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What are the Challenges of a Medical Negligence Lawsuit?

August 12, 2021

The average payout in a medical malpractice lawsuit in the United States is about $242,000. The median (or middle number) value of a medical malpractice settlement is $250,000. In contrast, the average jury verdict in malpractice cases for the plaintiff is a little more than $1 million. However, in Michigan, there is a limitation on noneconomic damages in medical malpractice claims. These are damages or loss due to pain, suffering, inconvenience, physical impairment, or physical disfigurement, loss of society and companionship, the loss of consortium, or other noneconomic loss.

Most medical malpractice lawsuits result in defense verdicts, which means the physician, surgeon, hospital, or other health care provider was successful at the trial after the jury heard and considered all the evidence. Because of this, there are a number of challenges in a medical malpractice case for plaintiffs.

Proving Each of the Elements of a Medical Negligence Case

It’s much more difficult to prove that a physician’s actions or inaction amounted to medical negligence than it may appear. An experienced medical malpractice attorney may not have much of a case, meaning that the facts do not readily demonstrate that the physician, surgeon, hospital, or other health care provider was in fact negligent in their care or treatment of the plaintiff victim. The plaintiff’s attorney may not have a sponge left in the victim’s body after an operation or a knee replacement on the wrong knee.

Instead, there may be nothing more on which to base the claim but the medical records, lab results, and the doctor’s notes. There many be no witnesses to the treatment that caused the injury. As a result, an experienced Michigan medical malpractice attorney will have to engage qualified medical experts who can review the course of treatment, identify what the Defendant did or didn’t do, and demonstrate what the health care provider should have done, according to the appropriate medical standard of care.

The legal elements of medical malpractice you must have to bring a case in Michigan are:

  • The healthcare provider breached the standard or care;
  • The injury was caused by the breach; and
  • The injury resulted in damages.

Along with medical experts, the patient’s medical malpractice attorney will attempt to prove each of these elements.

A Major Challenge is Proving the Patient’s Injury was Caused by the Breach

A plaintiff must show that each of the elements are met, and in many cases, the lawsuit hinges on showing that the physician’s breach actually caused the injury. For example, a doctor may have failed to diagnose an illness early on in the treatment; however, the plaintiff doesn’t have the evidence to prove that this in fact caused her injuries or that her injuries were more severe because of this oversight. There may be many factors that can cause an injury. The patient’s medical malpractice attorney will support his case with expert witnesses who can provide an educated opinion as to whether the defendants caused the patient’s injuries. This challenge can be difficult and can be a critical factor in how to move forward in the case—whether to settle or prepare for trial.

Convincing a Jury that the Physician was Negligent

Not only must the legal elements of negligence be proven, but the patient’s medical malpractice attorney must convince the jury to award appropriate compensation to the patient. Again, this is where an experienced medical malpractice attorney is vital to a case. An attorney with a track record of success can offer a compelling argument based on the evidence present as to why the patient deserves a verdict in her favor and for the amount she’s seeking.

How Does My Attorney Value My Claim?

One of the big challenges in a medical malpractice case is determining whether it makes economic sense to pursue, that is trying to decide if it will cost more than can be recovered.

First, a potential plaintiff in a medical malpractice lawsuit must know that there are two ways to value a medical malpractice case (or any type of personal injury case): the settlement value and the trial value. The settlement value is the amount of money for which your Michigan attorney would reasonably try to settle your case. The amount is much less than the trial value. That’s because when a victim settles a medical malpractice case, they are not taking the risk of going to trial and losing, in which case they would get nothing.

In contrast, the trial value is what a plaintiff would reasonably expect to win if your medical malpractice attorney took the case to the courtroom. For example, if you believe that, if you went to trial and won, the jury would award you $1,000,000—but you only have a 25% chance of winning—a patient may want to settle her case for $250,000 (or 25% of what is reasonably expected in a successful jury verdict). In other words, a case’s settlement value is roughly the trial value multiplied by the estimated chances of winning the trial.

Takeaway

In addition, a patient must also weigh the financial, emotional, and practical costs of moving forward with a trial. So there is a lot to consider for both the attorney and the client.

If you or a loved one has suffered harm due to an injury or complication you believe was an error by the physician, surgeon, or hospital, contact an experienced medical malpractice attorney at Buchanan Firm in Michigan for a free consultation. We can discuss your situation if you believe you’ve been injured as the result of medical malpractice.

Our firm proudly serves people all across Michigan, including major cities like Grand Rapids, Muskegon, Detroit, Lansing, Holland, St. Joe, and Ann Arbor, and rural towns such as Lowell, Ada, Fremont, Newaygo, Grand Haven, Rockford, and Cedar Springs. We will meet you after-hours, at home or in the hospital to accommodate you.

Contact us today!