What Do I Need to Know Before Pursuing a Medical Malpractice Lawsuit?February 19, 2021
According to recent studies, medical malpractice is the third most common cause of death in the United States. Approximately 225,000 patients die each year as a result of surgical errors, dosage errors, and diagnosis errors. However, only a small percentage of medical malpractice victims pursue legal action, and even fewer actually receive financial compensation for their injuries or health complications, which is unfortunate because the costs associated with malpractice injuries can accumulate quickly. The process of filing a malpractice lawsuit can be quite overwhelming and intimidating, particularly when the patient’s health has been compromised. Therefore, it is highly recommended that the patient consult with a skilled and experienced medical malpractice lawyer who can thoroughly explain each step of the claims process, address all questions and concerns, and secure the financial compensation the victim deserves.
What is Medical Malpractice?
Medical malpractice or medical negligence occurs when a health care provider fails to provide the accepted standard of care, which causes harm to the patient. In a medical malpractice case, the burden of proof is on the patient to prove that the doctor, nurse, or other health care provider responsible for his or her care deviated from the standard of care. To establish medical negligence, the patient must be able to prove the following:
- A doctor-patient relationship existed: This is generally easy to prove by obtaining copies of medical records and confirming appointments.
- The health care provider was negligent: The patient must be able to prove that the health care provider breached the standard of care. This means that the patient cannot file a medical malpractice lawsuit simply because he or she was unhappy with the treatment provided, or the results of the treatment. The patient must be able to provide proof that the health care provider caused harm in a way that would not have occurred with another health care provider under similar circumstances.
- The negligence caused an injury: The patient must be able to prove that the injury was caused by the health care provider’s negligence. Medical experts are usually called to testify on behalf of the patient and offer his or her professional opinion about whether the health care provider breached the standard of care, and if that was a direct cause of the injuries.
- The injury resulted in damages: To sue a health care provider for medical malpractice, the patient must have suffered harm, including physical injuries, emotional anguish, lost wages, or a compromised quality of life.
How Often Do Patients Win Medical Malpractice Cases?
According to a study of medical malpractice outcomes that looked at malpractice cases over a 20-year period, doctors win the majority of malpractice cases. In cases where the plaintiff’s evidence is weak, doctors win up to 90 percent of jury trials, and even when patients have strong evidence of negligence, doctors still win 50 percent of jury trials. One of the main reasons for this statistic is that juries often sympathize more with the doctor than the patient, particularly if they are suspicious of the patient’s motives. Doctors may also have greater access to a team of experienced lawyers, compared with patients who may have no idea where to begin when it comes to seeking the best legal representation for their case.
What Challenges Will I Face When Filing a Medical Malpractice Lawsuit?
To reach a successful outcome in a medical malpractice trial, the patient must be able to convince the jury that his or her doctor breached the standard of care. The following are some of the most common challenges that patients may face, which is why it is so important that they work with an experienced medical malpractice lawyer:
- Proving negligence: This can be difficult in medical malpractice cases. However, an experienced medical malpractice lawyer will have the resources and access to the medical experts necessary to support the case. The dedicated legal team will uncover any mistakes that were made to prove negligence.
- Convince the jury that the health care professional was negligent: Unfortunately, juries tend to believe doctors over patients, and that if the doctor did make a mistake, it was an honest mistake, and not an act of negligence. A skilled medical malpractice lawyer will work tirelessly to prove that the injury or health complication was avoidable, and that the error caused the patient’s injuries.
- Finding a lawyer who specializes in medical malpractice cases: It is important that the patient works with a lawyer who specializes in medical malpractice, or at least dedicates a considerable percentage of his or her caseload on these types of cases. An experienced lawyer will be better able to anticipate the challenges associated with malpractice cases and collect the evidence necessary to reach a successful settlement.
- Pressure from insurance companies to accept a low settlement amount: Insurance companies are in the business of making money, so they will use any tactic they can to convince patients to accept a low settlement offer. In addition, the insurance company will not respect a lawyer who does not have a proven track record of reaching successful medical malpractice settlements for his or her clients.
