Posted by Bill Sandweg.
You live in Arizona and believe you have a medical malpractice case. You have spoken to a number of law firms that handle these cases but no one will accept your case. What is going on? Unfortunately, what is going on is called the system and it is rigged in favor of the medical profession and against you.
Medical malpractice cases are among the most complex and expensive cases in which an individual can be involved. Almost without exception, such cases require multiple, highly-paid expert witnesses to establish the fault of the medical provider and the damages suffered by the patient. Depending on the number of defendants in the lawsuit and the nature of the injury, the out-of-pocket costs a medical malpractice lawyer must advance may range from a low of $30,000 to a high well in excess of $200,000.
The number of talented trial lawyers in Arizona and elsewhere is small to begin with. Lots of lawyers claim to be trial lawyers who can represent injured victims but few of them have actually tried cases and demonstrated ability. The supply of talented trial lawyers who are experienced in medical malpractice cases is much smaller still. The successful medical malpractice lawyer must not only be a talented trial lawyer, he or she must also have a sophisticated understanding of medicine and the way the medical profession works. These cases almost always require the lawyer to invest hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal time. For all these reasons, the typical fee charged by a good medical malpractice lawyer in Arizona is 40% of any amount recovered by trial or settlement.
You can do the math. Even if these were the only considerations in determining when a medical malpractice lawyer can take a case, it is clear that, for their to be anything at the end for the injured patient after reimbursing the costs and paying the lawyer, the case must be one worth at least $350,000. Patients with cases that do not reach that minimum level are not going to be able to find a good lawyer to take their case. Of course, these considerations are only the beginning.
Juries today are very skeptical about all personal injury claimants. They think most plaintiffs are playing lawsuit lottery and exaggerating their injuries in the hope of receiving a large jury award. They are even more skeptical of medical malpractice claimants. They don’t like to find against doctors and nurses. They don’t want to believe that doctors and nurses make mistakes that kill and maim patients. Add to this the fact that the Arizona legislature has changed the rules so that juries are told if the patient has received any insurance payments for medical bills or by way of life insurance. Knowing that the patient has received these payments further reduces the willingness of the jurors to find against the health care providers. Doctors and hospitals win 9 out of 10 cases that get tried in Maricopa County. The figures are a little better for patients in Pima County but worse in the other counties.
In my experience, unless a jury believes you need its help in going forward with your life, it will not find in your favor in a medical malpractice case. This means that no matter how bad the hell you endured as a result of malpractice, if you have made a good recovery, the jury is unlikely to find in your favor.
A good medical malpractice lawyer does not do you any favors if he or she takes your case when it is not a strong one which the medical providers are going to want to settle. If the case does not settle and you go to trial and lose, you are going to end up with judgments against you by the medical providers for their costs. These could be anywhere from $10,000 to $30,000. These cost judgments add insult to injury. The medical professional injured you and now YOU have to pay HIM.
A good medical malpractice lawyer in Arizona is going to look at all of these factors in deciding if your case is one which is likely to be successful and is one worth the investment of costs and time. It would be nice if we had a simple system for identifying those patients who have been injured by medical malpractice and for compensating them. Unfortunately, we do not and until the glorious day arrives when we do, good medical malpractice lawyers are going to have to apply their judgment in deciding which patients the system will allow them to help and which it will not. If you are not happy about this, and you should not be, write your state legislators, your Congressperson and your Senators and let them know it is important to you that patient rights be respected and that patients injured by medical malpractice be fairly compensated.