The Benefits of Settling a Medical Malpractice Case Prior to Trial
Many of our cases are settled out of court, rather than trying the case in court with a jury. This is not a cop out by any means and settling a case is almost always more beneficial to the client than taking the case before a jury.
Here’s why it’s often beneficial to reach a settlement for a client.
SETTLING A CASE PRIOR TO TRIAL SAVES THE CLIENT AND FAMILY THE STRESS OF GOING TO TRIAL.
It is hard enough for clients to re-tell their experience to their attorney but often much worse to tell it again in front of 7 jurors who are strangers. The details of the case can also be kept more private. When you take a case to trial, the court documents become public record and anyone can go look at them – the local newspaper or your neighbor. When you settle a case, most of the details are kept out of the court documents, and are not public record. Many settlement agreements also have confidentiality agreements as part of the settlement, so the case will not be talked about in public.
SETTLING A CASE RATHER THAN TAKING THE CASE TO TRIAL WILL ALSO SAVE OUR CLIENTS MONEY.
For every case we try, there are at least two expert witnesses testifying on our client’s behalf. These expert witnesses are paid for their time spent reviewing the case, giving depositions, and testifying in court. If a case settles prior to trial, the client has already incurred the cost of the expert’s review of the records, but they will not incur the cost of travel and time spent at a trial. A settlement also saves the client, because they do not have to take time off from their jobs to attend a trial. Unlike experts, who are usually present and testifying for a few hours, the client must be present for the entire trial, which can run from 2 or 3 days to a week or more. So the client has to take this time off from their jobs, perhaps losing pay or vacation time in doing so.
A JURY TRIAL IS A VERY UNCERTAIN THING.
You are letting people you do not know decide the outcome. While they are impartial to the parties in the case, aspects of their own lives affect how they view the evidence in the case. You cannot control how they analyze the details of the case or how they reach a verdict. A settlement is much more certain and much quicker than having to wait for a jury trial to reach a conclusion, which decision can then be appealed by the losing party making the process even longer. Most cases last from 1 – 3 years, sometimes even longer if an appeal is involved.
WHEN CASE GOES TO TRIAL, THERE ARE VERY STRICT GUIDELINES AS TO WHAT CAN BE SAID IN COURT.
When you settle a case, there is more leeway in what can be said to, or requested of, the defendant. For example, in a trial, the family is limited to questions asked by the attorneys, which are limited to the facts. The family cannot explain how they feel about what happened and they can not ask for an apology from the doctor or nursing home. In the process of settlement outside of court, the family may have the opportunity to tell the defendant how they feel and the family can request an apology as part of the settlement.
In conclusion, we will never take on a client if we do not believe their case can be won in front of a jury. We never take a case in which we are not willing and prepared to try before a jury. However, we do attempt to settle our cases prior to going to trial if it is in the client’s best interest. If the defendant is unwilling to resolve the case by making a settlement offer which recognizes our client’s injuries and damages, we will not hesitate to try the case before a jury. Ultimately, the case belongs to our clients and it is our clients who have the final say on this important issue.