Determining Settlement Value of Medical Malpractice Cases

There are many different concerns impacting those contemplating medical treatment or surgical procedures, but most people do not think about how they will live if they are severely injured as a result of a preventable medical mistake made by a doctor, nurse, or other healthcare provider. In those instances where a mistake is made and the consequences are tragic, many victims and their loved ones realize exactly how hard it is to manage under the new reality of physical limitations and economic strain. In pursuing a medical malpractice case, those who have suffered harm often realize that the hurdles are high and the time to a jury award after lengthy trial is too long to wait for the necessary financial relief. This is one of the main reasons why many cases resolve through a settlement with the medical professional’s liability carrier rather than proceed through a trial.

Calculating Settlement Value

In determining whether to settle a case, it is necessary to consider the various types of damages that may be awarded, including economic or special damages, which are calculated based on actual losses that can be measured, non-economic damages, often referred to as pain and suffering, and punitive damages. There are several important issues to take note of when considering damages, which include the fact that many states have imposed strict limitations, called damages caps, on the amount of damages that may be awarded in a medical malpractice case. In addition, many states do not permit the award of punitive damages and for those that do, they only may be awarded in cases where the doctor or other medical professional was extremely negligent or reckless.

When a person is deciding to pursue a medical malpractice case, it is important to consider how much the case may be worth at trial in order to determine whether or not to settle the case before going to trial. Many times, the representatives will offer a settlement amount that is a percentage of the amount that the parties believe will be awarded at trial, if the plaintiff is successful.

The reduction in the amount of the settlement from what might be awarded by a jury usually is based on a calculation of the chance of success at trial, which is determined through the use of complex formulas and the history of jury verdicts.

For example, a person may have been injured when a doctor did not diagnose a medical condition in a reasonable amount of time, leading to serious injury that would have been prevented if the doctor had acted in a prudent and competent manner. Based on the information available to the insurance company providing medical malpractice coverage for the doctor, the insurance company may determine that a jury is likely to award $250,000.00 for the injury and that the plaintiff has a 50 percent chance of succeeding if he goes to trial. Therefore, the insurance company representative likely will offer $125,000.00 to settle the case. This amount may increase if more information concerning the liability of the healthcare provider is discovered before trial. However, it also may decrease if there are other factors that may have made the doctor’s actions seem to be more reasonable or if there is evidence that the plaintiff is not as affected by the harm as initially believed.

Economic damages look at evidence of earnings, take into account the physical expenditures that are incurred as a result of the injury, and use actuarial charts to look into the future. Non-economic damages also must be included in the calculation of potential jury awards in order to arrive at reasonable estimates for settlement purposes. Since pain and suffering are hard to quantify, juries often rely on personal experience to reach an amount for these damages. Insurance company adjusters may estimate pain and suffering damages based on what previous juries have done in similar cases, calculate the potential for a positive outcome for the plaintiff at trial, and then propose a specific settlement amount.

Many victims of severe malpractice are surprised to learn about how the push for tort reform has limited their ability to recover after a serious mistake by a doctor that was completely avoidable with the exercise of reasonable care. Limiting the amount of non-economic damages means that much of the mental pain that they suffer for many years after the physical injury is not compensated.

Punitive Damages

If there has been especially egregious behavior on the part of the doctor or other healthcare provider, it may be possible to recover punitive damages, which are intended as a punishment for the individual who made the mistake and typically are awarded by the judge, rather than the jury. These damages only are available in certain jurisdictions and it requires intentional conduct or gross negligence, so the award of these damages are not common and should not impact a person’s decision on whether or not to settle a case.

Stern Law, PLLC Advocates to Achieve the Right Results for Its Clients

At Stern Law, PLLC, our medical malpractice attorney has fought for the rights and interests of our clients for more than 30 years. We understand the devastation that medical malpractice can wreak on a family and we act in the best interests of our clients in order to ensure that they have the compensation that they need to pay bills, obtain ongoing medical care, and live the best lives possible after a serious mistake by a healthcare provider. In addition, we offer resources and information about medical malpractice and the various options for those who may be impacted by a terrible mistake; we have compassionate and committed staff available to answer questions 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Call us at 1-844-808-7529 or fill out an online contact form in order to learn how we can help you get through this difficult time.

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