Victims of medical negligence, particularly children, the elderly, and
the poor, may never get their day in court, simply because no lawyer will
take their case. According to an
article in Pro Publica, which summarized the findings of several studies, nine
out of ten patients who seek a medical malpractice attorney will not find
one. About 95% of medical malpractice cases involving real harm to the
patients are rejected by attorneys because the potential economic damages
are not enough to offset the high cost of the litigation process.
A medical malpractice case can cost a law firm anywhere from $20,000 to
$300,000 or more. This means that only a large settlement or award will
make the case worthwhile, from the attorneys’ perspective. One study
found that more than 50% of attorneys will not take a case, regardless
of the likelihood of success, if the potential damages are less than $250,000.
Almost no attorney will take a case in which potential damages are less
than $50,000, even if the chance of winning is 95%.
Poor and Vulnerable Are Most Harmed by High Litigation Costs
Most medical malpractice attorneys do not collect any fees until and unless
the case is won or settled, at which time they generally receive 1/3 of
the damages as a fee. The amount of money awarded to a victorious plaintiff
is mainly determined by calculating the plaintiff’s lost earnings,
as well as medical bills and future costs associated with the injury.
These are known as economic damages (as distinguished from pain and suffering
and other types of damages). The plaintiff’s number of dependents
will also factor into the amount of damages awarded.
The process for determining damages means that plaintiffs with high salaries
can potentially wind up with the highest awards or settlements. On the
flip side, people with minimal income or dependents (such as children,
the elderly, the poor, and the unemployed) can expect much lower damage
awards. Studies show that people who do not earn large salaries, and therefore
do not have a lot of lost earnings, have a great deal of trouble finding
attorneys to take their cases.
Effectively, our least powerful citizens are further marginalized by being
shut out of the justice system and denied the compensation to which they
are entitled to. The elderly in particular, because they generally have
small incomes and no dependents, find it very difficult to convince medical
malpractice attorneys to take their cases. This is true despite the fact
that the elderly are the most likely people to have contact with the health
care system, and therefore to suffer injuries resulting from
What to Do if You Have Been a Victim of Medical Negligence
If you or a loved has been a victim of medical negligence, regardless of
your age or income status, you should contact a personal injury attorney
immediately. An attorney can review the facts of your case and determine
whether you have a viable claim. If so, they can help you seek the compensation