- Complex and expensive litigation processes: An inexperienced law firm may not have the financial resources to see the case through litigation, which means that the client can end up bearing many of those costs. A well-established firm will work with clients on a contingency basis, which means that the client will not be responsible for paying any legal fees unless the legal team wins the case.
How can I Improve My Chances of Winning a Malpractice Lawsuit?
One step that is highly recommended, but often skipped, is to send a demand letter to the defendant. The letter provides a detailed description of the claim and includes a demand for compensation. Unfortunately, plaintiffs who do not have a skilled medical malpractice lawyer on their side do not know that a demand letter should be sent. Skipping this important step can result in a settlement offer that does not come close to covering the costs associated with the injury or health complication. A dedicated medical malpractice lawyer will ensure that a demand letter is sent. He or she will also collect all medical records, copies of medical bills and lost wages, arrange for expert witnesses to testify on behalf of the client, and ensure that the claim is filed within the statute of limitations. If the injured patient does not file the medical malpractice lawsuit within the statute of limitations, the claim will likely be denied. In Maryland, the statute of limitations for filing a medical malpractice lawsuit is five years from the date of the injury, or three years from the discovery of the injury, whichever comes first.
What are the Damages for Which I am Entitled in a Malpractice Lawsuit?
If the medical malpractice case reaches a successful outcome, the patient may recover a range of damages from medical bills to survival statutes if the patient died. The following are the types of damages that are awarded in medical malpractice cases:
- Economic damages: These are expenses that can be precisely calculated, including the following:
– Medical expenses
– Lost wages
– In Maryland, there is no cap on economic damages
- Non-economic damages: These are awarded for a reduced quality of life. There is no dollar amount that can make up for the emotional distress associated with a permanent disability caused by medical malpractice. Examples include the following:
– Pain and suffering
– Loss of consortium
– Loss of enjoyment of life
– In Maryland, the cap on non-economic damages for 2021 is $890,000.
- Punitive damages: These are awarded to punish a health care provider whose actions were particularly egregious. For example, if a surgeon was under the influence of alcohol while performing a surgical procedure, the patient may seek punitive damages.
- Wrongful death claims: These are meant to provide financial compensation to the surviving family members of a deceased person when the untimely death was caused by negligence. Wrongful death claims fall into two categories, including the following:
– Survival actions: These are meant to compensate the estate for the losses it paid related to the family member’s death. They cover funeral and burial costs, as well as medical expenses related to the death. In addition, they compensate the estate for the losses the deceased person suffered prior to his or her death.
– Wrongful death actions: These are meant to compensate the surviving family members, including the spouse, parents, and/or children of the deceased person. They cover the financial losses associated with the loved one’s untimely death, including lost wages, future earning capacity, loss of companionship, and lost support.
Baltimore Medical Malpractice Lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton Seek Justice for Victims of Medical Negligence
If you were injured while under the care of a medical professional, you are urged to contact the Baltimore medical malpractice lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton. We will work closely with you to determine whether the health care provider was negligent and ensure that you receive the maximum financial compensation you deserve for your injuries. We will continue to fight for you until you are completely satisfied. To schedule a free consultation, call us today at 800-547-4LAW (4529) or contact us online.
Our offices are conveniently located in Baltimore, Columbia, Glen Burnie, and Prince George’s County, where we represent victims throughout Maryland, including those in Anne Arundel County, Carroll County, Harford County, Howard County, Montgomery County, Prince George’s County, Queen Anne’s County, Maryland’s Western Counties, Southern Maryland and the Eastern Shore, as well as the communities of Catonsville, Essex, Halethorpe, Middle River, Rosedale, Gwynn Oak, Brooklandville, Dundalk, Pikesville, Parkville, Nottingham, Windsor Mill, Lutherville, Timonium, Sparrows Point, Ridgewood, and Elkridge.