Thursday, September 4, 2008

The Verdict is In

We have all heard about the verdict, $10 million $20 million that seem like easy money. But, the fact is these awards are rare. They often get reduced and the lawyers, who deserve to be paid for their hard work, also take a piece of the dollar amount “awarded” to the patient or family following a medical malpractice case.

In the case of James his mom walked away from a settlement, something most people don’t get a choice in doing. The lawyers didn’t get paid either that day but allowed Mary Ellen, James’ mom to be in control of her future – something the healthcare system took away from her when her baby died because of the care he received while hospitalized.

Most medical malpractice law firms, I suppose would frown on a client walking away from the settlement. Instead, I have heard about the wording found after the family signs with their lawyer that they will never be able to speak again about the case. They are sworn to secrecy and in some cases, they just can’t discuss the amount of the settlement and other cases, they can’t discuss the death at all.

In fear of being sued, some families begin to stop ever acknowledging their loved one ever existed. They never talk about the child, mother or father again. Chances are, the lawsuit tells them the family can’t talk to media or publicly disclose the information, but in the sad and painful place the family is left, they just stop talking altogether.

Many people knowingly make that painful choice to take the settlement and not be able to discuss certain parts of the settlement or case and move on. It’s a difficult decision.

To take a settlement – or not, is a very personal decision. Understandably the insurance companies will settle more easily knowing that the patient or family will never talk. Families who are willing to go that route should not be judged. That settlement is, after all acknowledgement that there was a case and a settlement and even if it’s not for public information, it is a time the family can begin to heal and move on.

1 comment:

Joel said...

People in medicine do not report the information patients need to be safe. The patients who would report it are silenced either with threats of suits or with settlements. Wouldn't we be safer if gag orders were illegal when medicine is the subject so that we could learn from these experiences? And would it not reduce the high price of settle ment offers if medicine could not buy silence?
Whatever patients might deserve as compensation is a different issue, but I see nothing good for the community in individuals taking cash in exchange for silence. I am aware of a case in which the individual refused to sign the gag order in spite of his lawyers uring him to. He still collected his compensation and still is allowed to speak about what happened. Medicine will pay to get you to sign a settlement that says you will not sue them again even without the gag order. Unfortunately, your lawyer wants the highest commission possible and does not care about the community of patients and so will not advise you of that.
It's too bad that there is no one to whom injured patients can go for this kind of help and guidance other than lawyers.