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Will Your Medical Malpractice Suit Go to Trial?

Gavel with Medical Suit and Stethoscope
If you're currently considering a medical malpractice suit, you may be wondering whether you're going to have to go to trial. Giving testimony, talking in front of jurors, and being cross-examined may sound like an exhausting experience, but the truth is that very few cases are going to come to that. 
How Many Medical Malpractice Suits Go to Trial?
Less than 10 percent of medical malpractice suits actually go to trial. The other 90% are settled before it reaches court, with the average settlement being around $425,000. For the most part, it's very unlikely that a medical malpractice suit will see the inside of the courtroom.
Why Might You Want to Go to Trial?
A settlement is fast and easy, but there are reasons why you might actually want your medical malpractice suit to go to trial. Though the process of testifying can seem intimidating, it can also pay off. If your attorney believes you should go to trial, it's for a reason.
Those with particularly strong medical malpractice suits virtually always want to go to trial, because jury awards tend to be significantly more on average than settlements. There are also some cases that are simply more sympathetic in a jury's eyes. 
Some settlements are offered by opposing attorneys to avoid court. A physician's lawyer may believe they would win in a jury trial, but may not want to go through that trial. Other settlements are offered because the opposing attorney knows a jury is going to award more. The average jury award is over $1 million.
If you have a very strong claim, you will almost always be better served by going to court.
Does a Settlement Mean You're Getting Less Than You Deserve?
Taking a settlement is not necessarily underselling yourself. Some medical malpractice cases can be difficult to prove, and consequently going to a jury trial could be risky. A settlement is a sure thing, especially if there is not a substantial amount of evidence available.
Settlements are also faster. A settlement gives you money now, to pay off the medical bills that may still be accruing. The psychological benefit of this is not without value, as you won't need to worry about whether or not you're going to be able to pay your future medical bills or compensate yourself for future wages.
Settlements can also be substantial. Hospitals and physicians don't always offer settlements because they are trying to dodge a higher jury payout. Occasionally, a hospital may offer a settlement because they are already aware that they were wrong. In this situation, they may work with you to find the fair amount. Some high profile settlements include:
  • In 2014, the City of New York and EMS paid out $172 million to Tiffany Applewhite, after an EMS ambulance answered a 911 call without the equipment that they needed. This incident left the 29-year-old plaintive paralyzed and with brain damage. 
  • In 2011, Dr. Mark Holterman settled for $30 million after a child, born with non-life-threatening conditions, was subjected to multiple allegedly unproven techniques which ultimately led to cerebral palsy and brain damage.
Settlements are still negotiated by legal professionals; they simply sidestep the court process. When it isn't a question whether the hospital or physician was at fault, there may not be a need for a jury trial at all. 
Should your medical malpractice suit be settled? Or should it go to trial? It's all case specific, especially with something as complex as medical malpractice. To find out more about your individual medical malpractice case, contact the Law Offices of David A. Helfand, P.A. for a consultation.

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