I had a very nice call with a gentleman who was looking for a Chicago medical malpractice lawyer who would not charge a fee unless they win the case. I explained to him right away that nobody charges a fee in those cases and if they do want you to contribute money for expenses then you should run away. But that’s not what this post is about.
Our conversation continued and I learned that his friend had their colon nicked during a colonoscopy and sustained a decent amount of damage. Apparently they had called a couple of lawyers and the case was turned down. My caller was confused because it was his perception that if you have a decent injury, a nice plaintiff and a good law firm in your corner, most juries would side for them instead of a large corporate hospital or doctor.
This is a lie that has been created by people why want to impose damage caps in medical malpractice lawsuits. The truth is that Cook County, where Chicago is located, is the most plaintiff friendly county in the entire state. Yet in cases that go to trial, plaintiffs win just over 20% of the time. As a result, lawyers are very selective about the cases they are willing to take on. It’s true that many cases settle, but if you go to trial and lose, that’s usually around $100,000.00 out of your pocket as a law firm.
In some smaller counties in Illinois, there has literally never been a jury verdict against a doctor. Ever. In many of these locations the people that get called to be on the jury end up knowing the doctor and fear (wrongly) that if they find against him/her, even in the most egregious of cases, the doctor will skip town and they won’t have any medical providers.
Insurance companies want you to believe that a bunch of frivolous lawsuits are hurting the medical profession, but I’ve yet to see an example of a bogus malpractice lawsuit that settled or went to trial. No credible attorney would file those cases because it’s so expensive to get to trial. In fact, many examples of actual malpractice get ignored because the ultimate damages don’t justify the cost of bringing a lawsuit. In other words, if I value your case somewhere between $200,000-$300,000, I’d have to be willing to spend around half the case value just to win and there’s no guarantee I’ll win.
What you end up finding is that cases are usually only brought for matters that have terrible negligence and huge damages. If a doctor makes a mistake that kills a 90 year old woman, the defense will (disgustingly I might add) be that she didn’t have long to live anyway, so even if our hospital screwed up, the case has no value. And regrettably that argument usually works.
So what you find is that there are really only a handful of malpractice law firms in Chicago that have a track record of consistently bringing and winning these cases. Small firms may say that they do it, but truthfully they can’t keep up with the costs. Firms outside of Chicago tend to only dabble in these cases because it’s so hard to win them. As a result, if you do see a trial verdict in a place like Peoria, Rockford, Urbana, etc. don’t be surprised to find that the firm that handled the case is actually from the Windy City.
I’m not for frivolous lawsuits and every day I tell people that they don’t have a case and explain why I feel that way. But I am in favor of good people with good cases having access to justice. And the truth, no matter what lies you’ve been fed, is that it’s very hard to win a med mal lawsuit.