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Do Most Medical Malpractice Cases Go To Trial?

Physicians, hospitals, and other health providers have a legal responsibility to treat every patient with reasonable skill, prudence, and professional care. The failure to do so could be medical malpractice—and it can lead to very serious injuries, illnesses, and medical complications. If you or your loved one was the victim of medical negligence, you may be wondering: How often do medical malpractice cases go to trial in New York? In this article, our Schenectady medical malpractice lawyers discuss the frequency of medical malpractice trials and explain the timeline for a case. 

A Small Percentage Of Medical Malpractice Claims Receive A Jury Verdict

Most medical malpractice claims do not go to trial. Indeed, only a relatively small percentage of cases eventually receive a jury verdict. The Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) reports that less than seven percent of medical malpractice cases received a verdict. Some other academic studies have put the number as low as two or three percent. The bottom line: Most medical malpractice claims are settled before a verdict is rendered, either in pre-trial negotiations or during the proceedings. 

An Overview Of The Timeline Of A Medical Malpractice Claim In New York

Although most medical malpractice cases do not make it to trial—and even fewer receive a verdict—it is still imperative that plaintiffs (patients and their families) prepare as if their case is going before a judge and/or a jury. Not only is it never clear which cases will be settled at the outset, but the large insurance companies that defend medical malpractice claims are hyper-focused on protecting their own bottom line. They will not offer a reasonable medical malpractice settlement unless the plaintiff is able to present a strong case. Here is an overview of the general timeline of a medical malpractice claim in New York: 

  • Patient Harm: When a patient suffers harm due to the professional negligence of a doctor or medical provider, malpractice has occurred. Patients dealing with an injury, illness, or complications need immediate attention from a qualified, skilled doctor. 
  • Consultation With an Attorney: Medical malpractice claims are complicated. You should consult with an experienced lawyer as soon as possible after you or your loved one has suffered harm. A New York medical malpractice attorney will help you get started with the claims process right away. 
  • Certificate of Merit Issued: New York has specialized rules and regulations regarding medical malpractice claims. Under New York law (CPLR § 3012-a), patients typically need to obtain a certificate of merit to move forward with their claim. Among other things, this means that your medical malpractice lawyer has consulted with at least one qualified expert witness in the field. Expert witnesses help to establish the requisite standard of care.  
  • Pre-Trial Proceedings: Pre-trial proceedings are an important part of any legal claim—especially medical malpractice cases. During this part of the process, your attorney will likely send a ‘demand letter’ to the responsible doctor, health provider, and/or their insurance company. The demand letter will explain their liability and make a specific request for financial compensation to resolve the matter. Notably, a demand letter is a key step in initiating settlement discussions. 
  • Medical Malpractice Trial: It can take one to two years (or longer) for a medical malpractice claim to ever reach trial. While most medical malpractice claims do not go to trial, you should always be ready for your case to be one of the exceptions. With a strong, well-supported medical malpractice complaint, you will be in a better position to settle your case and, if necessary, prove liability in court.  

It is important to emphasize that a medical malpractice case can be settled during any stage of the process. Every circumstance is different. In some cases, insurance companies are willing to settle a case before a medical malpractice lawsuit ever filed. In other cases, the insurer may not truly begin to take settlement negotiations seriously until the date before litigation is set to start. As with other types of legal claims, preparation is the key to success. 

Speak To Our New York Medical Malpractice Attorney For Immediate Help

At Powers & Santola, LLP, our New York medical malpractice lawyers are standing by, ready to help you get justice and the maximum financial compensation. If you have any specific questions about medical malpractice claims or medical malpractice litigation, we are more than happy to help. Contact our firm now for a free, no commitment initial consultation. With our law offices in Albany, Syracuse, and Rochester, we handle medical malpractice claims throughout the surrounding area, including in Troy, Saratoga Springs, and Schenectady.

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