Medical malpractice law is a segment of the legal field that involves the liability that doctors and other medical practitioners take on if they harm a patient through negligence. Every state has its individual statutes and procedures for handling these cases. As a general rule, doctors are liable for damages if they provide substandard care that doesn’t meet reasonable expectations. Many professionals, medical and legal alike, who are involved in medical malpractice law, feel that the current system is overburdened, unpredictable, and inefficient. Here are a few proposals for reforming this area of the law.
Make the Loser Pay
Most medical malpractice attorneys accept cases on a contingency basis, meaning that the lawyer only gets paid if the client receives a settlement or jury award. This model leaves attorneys free to take a case just to see if a settlement might be forthcoming, even if the merits of the case are in doubt. Defendants spend a great deal of time, energy, and emotion defending against frivolous suits.
One approach to reforming the system is to have the losing party pay the expenses of the other side. In theory, at least this would force attorneys to be careful about which cases they accept. By the same argument, a negligent physician would be more willing to agree to a reasonable settlement to avoid paying the plaintiff’s expenses plus a jury verdict.
Expert Review Panels
Some states have a system of expert review panels. Before any court proceedings, independent medical professionals review the claim and give an opinion as to its merits. These advanced reviews help cull out frivolous cases, reduce the hiring of biased expert witnesses, and decrease litigation costs. Parties who choose to pursue a claim that the review panel found to be frivolous could be penalized and may have to pay some of the other party’s costs.
In a no-fault system, patients buy insurance to protect themselves financially against complications. Another type of no-fault system involves a tax on medical services with proceeds going into a victims’ fund at the state level. Claims would be evaluated objectively based on disability and damages.
Selective Elimination of Cumbersome Parts of the System
Some specific steps in a medical malpractice lawsuit are more expensive and time-consuming than others. One such clumsy area is the use of expert depositions. Some practitioners suggest that this portion of the discovery process is unnecessary if doctors accept that malpractice suits are as much about protecting good doctors as punishing negligent ones.
If you’re facing a medical malpractice case, you need capable legal representation to help you navigate the complicated system. Contact a knowledgeable and experienced hospital malpractice lawyer to protect your rights.