Medical malpractice lawsuits result from errors by healthcare providers that end in either injuries, disabilities, or even death for the victims. The average medical malpractice settlement in the United States is $242,000, while cases that go to trial tend to average about $1 million in compensation. For smaller cases, they will generally only pay for out-of-pocket costs. On average, there are over 12,000 medical malpractice cases annually. In this article, we will cover the average medical malpractice settlement amounts for the different types of lawsuits, as well as information about how an experienced medical malpractice attorney can assist you in ensuring that you get the compensation that you rightly deserve for your case.
Average Medical Malpractice Settlement Amounts
Different types of medical malpractice lawsuits can result in different amounts of compensation. These can include things like misdiagnosis, childbirth injuries or death, prescription errors, and more. This section will cover some of the most common medical malpractice lawsuits, what factors into the settlement amount, and the average compensation amount for each.
Misdiagnosis is the leading cause of medical malpractice lawsuits. Misdiagnosis is when a healthcare provider fails to accurately diagnose a patient's medical condition, leading to incorrect treatment or delayed treatment that can cause harm to the patient. For example, a patient may have a serious illness, such as cancer, misdiagnosed as something less serious, such as an infection, resulting in delayed or ineffective treatment. More than 100,000 Americans are estimated to die or suffer injuries due to misdiagnosis. The most significant diagnosis errors that lead to death or disability were misdiagnosed cancers, vascular events, and infections. It’s estimated that between 40,000 and 80,000 hospital deaths each year are due to misdiagnosis. The average settlement for basic misdiagnosis claims can range, but the average settlement amount for cancer misdiagnosis cases is around $1.75 million.
Surgical errors have the highest number of medical malpractice claims related to hospital care. These can involve surgical site infections, unnecessary injury, wrong-site surgical procedures, and surgical injuries. Nearly 4,000 surgical errors happen in the United States each year out of 200 million global surgeries annually, with general surgeons getting sued at a high rate. Nearly 40% of physicians claim that patient care volume is what can lead to surgical errors. General surgeons average between 50 to 60 hours a week, not counting when they are called in. Issues that can lead to surgical error lawsuits include:
Operating on the wrong body part.
Leaving surgical instruments inside the patient's body.
Causing damage to organs or tissues.
These types of errors can have severe consequences for the patient, including infections, scarring, and even death. Surgical error lawsuits can result in settlements as low as $65,000 to over $3.5 million.
Negligent Failure to Treat
If a healthcare provider fails to provide appropriate treatment to a patient, there is room for a medical malpractice claim. This includes misinterpreting test results, failing to refer the patient to a specialist, failing to monitor a patient properly, and failing to order lab tests for a patient. In some cases, the healthcare provider may have been aware of the need for treatment but failed to provide it due to negligence or incompetence. These settlements will generally be between $200,000 to $500,000.
Unfortunately, medication errors are quite common. Medication errors can happen when a healthcare provider prescribes the wrong medication or dosage or fails to consider potential drug interactions. These errors can cause serious harm, including allergic reactions, organ damage, and even death. These errors include improper dosages or interactions with other drugs that the patient might be taking that cause adverse effects. These cases will have settlements that range from under $5,000 to nearly $5 million.
Birth Injuries and Deaths
Birth injuries and deaths can occur when the life of the mother or the baby is jeopardized due to errors by the healthcare provider. For example, if the provider fails to provide adequate care during pregnancy, labor, or delivery and it harms the baby or the mother, it can be seen as malpractice. Injuries during birth or labor can result in disabilities like cerebral palsy, Erb’s palsy, brain damage, and even death of either the mother or the child. The average settlement amount of these cases is just over $1.03 million.
Improper treatment malpractice can include an improper treatment plan pre- or post-surgery, wrong dosages from anesthesiologists, and more. Botched treatments like this can lead to long-term injuries, disabilities, and even death. This can allow patients the opportunity to sue the provider for medical malpractice. These cases can end in settlements ranging from $400,000 to even over $12 million.
Nursing Home Abuse
Nursing home abuse occurs when a nursing home resident is mistreated, neglected, or abused by a caregiver. This can include physical abuse, emotional abuse, neglect, and financial exploitation. Unfortunately, this type of medical malpractice is often unseen and can be very detrimental to the victims and their families. The average settlement for these cases is $329,000.
