Medical malpractice cases involve complex legal and medical issues, often leaving victims wondering if their case will be settled out of court or proceed to trial. If you have experienced an injury due to medical malpractice, you may consider filing a medical malpractice claim and seeking a settlement through a lawsuit.
Understanding what elements influence the decision to take a case to court and the potential pros and cons can help you navigate the legal process more effectively and know what to expect for your medical malpractice case.
How Often Do Medical Malpractice Claims Go to Trial?
Perhaps surprisingly, most medical malpractice claims are resolved without ever going to trial. A 2013 study revealed that between 2005 and 2009, 96.9% of paid claims on behalf of physicians were settled outside of court, while only 3.1% proceeded to judgment in court.
Several factors contribute to this low rate, including:
- Complexity and expense: Medical malpractice cases involve challenging concepts that can be difficult for juries to grasp, and the associated litigation costs can be burdensome for both parties.
- Risk assessment: Parties assess the strengths and weaknesses of their case and opt for alternative dispute resolution if the case is weak or lacks sufficient evidence. A 2009 study found that physicians receive a favorable judgment in 80% to 90% of cases in which a victim presents weak evidence and 50% of cases in which a victim presents strong evidence.
- Settlement opportunities: Medical malpractice claims decided outside of litigation allow for settlement negotiations, providing compensation to victims, and avoiding the uncertain outcome and costs of a trial decided by a jury.
- Medical expert testimony: Expert witnesses are crucial in these cases but can be costly and introduce challenges, such as conflicting opinions, leading parties to consider settlements.
- Reputation and public image: Healthcare providers aim to protect their reputation, often preferring to resolve claims outside of court to avoid negative publicity and damage to their standing.
When Would a Medical Malpractice Case Proceed to Trial?
While most medical malpractice claims are resolved through out-of-court settlements, some circumstances make it more likely that a case will go to court. These circumstances include:
- Disputes over liability: When there is a major disagreement between the parties involved regarding who is responsible for the alleged medical negligence, a trial may be necessary to determine fault. For instance, a patient claims that a surgeon’s negligence led to complications, but the surgeon denies any wrongdoing. A trial allows both parties to present evidence to a judge or jury, who render a judgment.
- High stakes: Cases involving severe injuries, substantial damages, or wrongful death are more likely to proceed to trial. The magnitude of the harm suffered and the desire for justice and appropriate compensation can drive the injured party to pursue resolution through a trial rather than settling.
- Failed settlement attempts: Despite attempts at negotiation and alternative dispute resolution methods, some cases are unable to reach a fair settlement. When parties cannot reach a mutually agreeable compensation award, taking the case to trial becomes an option to seek a resolution and obtain just compensation.
Pros and Cons of Taking a Medical Malpractice Case to Court
While going to trial can resolve medical malpractice cases, it is essential to consider potential pros and cons. The following are general benefits and drawbacks to taking a medical malpractice claim to trial:
- Going to trial allows you to present your case to a jury and potentially receive maximum damages for the harm you suffered.
- A trial can establish public accountability, raise awareness of medical negligence, and improve patient safety measures and medical practices.
- Depending on your case, the trial can set a legal precedent that shapes future medical malpractice case outcomes and contributes to medical malpractice law development.
- Trials can be lengthy, costly, and financially burdensome processes for both parties involved in the case. On average, it takes approximately 19 months to close a claim, with non-litigated claims taking 11.6 months and litigated claims requiring more than twice that at 25.1 months.
- The outcome of a trial is uncertain and depends on various factors, such as jury composition, legal arguments, and witness credibility.
- Going to trial can be emotionally draining for the plaintiff and their family, as it may require reliving traumatic experiences and enduring a potentially adversarial process.
Get the Legal Representation You Need
If you or your loved one has been a victim of medical malpractice by a medical practitioner in Indiana, Wagner Reese can provide the guidance and support you need. Our experienced Indiana medical malpractice lawyers have a proven track record of helping victims seek the compensation necessary to move forward.
Contact us today for a free, confidential case review to learn your legal options, including guidance on taking your medical malpractice claim to trial.