to these questions, you might have a shot at bringing a medical malpractice claim to court. If you can allege, and be backed by expert support and opinion, that you wouldn’t have been brought to harm if the doctor did not breach the medical standard, then your case will have a high chance of not being dismissed immediately (like it happens with the majority of malpractice lawsuits).

There is a difference between malpractice and unsuccessful treatment

It’s not uncommon for people to sue their doctors for medical malpractice because they aren’t satisfied with the results of their treatment. However a poor medical result does not necessarily mean that medical malpractice has occurred. Medicine, unfortunately, is far from being an exact science. Even the most basic medications and procedures can lead to complications in the short or long term. There is no guarantee that a certain treatment will bring 100% positive results to all patients. Because of this, it’s possible for a doctor to follow all the advised methods and procedures and still fail to obtain a favorable result.

So how can a layman know the difference between unsuccessful medical care and medical malpractice? By asking. First off, it’s a good idea to ask your doctor. After that, asking the opinions of other specialists and medical professionals. A malpractice lawyer will put you in touch with medical staff that is trained to spot medical malpractice from less successful treatment. When you’re asking around, don’t take any opinion at face value. Some doctors will shy away from outright accusing a “fellow physician” of making a dangerous mistake. Some malpractice attorneys will attempt to exaggerate your claim and your situation in order to convince you to file a lawsuit.  Use discretion when asking for opinions but persevere when it comes to obtaining information. In such a case, you are your own best adviser and investigator.

What if your claim is dismissed?

Malpractice lawsuits are draining both on finances and time as well as on emotional well-being. They can turn into long, drawn-out cases that turn nasty quick. Before you decide to file a lawsuit against your doctor, make sure that you are prepared to deal with the consequences: both financial and social.

Medical malpractice lawsuit costs are high. Getting the opinion of expert witnesses, accessing and obtaining copies of medical records, fees for witness and deposition, additional medical exams — all these are required and they sure don’t come cheap. If you lose your case, you could be looking at thousands of dollars in expenses — depending on the legal agreement that you signed. Does the financial benefit of this case outweigh the possible risk?

Do you hold a grudge against a doctor? Have you been 100% truthful about your case? Are you ready to face hours of interrogation from attorneys, both your own and those of the defendant? Are you prepared to make financial disclosures that will most likely go public? When you file a medical malpractice lawsuit, all the details of your life become public. This is the price of playing the game.

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  1. Matt J.
    February 17, 2015 - 9:14 pm

    What do you mean that a doctor may “refuse to settle”? How is that possible?

    • Steve Levine
      February 17, 2015 - 9:21 pm

      In malpractice cases, doctors often have the final say on whether there will be a settlement or not. There are a number of factors at stake: there are few doctors that will testify against a fellow doctor, even if there was a case of malpractice. Two: medical insurance companies can outright refuse to make an offer if they find that the plaintiff’s lawyer is less than experienced in medical malpractice cases. Third: because of the more open nature of a medical malpractice settlement, a doctor’s malpractice insurance is very high, which means that more than always he will take his chances at trial rather than opt for a settlement. The alternative would be damaging to them financially, as well as professionally.

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