First off, I want to thank the readers who have responded to the previous post – that’s the whole point of writing a blog; giving help or advice or just providing a place to sound off on a hot topic. Judging by the response here, as well as what I see in my own practice, this is a hot topic indeed.
To be perfectly honest, the deck is stacked against the victims of medical malpractice. The public (the same people who end up on a jury) is under a constant assault of propoganda from the medical lobbies and insurance industry trying to convince them that medical malpractice is a myth, that trial lawyers get rich by bringing frivolous claims (see Jim Reed’s previous article regarding this topic) against innocent doctors, and that these same trial lawyers are causing doctors to abandon certain practice areas and states in droves leaving people without adequate medical care. Needless to say, none of this true. In fact, the opposite is closer to the truth.
Medical malpractice is easily the most complicated, most expensive, and most heavily defended type of trial work we do. In almost every other type of case if you show the insurance company that you have a strong case, they will at least talk with you about a reasonable settlement at some point short of the court house steps. This is not the case with medical malpractice cases, though. These cases are defended to the death, and settlement discussions never occur until the case is trial ready, and ususally not until the jury has already been picked. Medical malpractice cases are expensive, too. We routinely spend $50,000.00 dollars or more on expert witnesses, pre-trial depositions and exhibits to be used in court, and have spent as much as $80,000.00 on a single case. Part of the reason these cases are so difficult to settle is because malpractice insurance policies are written differently that just about every other type of insurance, in that the doctor’s permission is required for the insurance company to settle the case. Since a malpractice award has the potential to affect a doctor’s medical license, the doctors routinely refuse to permit a settlement until the last minute.
Knowing that we are going to have such a significant investment in the case, we have to be careful about the cases we accept. Handling medical malpractice cases is a good way to lose your shirt if you don’t know what you are doing. The very unfortunate result is that we are sometimes forced to decline cases even where we believe malpractice has occurred simply because there are insufficient damages to justify bringing the case. This is exactly the way the insurance industry and doctors lobbies like it. In fact, they are constantly trying to make it even harder to bring malpractice cases, most recently by pushing states to enact “tort reform ” bills, usually in the form of caps on damages.
In case you can’t tell from this long post, the actions of the insurance industry and medical lobbies has us fuming. You should be, too!
Thanks for reading,
Adam M. Gee, Esq.