When Should I Consider a Claim for Medical Malpractice?

Nearly 98,000 Americans die each year as a result of medical errors. However, not every bad outcome means that malpractice was committed. How are you supposed to know the difference between a medical error caused by negligence and a bad outcome caused by an unfortunate risk or complication of a procedure? Moreover, if medical negligence is involved is a claim really worth pursuing?

Medical malpractice cases are some of the most expensive and difficult cases to pursue in litigation. Statistically speaking, of those cases that do go to trial each year in this country, almost two-thirds of them result in a verdict in favor of the health care provider. That means the malpractice victims only win in one-third of the cases.

Because of the difficulty and expense involved in these cases most experienced attorneys who handle medical malpractice cases use some preset criteria to help them decide whether or not to take on your potential case. Most attorneys realize that the case can be won or lost in the screening process they use to decide whether or not to take the case.

The first factor that must be considered is the nature of the alleged malpractice and the severity and permanency of the injury. If a nurse forgot to give the patient his tylenol at a certain time and gave it later without any consequences then a medical malpractice case should not be seriously considered. Rude physicians or nurses should not form the basis for a suit.

Remember, most jurisdictions require the losing party (not the attorney) to pay the costs of the winning party. In a medical malpractice case these costs could easily approach $50,000. Cases which are based on anger, vendettas or which cannot be supported by evidence have no place in the legal system.

In deciding whether or not you have a potential medical malpractice claim you should seek the advice of an experienced medical malpractice attorney. Many attorneys "dabble" in this type of law without seriously devoting the resources to handling these cases the way they should be handled. Make sure your attorney's credentials reflect his medical malpractice experience.

The degree of injury and amount of damages are very important considerations. Even if malpractice occurred, a party who must undergo additional procedures and expenses may be fortunate enough to fully recover from the malpractice. Unless the medical expenses are very high and the period of suffering longer than a year, the recoverable damages will probably dictate that a case should not be brought.

It does not make economic sense for a lawyer or victim to spend $50,000 pursuing a claim worth $50,000. However, when the malpractice has caused a permanent and serious injury, a claim should be seriously considered. One of the factors to consider is whether the medical condition of the victim was such that a bad outcome was going to occur anyway. This may be seen in cases involving bad nursing care of terminally ill patients. Moreover, failing to diagnose cancer in a patient that had no chance of survival by the time the delay in diagnosis occurred is another example of a case that may not make sense to pursue.

In terms of taking on new cases, most experienced medical malpractice attorneys will tell you that for every case they take, they turn down at least ten to fifteen other cases that they do not take. This does not mean that you are wrong to consider bringing a case for suspected medical malpractice. It simply underscores the need to have the potential case reviewed by an experienced medical malpractice attorney.