Factors That Influence Medical Malpractice Settlement Amounts
Many factors can influence the amount of money a plaintiff will walk away with in a medical malpractice lawsuit. In this section, we will look at some of the most significant factors and how they directly influence the settlement amount for a medical malpractice case.
Severity of Injuries
One of the biggest influences on the settlement amount of your medical malpractice lawsuit is the severity of your injuries. Generally, the greater the severity of your physical and mental injuries, the greater your settlement amount will be. The severity of the injuries is a crucial factor in determining the amount of compensation. Long-term or permanent injuries will likely draw a higher compensation amount than minor or temporary injuries.
Medical Treatment Costs
The cost of medical treatment required to treat the patient's injuries is another key factor in determining the settlement amount. If the patient requires extensive medical treatment, such as surgery or ongoing physical or occupational therapy, the compensation amount may be higher to cover these expenses. Additionally, if the injuries suffered require long-term medical attention or care, such as a specially-designed bed for their home or other potential residential modifications due to their condition, the settlement amount could include those costs.
Lost Income or Wages
If the victim is unable to work due to their injuries, they may be entitled to compensation for lost income. This can include both past and future lost wages, as well as lost earning potential. This is a big factor when determining the amount of the medical malpractice settlement. Typically, the plaintiff will have to show that they cannot work or will not be able to work due to their condition. These figures can include base pay, commissions, bonuses, pension, future potential raises, and retirement contributions.
Pain and Suffering
This is one of the more complex factors to prove during a medical malpractice case. Some states have different definitions of what constitutes pain and suffering when determining compensation in these types of lawsuits. Compensation for pain and suffering is intended to compensate the patient for the physical pain and emotional distress caused by their injuries. This can be challenging to quantify but is important in determining the overall compensation amount. Key witnesses such as friends, family, and other medical experts may be able to provide quality analysis on this, which helps determine the level of pain and suffering of the patient.
Another factor is the cost of legal fees and other expenses associated with the lawsuit, which can also impact the compensation amount. In some cases, the defendant may be ordered to pay these fees in addition to the compensation awarded to the plaintiff.
Additionally, some states have specific laws that can cap the amount of money that can be awarded in a medical malpractice lawsuit. An experienced medical malpractice attorney can help navigate these laws and ensure the plaintiff receives the maximum compensation.
How a Medical Malpractice Attorney Can Help Recover Compensation
Finding an attorney who specializes in medical malpractice cases can help victims recover the maximum compensation they deserve for their injuries, disability, or even death. In this section, we will cover some of the ways that a professional medical malpractice attorney can help victims recover their rightful compensation.
Medical malpractice cases can be highly complex, and it can be challenging for victims to determine whether they have a viable case. An experienced medical malpractice attorney can thoroughly evaluate the case, review medical records, and consult with experts and witnesses to determine whether there is a strong case for medical malpractice against the provider of care.
Gathering Sufficient Evidence
To build a strong case for their client, gathering evidence such as medical records, witness statements, and expert opinions on the matter is essential. An experienced medical malpractice attorney can work with medical experts to review records and identify any medical errors or omissions that may have contributed to the victim's injuries. This is by far the most important aspect of the lawsuit, as there will need to be sufficient evidence to prove negligence led to the injuries or death of the victim.
Negotiating with Insurance Companies
In most medical malpractice lawsuits, the defendant is a healthcare provider who must have insurance coverage that includes malpractice coverage if something happens for which they could be at fault. An experienced medical malpractice attorney can negotiate directly with the insurance company on behalf of the victim to secure a fair settlement and get them their rightful compensation.
Pursuing Proper Compensation in Court
If a fair settlement cannot be reached through negotiations with the defendant and their insurance provider, the case may go to court, and a trial will begin. An experienced medical malpractice attorney will represent the patient in court and work to secure a favorable verdict that includes proper compensation for damages. This is accomplished through the gathering of sufficient evidence and proper case evaluation. The plaintiff must be able to prove negligence by the defendant, and other factors will determine the amount of compensation they are awarded. However, many medical malpractice cases do not end up going to trial and are mostly settled outside of court.
Providing Guidance and Support
Medical malpractice cases can be emotionally challenging for the victim, and it's essential to have an experienced attorney who can provide guidance and support throughout the process. An attorney can answer legal questions, provide regular updates on their case, and ensure that the patient's rights are protected throughout the process of the lawsuit.
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