What Are The Consequences for Medical Professionals Involved In Medical Negligence Cases?
Interviewer: Do doctors lose their licenses? What happens to them?
Bill Levinson: They do, but they also do for common reasons like drug addiction or alcoholism, along with being incompetent.
Interviewer: All right, just to conclude here, what happens to medical organizations if they’ve lost? What happens? Do they correct their mistakes? Can someone rest assured that there are going to be some significant changes happening?
Bill Levinson: We’ve just enacted in the state of Washington a wonderful statute that allows the public to communicate directly with the government, and it’s copied to the institution – care that they think has been deficient.
I would say that the medical business has become extremely competitive. The fact that a hospital is advertising on billboards for patients indicates that there’s a really competitive world that they’re in. They’re not going to be really competitive if they hurt a lot of people. I would say as a business, there are two things acting. One is the controlling of a doctor’s discretion, which the big factor is due to like Multicare or the HMOs like Group Health. Then the other factor is the proficiency and the efficacy of treatment.
I also believe that just like drugs that are being advertised on TV are now speaking and telling folks about the negative effects, I think the same can be true for the bigger institutions. But I think the reality is that the patient needs to be proactive on understanding what the risks are. A lot of times these doctors will fill out forms that give a litany of warnings that the patient’s being warned about, but they’re meaningless to the patient because they don’t understand. In any event, you hope that the trend in any profession that touches people is improving, and I’m one of those people who believe that.
Costs Incurred In Medical Negligence Cases
Interviewer: Do you think the medical trend is changing with medical malpractice?
Bill Levinson: I think that fewer cases are being filed, and I think those that are being filed are significant. The reason, basically, is money – the cost of taking on a hospital or a crew of doctors. They have no problem whatsoever getting witnesses to come out and say that they met the standard. They come out of the woodwork for their fellow doctors. I have a case now where I’m going with a surgeon as an expert, two chiropractors as experts, a treating physician, and possibly a neurologist. The defense has five experts. The cost to depose those five experts probably is between $15,000 and $20,000. That’s just to take their depositions.
My cost will be close to that, but my folks are coming in to testify. Some of these experts that they have may not testify. It’s incredible. I just finished a case; it was a motor vehicle case. Just to talk to a hand surgeon – just to talk to her – was $400 an hour, and her testimony was $4,000 whether she was going to be there for an hour or a half a day. Another doctor in that same clinic was $8,000 whether she was going to be there an hour or a day.
You had better have liability, and the issue better be just money, or you’re going to have an investment or a cash outlay that is not going to be realized. You cannot do a medical negligence case without as solid act as there is in any kind of action. That’s why so many of them get turned down.
Retaining an Attorney To Pursue A Medical Negligence Case
Interviewer: When someone’s seeking an attorney – an issue has occurred, they want to get represented – what are some things that people should be aware of when seeking an attorney? What are some red flags? At the same time, what are some things that they should be looking for?
Bill Levinson: The first question that they should ask a lawyer that they’re consulting about medical negligence after it’s been determined that they have a case, is whether the lawyer does these sorts of things, and if he’s good at it, or something where they qualify the lawyer. If the lawyer sees a huge case and is dishonest, then there could be a serious problem. Whenever I see routine cases, they’re pretty straightforward, they’re pretty standard in medical negligence because essentially, it’s not the lawyer’s judgment; it’s an expert’s judgment.
Now, in cases where there’s going to be, for example, a child paralysis because of birth, negligence by the OB/GYN or whoever’s delivering the baby, you’re talking about a case in which millions of dollars is involved, because if the baby’s crippled, that baby’s whole life is going to have to be cared for. Never mind the medical problems. Never mind the personal injury aspect of it. There will be just 24-hour, seven-days-a-week care, the equipment, possibly additional surgeries, the defense, the insurance company for the doctors (who are not going to roll over for $15,000,000 or $20,000,000).
That’s the kind of case where you want a substantial crew with you. If it is that, then the lawyer should be forthcoming enough to let the client know that that’s what’s going to be happening. A client can’t even begin to think about any of the expenses. I would say that, as a general statement, you want to make sure that the man or woman that you’re going to hire knows what they’re doing, and you do whatever that takes – look for referrals, interviewing lawyers, talking to friends that may have experience with a lawyer that they trust – because we all know who does what in this community, and who does it well.