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Medical Malpractice Arbitration: Are You Settling Your Case Too Early?

You’ve been injured by your doctor and his negligence has caused you to miss work, lose time with your family and has caused you tremendous pain. As a result, you do the right thing and hire an attorney. Your attorney comes to you with an offer of a certain dollar amount from your doctor’s insurance company. He asks if you want to take the amount or if you would consider attending voluntary binding arbitration. He tells you that arbitration will yield a high amount for you quickly. If you are like 99% of the people in America, voluntary binding arbitration is a mystery to you.

Voluntary binding arbitration involves a panel of three individuals. The panel must include: one arbitrator chosen by the plaintiff; one arbitrator chosen by the defendant; and an administrative law judge, who will be named the chief arbitrator. The parties and the arbitrators will discuss the merit of the case and the different remedies. The arbitrators will then decide if the doctor was negligent and the award that the plaintiff should receive. This amount that is found by the arbitrators is binding and the Plaintiff will not be able to receive a different amount later. Thus, deciding on whether binding arbitration is the right choice for your case is a very important decision that should not be taken lightly.

Voluntary arbitration is highly favored by the judiciary because it mitigates the resources that are used as a result of the litigation, while still allowing for recovery for the Plaintiff. Arbitration is also favored by the Defense (or your doctor), as they want to limit the amount the plaintiff is entitled to by any way possible. Major limitations of arbitration include:

  • No punitive damages (meaning you will have no recovery for the wrongdoing of the defendant)
  • A maximum percentage award of wage loss is 80%
  • A limitation on noneconomic damages for a maximum award of $250,000 reduced proportionally to the loss of enjoyment of life (example: 50% loss of enjoyment in your quality of life will only yield $125,000, 25% will yield $75,000)

These limitations leave you with a negligible amount that you can receive, while if you went to trial you will likely receive more. If you consent to arbitration, you will not receive a jury. While every case is fact intensive and whether you should go to arbitration does depend on a variety of factors, we generally advise individuals to not go to arbitration and take their case to trial. The amount you receive from the defendant will most likely be maximized through a jury trial.

Your attorney tells you that arbitration is the way to go to get the largest settlement amount possible. The bills continue to pile up and you need the money, but is it the best choice? The obvious answer is probably not. It is likely that you are struggling with this decision (as you should be) and your attorney has his own reasons for settling the case that are not in your best interest.

Many individuals deal with this exact issue and choose to find a different attorney. If you are interested in having an attorney that values your case and will give it the time that is necessary, call the Dolman Law Group anytime, at 727-451-6900.