High Costs Make it Difficult for Some Medical Malpractice Claims to Go to Trial

Each Illinois medical malpractice lawyer at our firm has heard the argument that high costs affect doctors who are forced to defend lawsuit when they make a medical error. This claim is usually made when trying to push for so-called “tort reform” proposals that insulate doctors from having to be held fully accountable for the errors that they caused patients. However, those same advocates will almost never admit or explain that the costs of the legal process are also bore by plaintiffs when trying to hold their wrongdoer accountable. For example, a story in Eastern Iowa News last week touched on the way that litigation costs prevent those with legitimate claims from accessing the legal system. Not only that, but the costs problem is often made worse by those mandating more arbitrary requirements and costs in tort reform efforts.

The problem most affects those who have claims that are not worth hundreds of thousands of dollars but less, often $25,000 to $50,000. While large lawsuit settlements and verdicts make headlines, the vast majority of cases involve sums that are much smaller. But the smaller sums sometimes make it cost prohibitive to pursue litigation, because the cost of the litigation can eat up the entire award. As the story explained, many attorneys, including Illinois medical malpractice lawyers, “are frustrated because people are being denied access to a jury trial, their constitutional right, because they can’t afford the costs for witness fees, exhibits, discovery, depositions, and a court reporter.

The problem affects all negligence cases, but medical malpractice situations are implicated most. That is because the challenge of proving misconduct in a complex field like medicine requires costly experts and other detailed requirements. If one’s case involves sums of money that are not large enough to justify paying those costs, then the victim is essentially denied access to justice. This is particularly frustrating because, while the sums involved may not be lottery riches, they are still incredibly significant for the actual individuals who were harmed.

Considering the barriers already in the way of plaintiffs, it is quite frustrating (and imminently unreasonable) for those calling for tort-reform to put up even more requirements for victims before they can access the judge and jury. These proposals should not be entertained.

Each Chicago medical malpractice attorney at our firm instead believes that, if anything, we need to look at general ways to make the court system more efficient and affordable. That is the opposite of throwing up arbitrary rules that make it harder for all injury victims to access the court system. Those involved in the court system from all sides have proposed a wide range of ideas that improve the justice system without unfairly burdening either side in the process. For example, one idea is to allow doctor’s reports to be read into evidence without their presence in court-potentially saving thousands of dollars. However, right now that is not allowed because of hearsay evidentiary rules. All options like that one should be considered in order to improve the system for all in ways that preserve fairness for all.

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