New Hampshire senators recently passed a new Bill designed to expedite the state’s medical malpractice claim process. Our experienced medical malpractice attorneys are worried that victims might not get fair compensation under a bill such as this one. The Bill poses a risk to parties who may unknowingly sign the agreement, binding them to a settlement without fully realizing the value of their claim.
Proponents of the new Bill point to the fact that it is an opt-in solution to make medical malpractice more efficient. If a person feels he or she would rather have a full blown trial, he need not sign an agreement to settle first. While the opt-in argument might appear convincing at first, it does not guarantee the Bill’s success.
Opponents might argue that when a serious injury occurs in the medical field, victims have a lot on their minds and might readily settle without fully exploring options at their disposal. Our attorneys have handled cases in the past where a victim of personal injury was offered a settlement and then we were able to get them a much higher payout.
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In a time of emergency, it is hard for a victim to accurately predict future medical expenses and other injury related expenses or losses. Medical malpractice victims can have difficulty assessing the total costs associated with their injuries. Awards compensate victims for things like medical bills, loss caused by the inability to work, and also emotional damage caused by the traumatic nature of the injury sustained. A large verdict could hypothetically provide compensation for both current and future loss damages.
Under the proposed New Hampshire Bill, medical malpractice victims would be offered a lump sum of money by the hospital or care provider. The victim would then have the choice of accepting the offer or pursuing litigation. Victims unfamiliar with the medical field could be disadvantaged in this system because they do not know how their injury stacks up against other medical malpractice injuries and awards. If the victim did pursue litigation, there would be a lot resting on the line from that point on.
After a settlement offer, a victim would be liable to pay the defendants litigation fees unless the jury award ended up being greater than the offered settlement by at least 125 percent. It is certainly possible for a victim to secure a verdict that much higher than a settlement offering, but it is not always likely. Many medical malpractice claims never make it to a jury because they get settled outside of court during the time leading up to trial.
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It is unclear how the Bill would handle situations where the legal claim did not end up making it all the way to trial after a client denies settlement. However, such a situation is nearly inevitable. Based on the assignment of litigation expenses to the victim after denial of settlement, it appears as though the victim would be responsible for any fees incurred whether or not it went to trial.
Ultimately, it is not very clear what, if any benefit this Bill would have if passed. Hospitals and medical care providers already have the ability to offer settlements at any time in the legal claim process if they so desire. For some reason, proponents of this Bill are saying that it will speed up the claims process but they do not really explain how the Bill would do so.
Medical malpractice claims can be lengthy, but they are an important part of the litigation system not to be forgotten. When a doctor or care provider makes a serious mistake in the course of treatment, the victim absolutely deserves the fullest extent of compensation. If you are injured by a medical accident you should contact an attorney to receive advice about the options available to you for fiscal recovery.