Common Misconceptions Regarding Medical Negligence Cases
Interviewer: What do you think are some common misconceptions that people have about medical negligence?
Bill Levinson: The main misconception is that they have a case, and therefore they feel it should be done. There’s no reason for it not to be done. More often, there are two things that happen. One – and this is the outcome for the vast majority of them – there’s an act that cannot be proven, or that is complicated by other acts, and the cost to sort it out, and maybe not have a case, is prohibitive.
There are two more things, actually. The first, like in the other case I alluded to before, and this happens frequently –is where the folks have a case but the damages are not sufficient. In other words, a person is hurt, but it only took him a week or two to get over the mess, and then they’re well. When that happens, yes, there’s negligence, but the damages that they’ve suffered don’t warrant pursuing the case.
Then, finally, there’s a legitimate case, or the potential for a legitimate case, but it requires an expert. In the state of Washington, you cannot sue a healer, a doctor, whatever, without an expert witness saying that they were negligent, even if you lose in court. If you do not have an expert witness to say whatever type of healer you’re going after was negligent, you don’t have a case. So sometimes, somebody comes in with a medical negligence complaint and we feel there may be some merit to it, but we can’t find one of our experts to give us a preliminary opinion without cost (which generally runs between a minimum of $1,500 to $2,500 to find somebody who will just look at the chart and give a preliminary opinion).
I’m sure there are firms that will advance that money. I’m not one of them. The reason I’m not one of them is because if a person comes to me and is unwilling to pay that amount, then I don’t feel they’re invested in their case, and that’s not something I’m going to do. It’s just not. There are a lot of reasons, but basically, I want people invested in their case. Now, if the opinion comes back that yes, it’s negligence, and yes, there are sufficient damages, then we’ll take over, because there’s no way the average person can afford what it’s going to take to do a medical negligence case. Not even close. I would say the minimum on these things is $50,000 for a reasonable case.
Interviewer: What kind of damages do people suffer, and what are people going to be entitled to?
Bill Levinson: You mean what injuries they have, and what are they entitled to? It depends on whether or not the injury causes them more than just medical expenses, pain, and suffering. If it causes them lost income, or if it causes them disability, then the numbers change substantially. In other words, the least amount of recoveries for a medical negligence case is similar to a car accident case. In other words, there’s injury, there’s suffering, there are medical bills, there may be some scarring, there may be some residual pain, but essentially the person is able to continue on with their life.
Then there are the cases where a person not only cannot continue with their life, but they’re disabled from minor to paraplegic, or mentally disabled. They go from that kind of person who is productive, had a great job, a great career, and then that’s gone. Those are additional damages. Money damages out of the pocket are going to have to be paid for the care of those individuals.
Statute of Limitations
Interviewer: What about the time limit? Is there a specific time limit for filing?
Bill Levinson: It’s three years from the date of the injury, and this is interesting. Sometimes it’s not known for years that the doctor was negligent. It’s three years from the act, or in the state of Washington we have a statute that says it’s one year from the time you find out, or you should have found out.
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