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Ask a Medical Malpractice Lawyer: How Often Does a Case Get Settled Out of Court?

On Behalf of | Aug 1, 2021 | Medical Malpractice

A medical malpractice lawyer can help you seek financial recovery from the doctor or hospital responsible for your injury. This is pretty straightforward, but what’s more complex is knowing whether your Baltimore case will settle or go to court. Because each case is unique, yours will need to be carefully reviewed to identify which course is best for you

Ask a Baltimore Medical Malpractice Lawyer: How Often Does a Case Get Settled Out of Court?

Over 90% of all medical malpractice cases settle out of court within two years of the claim being filed. In these cases, mediation, negotiations, or settlement conferences lead to an agreement on the amount of money to be paid to the plaintiff. This stands in stark contrast to dramatic television depictions, in which heated courtroom arguments always ensue. A mere 7% of medical malpractice cases end with jury verdicts.

Most insurance companies prefer to settle rather than enter into a complicated and lengthy trial proceeding that can leave them liable for a much larger judgment. Likewise, patients are often eager to quickly receive compensation and avoid a difficult legal process that can drain their energy over a span of several years.

Which Option Is Right for You?

This depends on the amount of damages you’re seeking and the overall strength of your case. Some cases are better suited to going to trial, while others can be easily settled outside of the courtroom. Settling guarantees you will receive some level of compensation for your losses and injuries, but it may not provide the level of compensation available from a successful trial.

The possibility exists, however, that a trial may garner zero compensation if the judge or jury rules against your case. And the compensation payouts in each Baltimore negligence case vary greatly depending on a plaintiff’s injuries. To illustrate, one case may settle for $242,000 while another might settle for around $425,000. A jury award, meanwhile, may exceed $1 million.

Every Case Is Different

We understand that a million-dollar figure looks attractive, but keep in mind – again – that every case is different. Your settlement or verdict awards may be less or more than the numbers provided here. These figures are only offered as examples.

This is why your medical malpractice lawyer should spend considerable time combing through your medical records and speaking with healthcare experts. Once all of the evidence is collected, it must be used to substantiate a monetary award your lawyer feels is consistent with your injuries. Together, the two of you can then decide which payout course is right for you.

Benefits of Settling Out of Court

Settling provides both parties with greater control over the outcome of the case. Unlike trials, in which nobody knows what the judge or jury will rule, settlements cannot be revisited or appealed. Accepting an offer from the insurance company effectively closes the case.

Here’s how settlement works: the plaintiff accepts a sum of money offered by the defendant. This is often the result of lengthy negotiations between your lawyer and the defendant’s insurance provider. In exchange for that money, the plaintiff agrees to release the defendant from additional liability. In turn, the case never makes it to a judge or jury.

A Guaranteed Pay-Out

The settlement also guarantees that you receive compensation for your damages. Going to court, as we mentioned a moment ago, is risky. A jury may award you a substantial amount of money, less than you’re asking for, or even nothing at all. Avoiding this uncertainty provides both sides with greater peace of mind. It also allows you to decide when negotiations end – or, rather, when the settlement offer sounds equitable enough to accept.

A Shorter Timeframe

Settling can typically resolve your case much more quickly than the time required to proceed with a trial. Personal injury cases can persist for several years if they go to court. The trial itself may last as long as a week, and in the end, the verdict can be appealed by either side. This further extends the time. A party will choose to appeal because they feel the judge made an error in overseeing the case.

If the defendant appeals, there is a chance the appeals court will indeed find the judge ruled in error. A new trial may then be required, which demands still more time. A settlement, on the other hand, can be reached at any time – even before the lawsuit is actually filed. This can eliminate the need for court preparation, a labor-intensive discovery phase, and stressful depositions.

Fewer Expenses

The processes we just mentioned can be very costly. To illustrate, the discovery phase requires mediation fees and the presence of experts. Some attorneys initially cover these costs and then seek reimbursement from the final damage award, assuming the case prevails. Other times, a plaintiff must pay upfront for pretrial discovery expenses. You must also account for time away from work and the cost of travel.

Settling before trial reduces, if not eliminates, many expenses. In fact, the rule of thumb indicates the sooner a case settles, the less expensive it is overall.

Reduced Stress

In addition to evading the stress of placing your case into a jury’s hands, settling out of court is likely to cause much less anxiety in general. You may very well be called to testify if your case proceeds to trial. This means you’ll need to tell your side to the judge and jury and endure the court’s scrutiny. During cross-examination, the defendant’s lawyer may argue you’re not credible and topple your case. In other words, the trial process can be riddled with angst.

Less Publicity

Baltimore trials are public record, meaning anyone can review the court documents after the case is finished. In contrast, settlement negotiations are not part of the public record and final documents may even include a confidentiality clause. The degree of privacy a settlement can afford may further reduce your stress.

Calculating the Value of a Medical Malpractice Case

It takes time to identify the true value of an injury in dollars and cents. But this is part of your medical malpractice lawyer’s job and helps determine whether a settlement offer is fair or not. Economic losses include tangible items like:

  • Present and future medical bills
  • Loss of income now and in the future
  • Costs associated with care, including in-home aides and physical therapists
  • Costs for accommodations, such as making a home handicapped-accessible

Non-economic damages are harder to calculate because they’re designed to compensate for intangible losses like pain and suffering. Maryland law also allows plaintiffs to be compensated for non-economic damages like mental anguish, inconvenience, and disfigurement. Many times, lawyers look to recent court verdicts and settlements to find similar cases that help properly calculate non-economic damages.

Maryland and Damage Caps

It’s important to know Maryland caps the amount of money a victim of healthcare negligence can receive for non-economic damages. The cap is based on the year in which the negligence occurred. Economic damages, on the other hand, have no cap in place. Any award can therefore be given for proven expenses.

If you or a loved one is suffering because of medical malpractice, it’s time to contact an experienced attorney. Our practice boasts a history of success and tradition of service. To learn how we can help with your case, and to schedule your free consultation, contact Peter Angelos Law today.