How Much Is a Medical Malpractice Claim? A Closer Look
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Pursuing a medical malpractice claim is never something that should happen without a lot of consideration. It’s a process that can derail a physician’s career. You may also end up bankrupting yourself if you lose the case.
Before you even get started, you should figure out whether or not it’s worth the cost. Out-of-pocket costs are usually covered by your attorney, but they don’t cover everything. There are also considerations such as transportation and money lost from missing work.
Here’s how much it may cost you to pursue a malpractice claim and what to expect throughout the process.
Medical Malpractice Claim Types
Medical malpractice happens when there has been some violation of the standard of care or injury due to negligence. In some cases, significant damage by a physician can also leave them liable despite their best intentions.
Some of the most common types of medical malpractice include misdiagnosis, delayed diagnoses, and negligence.
If a doctor fails to diagnose their patient properly, then that means their treatment will most likely prove insufficient or incorrect. This will result in the patient’s illness worsening, leading to permanent injury or death.
Even when your doctor eventually finds the right diagnosis, it may be too late. A delayed diagnosis often happens when they fail to order certain routine tests or mistakenly attribute symptoms to something like a person’s weight.
Negligent failure to treat a patient happens most often when a doctor takes on too many patients or has a partner quit their practice. A patient’s appointment can be pushed back or it may take longer to see results from tests.
All of these different types of malpractice can and will affect the amount of work your lawyer will have to do and how much evidence is required in court.
Lawyer Contingency Fees
The lawyer’s contingency fee refers to their cut of your court award or settlement when you win your case. Under this agreement, a malpractice lawyer won’t expect you to pay any legal fees if you go to court and lose. However, this also means that most malpractice lawyers won’t represent you unless they see it as a valid claim.
There is no common amount to how much a lawyer can charge you. However, they usually accept a third of your award when you win.
Some states do limit how much a malpractice attorney can receive as regulated by statute. In New York, that 30% applies to anything under $250,000. That percentage decreases as the expected payout rises.
While this sounds like hiring a malpractice lawyer is completely free, that would be an incorrect assumption. There are additional expenses that go into the legal process that may dissuade you from pursuing the lawsuit in the first place.
When a malpractice attorney represents you in malpractice law, they don’t do so alone. One of the biggest expenses in one of these lawsuits is expert witnesses. Expert witnesses are individuals who have special knowledge in a particular field that are hired to help you make your case.
There are some expert witnesses that charge hundreds to thousands of dollars per hour to review documents and later testify on the stand. The total amount of hours they may put into your case can end up being over 20 hours, at the very least.
Additionally, your lawyer will have to obtain medical records from hospitals. If your injury is serious, you may not be able to work throughout the lawsuit. Even if you can work, you’ll have to call out of work to make meetings and court dates.
Representing yourself is one way to avoid these case expenses, but it’s not recommended. Even though you won’t have to pay a lawyer, you don’t have nearly as much experience in the courtroom or knowledge about the law.
Factors Determining Damages
Before determining damages, a person must prove medical malpractice to claim compensation. The four elements of malpractice include a preexisting doctor-patient relationship, breach of duty, causation, and demonstrable harm.
In other words, your doctor did something wrong that caused further damage, you can prove. The amount of damage caused determines the amount you can justifiably claim.
Allergic reactions caused by medication, misdiagnosed conditions, and minor injuries can result in a settlement of up to $10,000. Medical errors requiring additional procedures and recovery can net you a higher settlement value. This can range anywhere from $30,000 to $100,000 depending on your recovery time.
On the higher end, you have cases where the result was a miscarriage, leaving items inside an individual, and errors leading to severe scarring or damage. These claims often lead to settlements of over $100,000.
Lawsuits resulting in settlements of over $1 million usually deal with an extremely serious case of malpractice, such as permanent injuries and disabilities. They may even include death.
How Long It Can Take
In very rare cases, a malpractice lawsuit can reach a settlement in a matter of months. On average, you’re looking at a commitment of two to three years. There are also some much more serious and comprehensive cases that can take up to a decade.
The longer a lawsuit is, the more work an attorney will have to put in. Since they won’t get paid their full fee until a settlement is reached, there’s a risk of an attorney dropping your case. If that happens, you would have to look for another attorney to pick up where they left off.
After a resolution has been reached, you can either accept the settlement as a lump sum or in structured payments.
Claim What You Deserve
A medical malpractice claim is a long and expensive process. You have to handle attorney expenses alongside medical treatments as a result of a doctor’s negligence. There’s also the number of days you have to call out of work or miss entirely due to your injury.
It only makes sense that you’d want to make back what you spent and more from your settlement.
The Office of Brian Cummings has over 20 years of litigation experience handling medical malpractice. Our office handles the process so you can focus on your daily life. Feel free to reach out with any of your questions or comments regarding our services.