Most doctors are well-educated and experienced; however, it is possible for doctors to cause harm, rather than healing their patients. When a patient becomes injured or dies after a doctor treats them, they can sue and receive a structured settlement for medical malpractice.
Often, structured settlements are distributed to plaintiffs as compensation for personal injury lawsuits, including medical malpractice claims. A structured settlement is a financial tool that distributes payments from a large sum of money to an individual over time. This steady, reliable income stream can make a person’s financial future secure, especially if the medical malpractice results in ongoing medical care or loss of wages due to an inability to work.
A medical negligence claim involves professional health care negligence that ultimately causes a patient harm or untimely death. Negligence or professional omission can occur from flawed treatment, inaccurate diagnosis or error in aftercare.
Prior to filing a medical malpractice claim, you must be able to prove negligence occurred in your case and receive confirmation from a hired medical expert. Some cases are settled before a lawsuit is filed, if you — also referred to as the plaintiff — and the accused doctor and their affiliated insurance company — legally referred to as the defendants — agree to the negotiation terms. If both parties do not reach a settlement agreement, you have the option of filing a lawsuit requiring a judge to rule in favor of the case.
Medical negligence is the third leading cause of death in the United States.
Other than misdiagnosing patients or providing an incorrect treatment plan, medical malpractice — or medical negligence — can also include:
Most medical malpractice structured settlements span decades, possibly until or even after the plaintiff’s death. In the case of a minor, however, many medical malpractice structured settlements are set up to end when the child reaches the age of majority (anywhere from 15 – 21 years old, depending on the state). In these cases, the structured settlement will distribute regular payments to the child’s guardian while they are a minor to pay for ongoing medical expenses, resulting in the final lump-sum payout when they reach the age of majority.
If you feel you have a qualifying medical negligence case, make sure you take the appropriate steps prior to filing a claim. Skipping steps can ultimately affect your right to repayment. Before filing a medical malpractice claim, be sure to:
The law defines medical malpractice and certain prerequisites needed for a judge to hear a case. In order to prove a negligence occurrence, you must be able to prove:
Though some medical malpractice claims can be settled before filing a lawsuit, many bigger cases require a formal trial after filing claim. Settling a medical malpractice claim can take months or years after filing the lawsuit due to an extensive approval process. Filing a suit does not guarantee a malpractice settlement, and the process can cause significant financial strain. Be sure to consult with a legal advisor prior to continuing with your claim in order to ensure the benefits outweigh the risks.
Negotiating your settlement is a crucial part of a medical negligence case. As with any settlement, the dollar amount the defendant and plaintiff negotiate is meant to represent the amount of damages the plaintiff endured.
Medical malpractice suits cost the country more than $50 billion per year, with half spent on defensive medicine to avoid lawsuits.
While calculating financial damages and expenditures can be fairly simple, negotiating a fair amount to cover intangible damages — including pain and suffering, emotional strain, etc. — can be more difficult. In addition, there are state laws limiting the amount of money you may be able to receive. Once a fair settlement has been reached, you will be one step closer to receiving structured settlement payments.
In order to receive a settlement outside of court, the doctor or defendant must agree to the negotiation terms.
Unlike most personal injury cases, a medical malpractice settlement requires the final approval of the doctor being sued.
If a doctor chooses not to settle, they may take their chances in court so as to not risk paying inflated insurance costs or jeopardizing their career. Battling a medical negligence case in court can take months and may sometimes discourage a plaintiff from pursuing the case. Be sure to keep this in mind prior to filing a claim.
The settlement negotiations can result in the plaintiff receiving a settlement in a lump sum, a structured settlement, or a combination of the two. With a lump sum, the plaintiff receives a full payout, which can be helpful when paying legal and medical bills up front. It is a common and simple option in many medical negligence cases.
However, receiving a structured settlement may be more beneficial in handling long-term medical and financial debt. Structured settlements ensure payment is distributed consistently over the course of years. In some cases, plaintiffs have no choice but to receive a structured settlement because insurance companies that finance the settlement prefer structured settlements for malpractice suits.