The odds of winning a medical malpractice suit depend on various factors, including the strength of your case, the integrity of the evidence, and your attorney's expertise. If you sustained injuries due to a medical professional's negligence and can prove it, the odds can be high.
Doctors and medical institutions carry malpractice liability insurance. The majority of malpractice cases settle during negotiations with the lawyer assigned by the insurance company. With the right negotiation expert in your corner, it is possible to achieve a sizable settlement without taking the case to trial.
Let's look at the odds of winning a medical malpractice suit.
Factors That Affect the Odds of Winning a Medical Malpractice Lawsuit
The medical malpractice case can seem straightforward when you get hurt due to a doctor's negligence. In reality, doctors and hospitals do everything they can to avoid giving you compensation.
Even in cases of gross surgical negligence, when surgeons operate on the wrong organ or remove the wrong limb, their lawyers still fight to avoid damage recovery.
Your odds of settling the case or winning a trial depend on many factors, including:
Strength of Your Evidence
Evidence plays a significant role in any type of lawsuit. The strength of your evidence can dictate whether the case settles out of the courtroom or proceeds to trial.
To convince the at-fault party's lawyers to offer you a fair settlement, you must develop a powerful argument backed by evidence.
Common evidence in a medical malpractice lawsuit includes:
- Medication administration records
- Prescription records
- Doctors' and nurses' notes and reports
- Hospital records
- Lab reports
- Treatment plans
- X-rays, CT scans, MRT reports, and other diagnostics test results
To recover damages, you would also need to show that you sustained them. This means providing bills and records demonstrating how much you spent on treatment and recovery.
An attorney can help you gather relevant evidence and instruct you on how to collect medical records.
Expert Witness Testimony
Expert witness testimony is an integral part of any medical practice lawsuit. An expert witness testifies about the treatment you received and how it failed to meet quality standards.
When you sue for medical malpractice, you need to prove that another medical professional would have acted differently in the same circumstances and avoided inflicting injuries. This is only possible by hiring an expert witness.
Finding an expert witness to help your medical malpractice lawsuit is not always easy. An attorney helps retain such witnesses for your case.
Your ability to prove the at-fault party's negligence is the pillar of a medical malpractice lawsuit.
Proving negligence includes demonstrating that:
- You had a doctor-patient relationship with the at-fault party. This is usually easy if you receive treatment in a medical setting. If you receive a negligent consultation over a cup of coffee, the doctor can argue that they do not owe you a legal dirty of care.
- The doctor breached a legal duty of care by choosing a course of action that a reasonable doctor would not. This is the part where expert witness testimony comes in.
- The doctor's breach of a legal duty of care led to your injuries.
- Injuries led to damages.
For example, during surgery (done in a medical setting, thus there is a doctor-patient relationship), the surgeon nicked a nearby organ (an action another reasonable doctor would not take) and caused internal bleeding (injuries) that resulted in longer recovery time, expensive treatment, lost wages, and more (damages).
Statute of Limitations
The statute of limitations regulates the time you have to file a medical malpractice lawsuit. When this time is over, the odds of winning the case are extremely low because the judge will likely dismiss it on the spot.
In Illinois, the statute of limitations for medical malpractice lawsuits is two years from the time of the incident. However, if the consequences are not apparent immediately, you can file a lawsuit after discovering them. In such a case, you have four years from the date of the error to file a claim.
Two years may seem to be a long time. However, when you delay legal action, you lose an opportunity to gather fresh evidence. The earlier your attorney can start working on the case, the higher the odds of getting fair compensation.
In medical malpractice cases, the victim faces a team of attorneys hired by the doctor's or hospital's insurance company. These lawyers do everything they can to avoid paying you money. Going up against them without legal experience usually means losing the case.
Hiring a medical malpractice attorney can improve your odds of winning a malpractice suit. These professionals know how to handle such cases during negotiations and in court.
A knowledgeable attorney can:
- Help you collect evidence
- Find and hire expert witnesses
- Negotiate with the at-fault party's lawyers
- File all the necessary paperwork on time
- Consult you on all the elements of legal action.
A lawyer can also tell you whether it is worth taking the case to trial or settling for the amount offered as a settlement.
What if the Case Proceeds to Trial?
According to a study by the U.S. Department of Justice, 95 percent of medical malpractice cases settle before trial.
While most medical malpractice claims settle out of court, some still proceed to trial. This usually happens when the at-fault party refuses to settle for the amount requested by the plaintiff.
If the settlement offered by the other side is unfair, your attorney can recommend going to court. While presenting your case to the judge and jury gives you another chance of winning a lawsuit, the odds are not always high.
