​What Is the Average Settlement for Medical Malpractice?

Average Settlement for Medical Malpractice
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If a medical provider’s mistake or misconduct harmed you, you may pursue a medical malpractice claim for damages. Through a settlement, court judgment, or jury award achieved on your behalf by a skilled medical malpractice lawyer, you could recover significant compensation for your pain, anguish, expense, and loss of income.

The amount you can expect to recover will depend on various factors unique to your case. The average amount of medical malpractice settlements and court awards generally cannot tell you much about the potential value of your claim. Instead, the most reliable way to learn how much you can hope to obtain is to consult with an experienced medical malpractice attorney as soon as possible.

Overview of Medical Malpractice Claims

Medical mistakes happen frequently, generally because of a provider’s negligence or incompetence. If a healthcare worker’s failure to provide an acceptable standard of medical care harms you or a loved one, you may have a medical malpractice claim. Here are some common scenarios in which that can happen.

Misdiagnosis

Patients trust doctors to diagnose their conditions correctly. A mistaken or delayed diagnosis because of a medical worker’s negligence can amount to actionable malpractice.

About 12 million patients receive a misdiagnosis during outpatient care every year in the United States, and past research suggests millions more are misdiagnosed in inpatient settings. Each misdiagnosis presents the possibility that a patient will receive unnecessary (and potentially harmful) treatments, spend time and money needlessly, or face the prospect of their true medical problem worsening. A medical malpractice claim can seek damages for these harms if they occur.

Medication Errors

Medication errors affect approximately 1.5 million people annually, according to the Academy of Managed Care Pharmacy (AMCP). Thousands of cases are fatal, and the total injury-related costs reach billions.

Examples of medication errors include:

  • A doctor prescribing an incorrect dosage of medication;
  • A nurse mixing up medications for patients in neighboring hospital beds;
  • A pharmacist dispenses the wrong medication.

Negligent or reckless conduct on the part of a medical provider that leads to a medication error like the ones above can lead to a medical malpractice lawsuit.

Surgical Errors

Over 4,000 surgical errors happen yearly, according to researchers. These mistakes take various forms, for example:

  • A surgeon operating on the wrong part of the body;
  • Procedural mistakes or equipment malfunctions during surgery that damage organs, nerves, or blood vessels;
  • Leaving surgical equipment inside a patient’s body.

Surgical errors can lead to deadly infections or other health complications, and often require painful, expensive procedures to correct. Surgical errors frequently amount to medical malpractice because providers generally classify them as “never events” that should never happen because they almost exclusively occur due to a medical team’s substandard delivery of care.

Defective Medical Implants and Equipment

It can also constitute medical malpractice for a doctor to use a defective medical tool or implant a defective device in a patient. Defects can interfere with the proper functioning of, for example, pacemakers, catheters, artificial joints, patient monitors, advanced surgical tools, and anesthesia machines.

Generally, the manufacturer of a defective medical product owes compensation to those patients who are harmed by them. But a medical provider may also face liability if they know a device or tool is unreasonably dangerous to use in treating a patient but they use it anyway.

The Potential Value of a Medical Malpractice Case

Average Settlement for Medical Malpractice

Medical malpractice lawsuits do not have a fixed value. Although researchers might calculate an average payment for a medical malpractice claim nationwide, those numbers do not take into account the damage limits, or “caps” in each state or the factual differences between cases. Such averages thus do little to predict the value of any particular case.

The amount an injured patient can recover depends on various factors, including the nature of the harm done, the strength of the evidence, the skill and reputation of the patient’s medical malpractice attorney, and the amount of malpractice insurance carried out by the at-fault medical provider. In the typical medical malpractice case, the potentially recoverable damages fall into the following categories.

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Economic Damages

Economic damages consist of the quantifiable costs inflicted by an act of medical malpractice. They typically include:

  • Medical bills;
  • Non-medical out-of-pocket costs;
  • Wage loss due to missing work, including the value of paid time off used;
  • Loss of future income due to disability.

Medical malpractice lawyers generally calculate economic damages by tallying up past expenses and losses and using that information to estimate future costs. When economic damages may extend far into the future, such as when medical care and treatment will be needed for the rest of the patient’s life, lawyers will often work with medical and financial experts to prove the appropriate amount to claim.

Non-Economic Damages

Non-economic damages constitute the more difficult to quantify types of harm a patient suffers because of medical malpractice. They generally include:

  • Physical pain and discomfort;
  • Emotional suffering and mental health challenges;
  • Inconvenience;
  • Scarring and disfigurement;
  • Loss of companionship or consortium;
  • Loss of quality or enjoyment of life.

Unlike economic damages, non-economic damages do not lend themselves to easy calculation because they are subjective. Lawyers, courts, and insurance companies sometimes use mathematical formulas as a way to approximate the severity of the injury and degree of suffering for which the patient should receive compensation. Ultimately, however, the law usually leaves general damages up to the discretion of a jury (subject to any caps, as discussed below).

