Despite attorneys who may suggest that they know what they can obtain for their clients after filing a medical malpractice case, the fact is that there are too many variables to truly know how a settlement will develop or what a jury will do after hearing a malpractice case. However, an experienced medical malpractice attorney who has practiced for decades can provide a framework in which a malpractice victim may understand the potential outcomes.
How to Think about a Medical Malpractice Case Valuation
There are two different types of compensation awards when a person has been injured as the result of preventable negligence on the part of a doctor or other medical professional: settlement and a jury award. Many times, the settlement amount will be less than the amount that would have been awarded after a jury trial. There are several reasons for this. One justification for taking a potentially lower settlement amount is to bring the matter to a quick resolution. In order to reach a jury trial, it can take many years. Often, the person who suffered from the harm also is struggling with the economic consequences of a serious injury and an inability to work. A settlement can provide the security that a person need to move forward.
In addition, there always is a risk with going to trial. Although many experienced medical malpractice attorneys can provide a reasonable idea about potential outcomes, these are never guaranteed. Accepting a smaller settlement amount can avoid the risks of a jury verdict. One of the formulas that often is used in calculating a settlement offer is estimating the amount that might be reasonably awarded by a jury and then multiplying that by the statistical probability of succeeding at trial. For example, if the injuries that a person sustained might lead to a one million dollar jury verdict, but the likelihood of a successful outcome is determined to be 75 percent, then the insurance company representative may offer $750,000.00.
Assessing the Potential Value of a Case
There are many different facts that influence the amount of a settlement or jury award. However, the two issues that are involved in every analysis of a potential case value are:
- The calculation of economic or special damages – these are the damages that can be determined with a high degree of accuracy and include lost wages, medical expenses that were not covered, costs associated with ongoing treatment and rehabilitation, expenses related to accommodations for the home and vehicle of the person who was injured, payment for services that were not needed before the malpractice, and other miscellaneous costs.
The calculation of lost wages and benefits (including other forms of compensation that would have been earned but for the injury, such as pension dollars, health insurance, and paid vacation time) often involves complex accounting using actuarial tables to look far into the future, especially if the injured individual was young at the time of the malpractice. It is necessary to account for inflation and potential job advancement that could no longer be attained due to the injuries that were suffered as a result of the malpractice, so it is important to bring in the right financial experts to guide a jury through these types of calculations; and
- The calculation of harm based on pain and suffering – this is a far more difficult analysis as it looks at the physical and emotional pain of the malpractice victim. In most cases, the jury relies on its collective experience to place a value on pain and suffering. It looks at the life that the individual led prior to the malpractice compared to the reality after the avoidable injury. Many different things will factor into a jury award, including family life, type of career that might have been lost, and general activity level. Although the award for pain and suffering can be many times more than an award of economic damages, there are numerous states that have imposed a cap on the amount of pain and suffering, or non-economic damages that might be awarded.
The different types of mental harm may include:
- Emotional distress;
- Loss of enjoyment of the various activities pursued prior to the injury;
- Fear; and
- Other emotions associated with devastating harm that was entirely preventable.
There are many different things that must be considered in placing a potential value on a case in order to decide whether taking an early settlement is advisable so that the family can get back on its feet or taking the chance that the jury trial will yield a payment that more accurately reflects the harm that was done by the negligent medical professional.
Stern Law, PLLC Guides Its Clients in Making Difficult Choices
It is impossible to know how a medical malpractice injury will impact an individual and his or her family, just as it is impossible to know exactly what amount will be offered at settlement or awarded by a jury. However, experienced medical malpractice attorneys, such as those at Stern Law, PLLC, can provide enough information for our clients to make the right decisions for them. We have spent more than 30 years working hard to get the best results possible for our clients. In addition, we offer resources to those who may have questions or concerns about medical malpractice, with 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.