According to research based on 20 years of medical malpractice lawsuits, doctors win 80 percent to 90 percent of jury trials with weak evidence and 50 percent of trials with strong evidence.
If your evidence is strong enough, you can go to trial.
Keep in mind that each medical malpractice case is unique. Your attorney can evaluate the odds of winning the case and give you an opportunity to choose whether to go to trial or accept a lower settlement.
A medical malpractice attorney with trial experience can improve your odds of winning a medical malpractice lawsuit or give you valuable advice on how to proceed to maximize the settlement.
Should You Avoid a Trial?
Many people are worried about going to trial because there are no guarantees of winning it. Even the most knowledgeable and experienced lawyer cannot guarantee a positive outcome for your case.
However, if avoiding a trial means settling for unfair compensation, an attorney can recommend facing the jury.
If you have strong evidence and an experienced lawyer on your side, the odds of winning a malpractice suit are higher than average.
How to Maximize Your Medical Malpractice Settlement
If you were hurt by a medical professional's negligent actions, you could seek:
- Economic damages; and
- Non-economic damages
While economic damages are straightforward and backed by tangible evidence, non-economic damages are more complicated.
Non-economic damages are compensation for your loss of quality of life that follows a negligent error, such as:
- Loss of consortium
- Emotional anguish
- Loss of enjoyment of life
If you can prove that you are entitled to these damages, the size of your compensation can increase dramatically.
Judges generally use the multiplier method to determine the amount of non-economic damages. This method bases your non-economic damages on the amount of economic damages.
For example, if your economic damages are $100,000, the judge can apply a multiplier (usually between 1.5 and 5) to calculate non-economic damages. Accordingly, you can get up to $500,000 in non-economic damages. The size of the multiplier usually depends on the extent of your injuries.
Is There a Cap on Non-Economic Damages?
The Illinois Supreme Court ruled caps on medical malpractice claims unconstitutional, so you can recover the full costs of your damages.
What to Do When You Become a Medical Malpractice Victim
Getting hurt by someone you trust to keep you healthy is not just hurtful and upsetting. It can change your entire life. Seeking compensation for medical malpractice is essential for the victim and the rest of that doctor's or hospital's patients.
If you suspect you are a medical malpractice victim, it is essential to take action immediately. You only have a certain amount of time to file a lawsuit. If you do not do it according to the statute of limitations, you can lose the chance to recover compensation.
The law of Illinois does not require you to hire an attorney to file a medical malpractice lawsuit. However, without legal assistance, winning the case can be nearly impossible.
Many medical malpractice attorneys in Chicago offer free initial consultations and case evaluations. Take advantage of this option to determine how to proceed with your situation.
Many medical malpractice victims delay legal action because they focus on recovery. The longer you wait, the fewer chances you have of recovering fair compensation.
Is It Hard to Prove Medical Malpractice?
Proving medical malpractice is never easy. Since these lawsuits often result in large settlements and reputational issues for doctors, at-fault parties fight hard to prevent victims from proving negligence.
No two medical malpractice lawsuits are alike. Some are more complex than others. For example, it is much harder to prove a misdiagnosis than a surgical error. Things that may interfere with establishing medical malpractice include:
Standard of Care
The entire medical malpractice case depends on the definition of the standard of care. You need to prove that the doctor's actions fell below the standard of care. However, there is no clear definition of what that standard of care is for each case. It may be different for every doctor.
You can claim that you received treatment according to a low standard of care, while the doctor may argue otherwise. An expert witness who should help determine who is right may have a third opinion.
Cause of the Injury
You need to prove that the doctor's actions resulted in the injuries you sustained. This can be easy to verify if the doctor nicks an organ during surgery. However, proving that the wrong prescription caused side effects is much more challenging.
If you have various medical conditions and take several medications, it can be hard to prove that a specific prescription caused your injuries.
Expert Witness Testimony
While you rely on a certain expert witness to help prove your case, the at-fault party can hire witnesses with other opinions. It will be up to the jury to decide which expert to believe.
Eventually, they could end up believing the wrong witness and ruling against the victim. People tend to trust doctors and their opinions. That is why choosing the right one can be complicated.
No matter how hard jurors try, they are likely to have biased opinions that may not work in your favor.
Do You Have a Chance to Win a Medical Malpractice Lawsuit?
If you sustained injuries due to the doctor's or hospital's negligence, you have the right to seek compensation. You may accept a settlement offered by the at-fault party or go to trial if you do not agree with the amount.
If you have strong evidence and an experienced attorney on your side, you have an opportunity to win a medical malpractice lawsuit. The faster you start legal action, the more chances you have of achieving the desired outcome.