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What are Medical Malpractice Trials?

By Anna B. Smith
Updated May 17, 2024
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Medical malpractice trials are courtroom procedures in which injured parties attempt to prove that they received harm due to the negligence on the part of specific medical professionals. Some plaintiffs may choose to settle with the defendants involved out of court before the trial begins, to avoid the time and expense associated with such proceedings. The damages awarded during these trials when the defendants are found guilty are often large so that they discourage other health care providers from similar acts of negligence.

This type of case is typically handled by lawyers who specialize in medical malpractice trials. This type of attorney tends to have extensive knowledge of a patient's rights while under the supervision and care of medical staff, and the legal responsibilities of that staff. He may have experience prosecuting similar cases in which negligence was adequately proved.

The defendants of medical malpractice trials may be individual doctors or a hospital. Most malpractice cases involve doctors whose specific care, treatment, and recomendations created unnecessary and avoidable pain and suffering on the part of a patient. If that pain and suffering, however, was the result of care received at the hands of a staff member employed by a hospital, then the hospital, and not the individual, is held responsible. Staff members can include physicians, nurses, and emergency medical personnel, among others.

Not all cases of malpractice are taken to trial. Pre-trial procedures include motions to move the case forward or dismiss it, and a discovery process that brings forward evidence aimed at proving or disproving the legal accusations. Many doctors and hospitals attempt to settle out of court with the plaintiff during the pre-trial motions to avoid the expense of medical malpractice trials. Cases that proceed to trial are expensive and time consuming for both parties as court often lasts all day, and trial preparation occurs in the evening hours for many months.

Financial awards may be given to the victims of negligence if the health care providers are found guilty during medical malpractice trials. The awards levied by the court may be compensatory and punitive. Compensatory damage is a sum of money paid to the plaintiff in the trial with the intention of making that person whole again. This amount of money often covers any medical costs incurred during the negligent care, loss of income that was a result thereof, and to compensate for pain and suffering the plaintiff experienced.

Punitive damage is an amount of money greater than the compensatory damages that is intended to punish the one found guilty of malpractice. This type of verdict may be given in situations where the negligence in question was extreme, reprehensible, and performed with an attitude of recklessness in regards to the well being of the plaintiff. The sums of money awarded for punitive damages are often very large to serve as a warning to other medical practitioners against committing similar acts of misconduct.

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