For many medical malpractice victims, doctor’s apology can help

Many critics of medical malpractice lawsuits may make several generalizations about what they believe the “typical” plaintiff to be. Among these common stereotypes is that many plaintiffs are out to get as much money as possible from the negligent doctor. Supposedly, people who have received poor medical care see the situation as a “payday.” In other words, a chance to collect a settlement or verdict that exceeds their actual damages.

As with most stereotypes, this image is a gross generalization at best. The truth is, many cases ofmedical malpractice are resolved for moderate or even no financial payments. Instead of money, many victims or their families are looking for a simple apology.

In many cases, medical professionals are reluctant to apologize to their patients or the patients’ families in the fear that doing so will expose them to liability. This is true in other types of civil litigation as well. But according to a University of Illinois law professor, apologies tend to lead to settlements instead of further litigation.

One high-profile wrongful death case against a doctor provides a good example. After his brother passed away a few years ago, actor James Woods filed suit against the hospital where he died, accusing the staff there of causing the death through negligent care. The case could have lasted a long time and cost a lot of money for both sides. But the hospital admitted its mistakes and issued an apology. After that, Woods agreed to a settlement, which included a new patient safety institute named for his late brother.

Source: Deseret News, “Simple apologies can solve a lot of problems,” Jay Evensen, July 26, 2013

Wrongful Death


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