Roughly eighty percent of the Medical Malpractice cases tried are found in favor of the Defendant. Considering that the odds of winning such a case are so low, it is a wonder that so many medical malpractice attorneys are denigrated by the term “ambulance chaser.” As these cases are so difficult to win, it is not without great caution that attorneys take them to trial. Not many are willing to play those odds unless they truly believe their client was substantially and directly harmed by his or her doctor.
According to Dr. Thomas Berger, a Cardio-Thoracic Surgeon who offers his expertise to attorneys, there are only two questions that are necessary to determine the outcome of a case:
- Did the doctor deviate from the standard of care (SOC)? While the definition of SOC varies from state to state, it is generally held to be the minimally acceptable quality of care that would be provided in a similar situation by a doctor with similar credentials.
- Was that deviation from the standard of care a proximate cause of harm to the patient and, if so, how?
Dr. Berger goes on to say that medical negligence must be shown to a “reasonable degree of medical certainty (RDMC)” that those medical errors actually harmed the patient.
Although this seems like cut and dry criteria to establish negligence, it is apparent from the win/lose record that it is not so easy to determine. While it is not so difficult to find a deviation from the standard of care, whether or not it is the direct cause of harm is the main obstacle. Did the patient have a pre-existing condition? Did the patient have a heart attack while going in for some other surgery? Even if a surgeon did deviate from the standard of care and, indeed, cause some damage, if it was not the “direct” cause of the damage the case cannot be won.
It has been said that certain medical organizations prefer to keep the odds as they are – that Medical Malpractice attorneys and those that support them in litigation play David to these organizations’ Goliath. Considering what they are up against, it would only be logical to take these attorneys out from under the ugly umbrella of “ambulance chaser.”
Read Dr. Thomas J. Berger’s Article Entitled, “Your Med-Mal Expert – An Advocate for the Truth.”