Valuing Medical malpractice claims
Average Medical Malpractice Settlements and Awards in Maryland and How Your Claim is Valued for Money Damages
Medical malpractice happens when a doctor, nurse, hospital or other health care provider causes preventable harm. The effects of medical negligence can be subtle (a slightly extended illness, for example) or catastrophic (permanent injury or wrongful death). Prospective clients, understandably, want to know what their case is worth. Fair question. Here are some thoughts on how malpractice insurance companies, judges, juries and lawyers value medical malpractice cases.
Is There a Medical Malpractice Settlement Formula?
A victim of medical negligence is entitled to damages. Because courts cannot undue the negligence, the only method they have to “fix” the negligence is to compensate the victim with money. From our perspective, this serves important purposes. First, it helps the victim to make his or her life better—sometimes money is needed for future therapy, surgeries, or even adaptive equipment. Second, people who do harm should have to pay because, if they didn’t, there would be less of a reason to avoid harm.
The formula to determine how much money (value) to provide to a victim of medical negligence is this:
Value = Economic Damages (past & future) + Noneconomic Damages (past & future)
Of course, the difficulty is figuring out what numbers to use in the formula.
Economic damages are those things that can be calculated with near-exact certainty. Items included in non-economic damages are:
- Past and future medical and therapeutic expenses, including surgeries
- Past and future lost wages
- Past and future adaptive devices, like prosthetic limbs, medical devices and wheelchairs
- Past and future medication
Items of past damages are the easiest to calculate, because there are bills or receipts. For items of damage in the future, it is obviously a little more difficult because no one can be certain of the future. New technology or advances in medical techniques may make a planned surgery obsolete. Or, healthcare costs may skyrocket above inflation, rendering these costs more expensive than planned. In catastrophic cases, lawyers will hire economists to help determine the present day value of a lifetime of care. This will allow smart victims to invest money wisely and grow it so that it will provide them with future care.
Non-economic damages are things that cannot be exactly calculated. Maryland non-economic damages include things like past and future pain, suffering, mental anguish, disfigurement and inconvenience. It is extremely difficult to know how any particular judge, jury, defense lawyer or insurance adjuster is going to value non-economic damages. Lawyers should look to recent settlements and verdicts for similar types of cases for guidance.
One important component for Maryland medical malpractice lawsuits is the damage cap. Maryland limits the amount of money that a victim of medical malpractice can receive for non-economic damages. A plaintiff can receive any amount of proven economic damages; however, judges will reduce a jury’s verdict for non-economic damages to the maximum amount allowable by law. The amount of non-economic damages recoverable is determined based on the year of the negligence. Click here to see a chart on Maryland’s non-economic damages cap. For negligence that occurred in 2012, the cap is $710,000.00 for one person.
The cap is a little different in a wrongful death case, where the medical negligence caused the death of the victim. In that situation, one or more people may bring a claim on the victim’s behalf and in their own right as wrongful death beneficiaries. The total cap for medical malpractice wrongful death cases occurring in 2012 is $887,500.00.
As if damage caps weren’t enough, the government also limits damages against itself. Not just a limit on non-economic damages, the following governmental entities have limits of all damages recovered in medical malpractice cases:
- Local governments (like Baltimore City or Prince George’s County): $200,000.00 per claim/$500,000.00 per occurrence
- Maryland state government: $200,000.00
- Federal government: applies the cap of the state where the cause of action arose
It is important to remember that Maryland has the collateral source rule. This means that even if a victim received services or benefits, he can still recover for the cost of those services. A good example is health insurance. If a doctor negligent performs a surgery which requires a second surgery, the victim’s health insurance may pay for that second surgery. However, the victim can recover the cost of the surgery from the negligent doctor in a medical malpractice lawsuit. In some cases, the victim may have to some or all of that amount back to the health insurance company.
A Sliding Scale: Settlement v. Trial
A medical malpractice settlement value is different from the trial value of a case. That’s because a settlement is a compromise—each side gives up something in exchange for the certainty of knowing what they will get or give up. No one can ever say exactly what a judge or jury will do, so settlement is a way to play it safe. For this reason, the settlement value is almost always less than the trial value.
External Factors That Impact Value
|Are you frustrated trying to figure out the value of your potential malpractice case? You can get information about the value of different types of medical malpractice claims here.|
Especially where settlement values are concerned, the quality of the attorney can make a difference. Insurance companies and defense lawyers have a running list on lawyers. If it is a lawyer and a firm that regularly take cases to trial and who will not accept lowball offers, there is a good chance that settlement offers will be higher. On the other hand, if the insurance company is up against a lawyer who has only gone to trial a handful of times, they are more likely to reduce the settlement value because they know that those lawyers are afraid of trial, and are more likely to sell the case short (whether consciously or subconsciously). Having a lawyer with a proven track record sends a message.
Venue of case
The location of a case makes a huge difference in the case’s value. Baltimore City jurors are different from Harford County jurors, and there are certain patterns and general qualities attributed (whether rightfully or wrongfully) to each geographic region. The perception is the reality, because lawyers and adjusters will place different settlement values on cases based on what they think the relevant jury might do with the case. To see our analysis of each Maryland jurisdiction, visit this page.
Quality of Plaintiff and Defendant
The jury will evaluate the plaintiff and defendant to determine whether they are deserving of belief, or whether they should be discounted. To some degree, this is a snap judgment—will the jury like or dislike the plaintiff and defendant? The more likeable one side is, the more likely that side will receive a favorable or higher verdict.
Getting Help from a Medical Malpractice Lawyer
If you or a loved one has been the victim of medical malpractice, or wants more information on the value of your medical negligence claim, contact our lawyers at 1.800.553.8082, or online for a free consultation. Our medical malpractice lawyers handle cases involving birth injuries, hospital malpractice, ER malpractice, and misdiagnosis of cancer cases and other medical errors. If you are looking for real answers, give us a call.
Malpractice and Product Liability Cases
- Product Liability Verdicts (median value of products cases by type of product)
- Value of Medical Malpractice Cases in Maryland and Throughout the Country
- Nursing Home Lawsuits (verdicts in Maryland, Virginia and Washington, D.C.)