Challenges of Winning a Medical Malpractice Lawsuit

Complex medical evidence and juror bias toward doctors make medical malpractice cases tough to win. How do you boost your chances of success?

Updated by , J.D. · University of San Francisco School of Law

Medical malpractice cases are notoriously difficult for patients to win. You might read about plaintiffs getting awarded millions of dollars after a successful medical malpractice lawsuit, but you'll rarely come across articles about plaintiffs who have lost their cases at trial, and that's the more common outcome.

The majority of medical malpractice lawsuits result in defense verdicts, meaning the doctor, hospital, or other health care provider won the trial after the jury heard and considered all the evidence.

Let's look at the challenges inherent in a medical malpractice case, and some of the things you can do to boost your chances of success, including the importance of finding a qualified lawyer who can present your best case.

It's Difficult to Prove Medical Negligence

Proving that the health care provider's actions (or inaction) amounted to medical negligence is the key to a medical malpractice case, but it's a difficult task. It often requires you (or your lawyer) to locate and work with a qualified medical expert witness who can:

  • study the course of your treatment
  • identify what the doctor actually did, and
  • illustrate what the doctor should have done, in line with the appropriate medical standard of care.

Very few doctors are going to acknowledge that they made a mistake. Medical textbooks may list multiple ways to treat a specific injury, illness, or disease. The lawyer and the expert often need to work side by side and get creative in order to tease out the doctor's (or hospital's) negligence. Learn more about proving medical negligence.

You'll Need to Convince the Jury to Find That There Was Malpractice

Doctors win the majority of medical malpractice cases that go to trial. Lawyers and legal experts differ on why this is so, but one important reason seems to be the typical juror's understanding (or assumption) that:

  • the practice of medicine is challenging
  • there is often no one right way to do something
  • most doctors try their best, and
  • not all patients end up with a good outcome.

Basically, unless the doctor made an obvious mistake, like leaving an instrument inside a patient after a surgical procedure, juries often give the doctor the benefit of the doubt. Here again is where your lawyer and a qualified expert need to paint a compelling (and easily-understood) picture of the doctor's wrongdoing.

How Do I Improve My Odds of Winning a Medical Malpractice Lawsuit?

There are are several steps you can take to boost your odds of putting together a successful medical malpractice case. Perhaps the biggest thing you can do on your own, and beginning as early on as possible, is to start keeping a record (written or digital) of:

  • everything you can remember about the health care treatment scenario in which you were harmed (who was involved, what you were told, what you felt, and anything else that might be important later on), and
  • the impact that the health care provider's mistake has had on you (physically, mentally, and financially) and on your day-to-day life.

But, given the discussion so far, you probably won't be surprised to learn that having the right medical malpractice lawyer on your side is the single biggest key to improving your odds of getting a good result.

Finding a Qualified Medical Malpractice Lawyer

Finding a qualified lawyer is often critical to the success of a medical malpractice case, usually much more so than in a standard personal injury case. Medical malpractice is a specialized area of the law, so you want a lawyer who specializes in medical malpractice, or who at least has extensive experience handling these kinds of cases.

The right lawyer will know how to locate, sift through, and analyze the immense amount of medical evidence that usually comes into play in a typical medical malpractice case. When a medical expert's help is needed (which is usually inevitable in these cases), the lawyer will have a network of qualified professionals to contact.

An experienced lawyer will also know how the game is played when it's time to talk settlement with the health care provider's insurance company. (Learn more about medical malpractice settlements.)

Finally, medical malpractice cases are expensive, primarily because of the cost of putting on the best case. Experienced lawyers know this and are prepared to bear the costs (which could easily reach tens of thousands of dollars) up front. And keep in mind that under a standard medical malpractice lawyer fee agreement, the client won't have to pay these costs unless the lawyer recovers a settlement or court judgment in the client's favor.

Learn how to find the right medical malpractice lawyer for you and your case.

Make the Most of Your Claim
Get the compensation you deserve.
We've helped 175 clients find attorneys today.
There was a problem with the submission. Please refresh the page and try again
Full Name is required
Email is required
Please enter a valid Email
Phone Number is required
Please enter a valid Phone Number
Zip Code is required
Please add a valid Zip Code
Please enter a valid Case Description
Description is required

How It Works

  1. Briefly tell us about your case
  2. Provide your contact information
  3. Choose attorneys to contact you