There is a good reason why many medical malpractice lawsuits will settle before they head to court for a trial. Both the injured plaintiff and the hospital or medical professional have an incentive to reach a settlement.
For the defendant, they have an interest in avoiding a jury verdict that can take them for millions of dollars. The plaintiff also knows how difficult it is to win a medical malpractice case that goes to a jury trial.
There Are Few Plaintiff Winners at Trial
The outcome at a medical malpractice trial can be summed up like this: Plaintiffs do not often win, but when they are successful, they receive a very large award.
The statistics are not the most favorable for injured patients filing claims. There are estimates that roughly 80-90% of the trials that go to a jury without very strong evidence end up in an outcome where they do not receive any payment.
The cases could be dismissed or the jury can return a verdict in favor of the doctor. Even half of the cases with more compelling evidence could result in no verdict for the plaintiff.
Statistics have shown that doctors even with more than half of the cases where they rate the case as indefensible before the trial. Thus, there is no such thing as a “slam dunk” medical malpractice case when the jury is involved.
This begs the question: Why is it so difficult for a plaintiff to win a medical malpractice lawsuit at trial?
One of the first answers comes from the fact that many people end up plowing ahead to trial when they do not have a strong case. Usually, the plaintiff and their attorney should sit down at the outset of the case and discuss the strength of the claim.
There is nothing to say that a plaintiff cannot pursue a case if they do not have an open-and-shut case. However, a personal injury attorney would likely not take a case with weaker evidence because they will likely not end up getting paid. They are looking for strong evidence of medical negligence.
Some Malpractice Cases Do Not Proceed with the Strongest Evidence
Nonetheless, there are cases that do not settle and go to trial without the strongest evidence. This changes the perception for juries who will then end up viewing all medical malpractice cases with skepticism.
They may enter their jury service with the incorrect perception that these cases are somehow frivolous.
Some juries may just simply be on the physician’s side because their experience is to trust the average physician as the expert. They may just be skeptical of the claim.
Statistics have shown that plaintiffs have a much better chance of succeeding when their medical malpractice case goes to a judge for a bench trial as opposed to a jury.
The Negligence Standard in a Malpractice Case
Putting aside statistics and perceptions, it is difficult to prove that the healthcare provider or doctor’s company is responsible for your injuries. A medical malpractice lawsuit will use the negligence standard to determine that the defendant is liable.
There is a four-part test that must be met to show that a defendant in a civil lawsuit was negligent. These elements are:
- The defendant owed a duty of care to the plaintiff. This is not a hard thing to prove in a medical malpractice case where the doctor has a duty of care to their patients.
- The defendant did not uphold their duty of care since they did not act as a reasonable physician would under the circumstances.
- The plaintiff suffered some type of injury.
- The plaintiff would not have been injured but for the action of the doctor. This is the causation test.
It is important to remember that the burden of proof for each of these elements falls on the plaintiff. The standard of proof that they must meet is that they must prove it by a preponderance of the evidence.
Where Plaintiffs Have Difficulty in a Malpractice Claim
When it comes to a medical malpractice claim, the second and fourth parts of this test are where a plaintiff may run into some challenges. When a case goes to trial, the plaintiff will need to reconstruct the situation and walk the jury through the medical care that the plaintiff received.
They will need to compare what the doctor did versus what a reasonable physician would have done.
The plaintiff’s medical malpractice case will require working with medical expert witnesses and will involve making a scientific case to the jury with a full report of what happened. It is not always easy to demonstrate for a jury what happened, especially when a case involved complicated scientific concepts that not everyone understands.
Medical evidence can be confusing, even for people who deal with it on a daily basis.
The litigation process in a medical malpractice case can be drawn out and difficult. The defendant will likely have high-powered defense attorneys of their own and their medical malpractice insurer is likely involved in the case. This means that, if your case does go trial, you will be in for a heavy lift.
Just because a medical malpractice trial is difficult does not mean that you should avoid it at all costs. You may be left with no choice but to go in front of a jury because the defendant is not making a reasonable settlement offer for whatever reason.
However, you should adjust your expectations to know that this is when your malpractice claim can get difficult.
Always Explore the Possibility of a Settlement
There are times when you will need to go to court in order to get the justice and the compensation that you deserve. While it always makes sense to explore a possible settlement before the case goes to trial, you cannot guarantee that the defendant will be reasonable.
They may not even be allowed to make a fair settlement offer because their insurance company is limiting them.
However, from your side, you should remember that trial is not the most desired outcome in your medical malpractice lawsuit. Your medical malpractice lawyer will be able to advise you when it is best to settle your case.
You should remember that a settlement of a medical malpractice case will still be a considered a victory because you will be compensated. As a plaintiff, you should avoid the mindset of thinking that a jury needs to rule in your favor for you to get justice.
The attorneys at Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers, LLC can help you file a medical malpractice claim when you or a family member has been injured by surgeons or any other medical provider.