When Is a Medical Malpractice Lawsuit Appropriate?

Many people are reluctant to file a medical malpractice lawsuit against their doctor.  Some people think it is unethical or worry what may happen to their doctor as a result of the lawsuit.  However, the only way to receive compensation for an injury that was inflicted on you or a loved one is to file a medical malpractice suit.

Purpose of Medical Malpractice Lawsuits

There are many important purposes for filing such a suit:

  1. The civil justice system holds doctors and hospitals accountable.  By holding doctors accountable for their mistakes, you may be preventing future patients from suffering the same consequences.  Without accountability, patient safety suffers.  Better patient safety is critical to lowering health care costs.
  2. For some people, filing a medical malpractice lawsuit may be the only way to find out what really happened to them.  According to a Kaiser Family Foundation survey, 70% of patients who experienced medical errors are never told what happened to their doctors.   Medical malpractice lawsuits can give patients the answers they are looking for.
  3. Some people may worry that their friends and family may judge them negatively for filing a medical malpractice lawsuit.  Many people believe that most medical malpractice lawsuits are frivolous, which is not true.  A good attorney is not going to pursue a frivolous lawsuit.  Lawsuits are expensive so the damages need to justify the cost of investigating and pursuing a lawsuit against a doctor or hospital.  Without serious damages, there is no lawsuit.  Along with damages, there has to be evidence that the doctor or hospital violated or fell below the standard of care.  Standard of care refers to the care patients should receive based on commonly accepted practices.  Evidence can be established through medical records and witness testimony.  The evidence must show the negligence that occurred directly contributed to the patient’s injury.

Myths Surrounding Medical Malpractice Suits

  1. A frequent myth regarding lawsuits of this type is that doctors are fleeing from the field or retiring early due to increased insurance premiums and as a result, there is a shortage of physicians.  However, data from the American Medical Association (AMA) shows that physician numbers have been increasing across the board for many years.
  2. Another common misconception is that lawsuits are contributing to the rise of health care costs.  While there is no doubt that health care costs are growing, it has nothing to do with medical malpractice lawsuits.  Medical malpractice amounts to less than 2% of overall health care spending, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

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