Punitive Damages

Punitive damages serve to punish the provider who was at fault for an act of medical malpractice. Some states, including Michigan, do not allow the recovery of punitive damages in medical malpractice lawsuits.

Damage Caps

Michigan has a limit, or “cap,” on non-economic damages. Michigan has two tiers of damage caps. The lower damage cap applies to most malpractice cases, including death cases. The higher damage cap applies only if the patient suffers certain injuries to the brain, spinal cord, or reproductive organs.

Not All Medical Malpractice Cases Settle

A settlement is an agreement to resolve a legal dispute. In other words, it’s a binding contract between the party suing and the party being sued (and often, that party’s insurance carrier). In the typical medical malpractice settlement, the injured patient receives an agreed-on amount of compensation in exchange for dropping the pending lawsuit and agreeing not to sue them for the same incident again.

Lawyers for injured patients usually negotiate settlements with defense lawyers and medical malpractice insurance companies. Negotiations can happen in person, by phone, or in writing. Sometimes, a neutral mediator assists the parties in reaching a settlement, but parties often agree on a settlement without outside help.

Many medical malpractice cases settle before trial, but not all do.

Numerous factors can affect whether the parties reach a settlement, including:

  • The timing and format of settlement discussions;
  • The degree of a dispute over core issues like liability and damage amounts;
  • The number of parties involved in a case;
  • Legal and business strategies that affect settlement decisions.

If a medical malpractice case does not settle, lawyers for the parties will usually ask a court or arbitration panel to decide it. They typically do so by filing written motions first, and then the case goes to a live trial. At trial, a judge, jury, or panel of neutral arbitrators must decide whether the injured patient has proven the medical provider’s liability and the number of damages to award.

Medical Malpractice Recoveries When a Patient Dies

If a patient dies due to a doctor’s negligence, Michigan law permits a personal representative to sue for damages resulting from the wrongful death. This is often a spouse or family member. The damages that may be recoverable include:

  • Medical and other expenditures prior to death;
  • The  pain and suffering deceased patient experienced between the time the malpractice occurred and their death;
  • Loss of the deceased patient’s financial support to family members;
  • Loss of the value of the deceased patient’s household services to family members;
  • Loss of the deceased patient’s companionship, consortium, or guidance to family members; and
  • Funeral and burial expenses.

Like other types of injury lawsuits, wrongful death medical malpractice cases can, and frequently do, settle before trial. Unlike a case brought by an injured (but living) patient, however, there is an additional process to determine how the proceeds of a wrongful death case will be distributed among the surviving family members.

Taxation of Medical Malpractice Recoveries

Generally, the IRS and state taxing authorities do not treat medical malpractice recoveries—whether achieved through a settlement or trial award—as taxable income. That means that injured patients generally do not have to pay taxes on them. There are some limited exceptions, so it is always a good idea to check with an accountant when filing your taxes.

Legal Deadlines for Medical Malpractice Claims

Victims of medical malpractice have a limited window of time in which to seek compensation for the harm they’ve suffered because of a provider’s negligence or misconduct. All states have laws, known as statutes of limitation, that set a deadline for injured patients to assert medical malpractice claims. Missing these deadlines generally results in losing your right to compensation.

The legal deadlines applicable to medical malpractice cases tend to be stricter and more complicated than those that apply to other types of personal injury lawsuits.

In Michigan and many other states, in addition to meeting a deadline for filing a lawsuit in court, injured patients must also comply with other deadlines requiring them to give notice to a medical provider or insurance provider of their potential claim and obtain an expert opinion or certification of the viability of their claim.

These additional deadlines exist largely because the medical and insurance industries have lobbied state legislatures for years to limit medical malpractice lawsuits. The laws that have been passed in response have had the effect of making medical malpractice lawsuits more complex and technical than most other personal injury matters. As a result, injured patients should always ensure that any lawyer they select to handle their case has solid experience and a successful track record handling medical malpractice cases in their state.

Contact an Experienced Medical Malpractice Lawyer Today

Medical Malpractice Lawyer
Scott R. Melton, Medical Malpractice Lawyer

No two medical malpractice cases are alike. Each case involves a unique set of circumstances that led to an individual patient suffering pain, injury, inconvenience, and expense. The law permits those patients to demand compensation for the harm done to them but obtaining a full, fair payment takes the skill and resources of an experienced lawyer.

If you or someone you love suffered harm because of a medical provider’s mistake, do not wait to seek the qualified, experienced legal help you can get at Gruel Mills. You may have only a limited amount of time to protect your rights. Contact a skilled, compassionate medical malpractice attorney at Gruel Mills today for a free consultation.