When something goes wrong with your health and physical well-being, especially when it’s someone else’s fault, you want to know what you can do about it. To know that what happened to you could have been prevented … it naturally brings out a desire to take action. Whether your motivation is to hold someone accountable, to get answers, to get compensation or to make sure it doesn’t happen to someone else, a medical malpractice lawsuit can accomplish your goals. But you also have to be aware of the limitations.
A medical malpractice lawsuit is a big undertaking, and it’s only a good idea in certain situations. This can be disappointing for people, so we try to explain why. It’s frustrating when you hear from lawyers that they can’t take your case. Many times what they really mean is that your case isn’t strong enough (they just don’t want to say that and get in trouble for it later).
The reality, to be blunt, is that you need to have a very serious and permanent injury in order to have a good chance at winning a medical malpractice lawsuit. Juries tend to side with the doctors because our society generally has a high respect for the medical profession. About 80% of cases in Cook County, the most plaintiff friendly venue in the State, end in favor of the healthcare professional. So your case has to be pretty egregious to stand a chance. In smaller counties it’s way worse.
So why won’t a lawyer just try your case and see what happens? Another reality is that medical malpractice cases cost tens of thousands of dollars, sometimes over $100,000, to bring to trial. Even the exploratory phase at the beginning is expensive because your attorney will consult with a medical expert to determine the strength of your case. Your lawyer pays all of these costs upfront, and it takes hundreds of hours to prepare a case. So if they don’t think it’s a winning case, they don’t have much of an incentive to take it on.
Medical malpractice lawyers take cases on contingency, which means they only collect a fee if they win. This gets factored into which cases they decide to accept. It’s the reality of their business. Attorneys who provide good customer service will explain all of this to their potential clients and help them weigh the pros and cons of moving forward on their case. Trials are also long, emotional and sometimes that isn’t worth it for the client. All of this should be taken into consideration.
Beyond all this, a good lawyer will spend 1,000 hours or more on a case. The honest answer is that they are doing that for a big reward at the end.
If you are hearing from attorneys that they can’t take on your case and there is no explanation or a vague one, it probably has something to do with one, or all, of these factors.