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New Approach to Medical Malpractice: Referring Injured to Lawyers

Two of the biggest complaints about the civil justice system are its cost and the time it takes to resolve an issue. Each Chicago medical malpractice lawyer at our firm shares those concerns. It is important for those involved in the system to always be looking at ways that they system could be made more cost effective and efficient. However, a big part of the problem in the hospital error context, is that many medical defendants do everything in their power to stall, delay, and challenge the suit as it makes its way toward a jury or bench trial. Most defendants in a medical malpractice lawsuit never want a judge or jury to hear the case, and so various tactics are used to get the suit thrown out of court early on or after evidence has been collected. All of these efforts are quite time-consuming and costly.
But it doesn’t have to be this way. A more open and honest approach taken when errors are made can go a long way to improving the justice system. However, it is important not to craft a system in the name of “honesty” that actually takes rights away from injured patients.

AMED News shared the story this week on one healthcare system that is trying to inject a little more honesty into the process by being proactive when concerns of medical negligence exist. According to officials with the system, when a mistake is made, the medical professionals immediately discuss it with the patient, work toward a potential resolution, and, when appropriate proposes a settlement. Interestingly, if the patient declines the settlement, the hospital shares with them the name and number of a medical malpractice lawyer.

This is an incredibly unique approach that, while having some potential benefits, also raises a few red flags regarding patients’ rights. For one thing, it is important for patients never to “settle” a dispute immediately offered by a hospital without consulting with proper advocates. It is impossible for injured patients to understand their legal rights and know the value of a settlement without having a legal advocate looking out for their exact interests.

In addition, while not automatically unfair, there may be some suspicions raised by hospitals that try to steer clients to specific attorneys. Of course, one assumes that the attorney will meet their ethical and professional responsibilities of utmost loyalty to the clients. However, when recommended specifically by the entity that will be forced to provide redress for an injury, there is clearly a strong whiff of conflict of interest.

As one medical malpractice attorney critical of the system speculates, “There’s a reason these attorneys are being referred by the hospital. What I suspect is that this is an attorney who doesn’t push the cases to trial and settles for lower amounts. Is that attorney going to make up the difference by going after the doctor?”

At the end of the day, no matter what system a hospital has in place, patients should remember that there is no better alternative than proper legal representation of their own choosing. If hospitals wish to make the legal process quicker and less costly, the best avenue is to avoid the prolonged legal battles that drag out the process more than necessary and offer fair settlements.

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