For those of us who do not regularly interact with courts and lawyers, the idea of testifying before a jury or sitting through a harrowing trial can be intimidating. For some people, the risk of having all of their personal, private pain made public through a prolonged lawsuit is enough to frighten them away from pursing full and fair compensation for their medical malpractice injuries.
But the vast majority of medical malpractice victims never have to see the inside of a courtroom: according to a 2007 U.S. Department of Justice study, about 95 percent of medical malpractice insurance claims settle prior to trial. In other words, you face only a one-in-twenty chance of ending up in court.
But this does not mean that your medical malpractice attorney will not have to file a lawsuit. Most medical malpractice claims that settle prior to trial settle after your med mal lawyer has filed a lawsuit against the medical provider and her malpractice insurance company. This helps convince insurance companies that you are serious about pursuing the compensation you deserve, and that they cannot refuse to make a settlement offer or make a laughably low settlement offer and expect the case to come to a close. In fact, usually the closer you get to trial, the higher the insurance company’s settlement offer.
If you are concerned about keeping your private medical information out of the public record, you can rest assured that simply filing a lawsuit will not expose much of that history. The initial complaint filed by your attorney will describe, generally, the nature of your injury, when the malpractice was committed and how it led to your injury, and the extent of your current suffering and struggles. Initial complaints do not usually include all the gory details, and none of your medical records become part of the public record.
Dr. Michael M. Wilson is an attorney and a physician who earned his undergraduate degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and his legal and medical degrees from Georgetown University. He has focused in the area of medical malpractice for more than three decades and secured more than $100 million in settlements and verdicts on behalf of clients throughout the country. He is admitted to practice in the District of Columbia and New York as well as the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia and the U.S. Supreme Court. He is listed in America’s Top 100 High Stakes Litigators.