June 28, 2011

Congratulations! The jury found in your favor in your medical malpractice case and awarded you monetary damages. Now what happens?

It is not uncommon for the lawyers for the defendant health care providers to file motions after trial to request that the judge either reduce the amount that the jury awarded to you or to wipe out the jury verdict in full and enter a judgment in favor of the defendants. Or they may ask for the trial to grant a new trial due to some alleged mistake during trial.

If your state is one of the many states that now put a cap (a limit) on the amount of economic damages (past and future medical bills, lost wages, etc.) and/or noneconomic damages (pain and suffering, mental anguish, and the like) that you can recovery (the caps are arbitrary limits on the amounts that injured victims of medical malpractice can recover and are the result of the so-called “tort reform” efforts over the last several years throughout the United States by those who believe that juries cannot be trusted to properly evaluate claims and fully compensate those injured by the negligent care of their health care providers by awarding damages in an amount based on the evidence before them), you can rest assured that if the jury awarded you more than the amount of the cap (the jury is not told about the cap or the amount of the cap) that the defendants will request that the amount awarded be reduced by the amount that the jury award was in excess of the cap. Much more likely than not, the judge will reduce the amount awarded to the limit of the cap.

Once the post-trial motions by the unhappy negligent health care providers are resolved, you may still not see any money in payment of the judgment. Defendant health care providers may appeal the jury’s verdict even if  there seems to be no basis for an appeal. The defendants need not pay the amount of the judgment while the appeal is pending although many states require that the losing defendants provide a bond in the amount of the judgment in order to proceed with the appeal. Depending on your state and the nuances of your appellate courts, a final decision by the appellate court(s) may take years to resolve. If the defendants are successful in their appeal, then the judgment you were awarded is overturned, a new trial may be ordered, and you receive nothing as a result of the original jury verdict. This is one reason why some successful medical malpractice cases are settled for less than the amount of the jury’s verdict (many successful medical malpractice claimants need the money now and cannot afford to wait for an appellate decision, which may not be in their favor; therefore, medical malpractice insurance companies may offer to settle the claim after the jury’s verdict for an amount less than the judgment because they know the financial and other pressures on the claimants).

What is the lesson to be learned? Just because you won your medical malpractice claim doesn’t mean that you will receive the amount that the jury awarded, at least not any time soon. You and your medical malpractice lawyer must take into consideration these possibilities when evaluating whether you should accept a settlement offer that may be made by the defendants’ medical malpractice insurance companies before, during, or after trial. This is another reason why it is important that your medical malpractice attorney have experience with medical malpractice cases in the jurisdiction in which your claim will be filed. 

If you or a loved one were injured as a result of the medical malpractice of a negligent health care provider, use our website to be connected with medical malpractice lawyers in your local area who may be able to answer your medical malpractice questions and represent you with regard to your medical malpractice claim, if appropriate. You may also contact us toll free at 800-295-3959.