Medical malpractice settlements can be huge if you win your case, but it is not an easy type of case to win by yourself. You really need a lawyer behind you if you want to take on your doctor or, more realistically, his or her insurance company.
When looking at medical malpractice settlements your first question will probably be: how much can I win? Unfortunately, this is a question that most lawyers will be unwilling to answer. Of course, they can tell you about settlements in other cases that resemble yours in some way, but you could research these for yourself on the internet.
One thing that is important to recognize is that no two cases are the same. Even if you or a loved one has suffered in a way that sounds very like another case, the circumstances of what the hospital or doctor did could be very different.
It is important to understand that in order to win a medical malpractice case, you have to show negligence on the part of one or more of the medical professionals. You cannot always claim compensation just because something went wrong. You have to prove that it was somebody’s fault.
For example, imagine that a person suffers brain damage during a routine operation. If their family could prove that the anesthetist caused this by wrongly administering anesthetic, then a lawyer would probably advise that it was worth bringing a medical malpractice case and the settlement could be very high.
But if the medical professionals did everything right, and that person just happened to have a bad reaction to the anesthetic or one of the procedures used in the operation, then you would have a hard time proving medical malpractice.
Most lawyers will tell you that medical negligence and malpractice cases are difficult to win. The burden of proof is on the plaintiff and the doctors win more than half of the cases. So you may find that lawyers are not prepared to take on your case unless it seems very strong.
Having made that clear, there are some general principles when it comes to the amounts awarded in medical malpractice settlements.
First, as you might expect, injuries that are permanently disabling tend to attract higher settlements, especially if the person will require long term medical and personal care, adjustments to living environments, etc.
Second, the highest awards usually go to younger people. This is because they will have to live with the effects of the injury for longer and will miss out on more in their lives. Children or teenagers who suffer severe brain damage, for example, might live with their disability for 60 years or more and lose the chance to ever hold down a job, have children, or enjoy many other aspects of a satisfying life. Somebody who suffers the same injury aged 80 is not considered to have lost so much.
As we have said, each case is different. Nevertheless, these are points to keep in mind when you are looking at case histories for the highest medical malpractice settlements.