Medical care facilities in many different states have tried a wide range of approaches to respond to possible instances of medical malpractice. Our Illinois medical malpractice attorneys have explained how the best approaches are those focused on openness, fairness, and honesty at all times.
It is often not easy to fully understand the consequences of various approaches, however, until they’ve been seen in practice. For example, recently there has been a surge in interest in “early offer” legislation. Unlike new approaches by individual hospitals, this legislation would mandate certain actions which might have very negative consequences for the patient. Specifically, the measures attempt to convince patients to enter into an “early settlement” group. This often happens before the patient has any real chance to visit with a medical malpractice lawyer on their own to understand the full consequences of agreeing to anything.
This is often extremely detrimental. In many versions of the legislation, once a patient enters the system, they cannot leave it without losing significant legal rights. If an early settlement cannot be reached once a patient is in the system, they can often leave and file a regular medical malpractice lawsuit. However, in that suit they are faced with a more demanding burden of proof than they otherwise would be if they had not first entered the system. Therefore, this “alternative” system is just another way to convince unknowing patients to give up basic legal rights for the benefit if insurance companies and big medical facilities.
Our Chicago medical malpractice lawyers know that criticism of these alternative approaches is not to say that all novel ideas related to these issues are bad ones. However, it is important to examine all approaches to these issues to ensure that they aren’t motivated by underhanded attempts to leave patients worse off than they otherwise would be in the traditional judicial system.
One approach that is being praised by some involves a few medical facilities in Michigan. As reported by Boston.com, the typical response to medical errors is for doctors to “put up walls, cutting off communication from patients in anticipation of a possible lawsuit.”
To combat this counterproductive approach, the University of Michigan changed its policy to encourage staff members to disclose errors honestly, offer an apology, and, where appropriate, work fairly to reach a settlement. Unlike the “early settlement” legislation, this hospital approach does not involve trying to convince the patient to unknowingly enter some separate settlement system where they are likely to receive far less redress than they otherwise would.
Instead, these settlement negotiations are sought to be fair. The negotiations involve basic discussions about the harm caused, the actions of the medical caregivers, reasonable standards at other hospitals, and the consequences for the patient.
Plaintiff’s attorneys have mentioned that this Michigan approach is a good one when it offers alternatives that do not limit the rights of the patient. In general, attempts at early negotiations are often welcome. If a case goes all the way to trial it comes with significant expenses and might drag on for years. Fair settlements early on can be resolved quickly and more efficiently.
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