A study recently published by the New England Journal of Medicine found that 1 in 5 medical malpractice claims results in recoveries. Some of the findings of this study are not surprising, such as: 1 in about 15 doctors are sued each year; that lawsuits on behalf of victims who are children result in higher recoveries; and that specialists are sued more often than general practitioners. On the one hand, these statistics do appear to be more favorable to the plaintiffs than other studies that were conducted prior to this study.
As a medical malpractice lawyer in Georgia, the study puzzles me because it fails to point out that only a fraction of the victims of medical malpractice file lawsuits or make a claim on the doctor’s insurance company. The reason for this is simple: the cost to pursue a medical malpractice claim (i.e., expert witness fees and trial preparation fees) is so high that only the cases with the most egregious facts that result in catastrophic injuries can be brought by attorneys.
While these statistics may be accurate, it should be noted that most medical malpractice cases with merit are resolved favorably–if in the hands of a competent lawyer. These types of studies should not dissuade those who have been seriously injured in Georgia due to medical negligence from having their case reviewed by a competent lawyer who specializes in medical malpractice.
Injured victims of medical malpractice should also be aware of the potential difficulties of finding a competent lawyer to take their case if the injuries from the malpractice are not catastrophic.
It’s estimated that hundreds of thousands of patients a year suffer some type of preventable injury or die while undergoing medical care. For many of these patients or surviving family, a lawsuit is the only hope to recover losses, learn the truth about what happened, and ensure the problem is corrected.
A 2013 Emory University School of Law study found that 95 percent of patients who seek an attorney for harm suffered during medical treatment will be shut out of the legal system, primarily for economic reasons. Most attorneys would not accept a case—even one they might win—if the damages likely were less than $250,000. Due to the high “cost of entry” in the form of expert review fees, and other expenses that must be incurred to investigate every medical malpractice case, this is not surprising.
More than 450 attorneys were surveyed for the Emory study, “Uncovering the Silent Victims of the American Medical Liability System,” which found that three out of four medical malpractice attorneys reject more than 90 percent of the cases they screen.
The reason: Lawyers may have to invest $50,000 or much more in order to pursue a case, and they usually only get paid if they win or settle. The payout is determined largely by economic damages—lost earnings, medical bills, and future costs caused by the injury. Those who don’t earn big paychecks—including children, the elderly, and stay-at-home-moms—are the least likely to find an attorney, studies show. The inability to find a lawyer is a common refrain.
If you or a loved one has been seriously injured by suspected medical negligence, please contact Robert J. Fleming directly on (404) 525-5150 or contact us online for a free and confidential case review.