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Can a lawsuit do more than provide compensation?

Imagine that you have been admitted to the hospital for a medical condition. Because of most doctors’ experience and educational background, you trust that you are in good hands and will be well taken care of. But during your stay, a medical mistake occurs and you are left with a debilitating injury. What would you do?

If you would consider seeking the help of a skilled attorney and taking legal action against the hospital, then you’re not alone. A lot of people in a situation such as this would seek compensation for their injuries. But while compensation can be beneficial, especially if an injury causes life-long issues for the victim and their family, medical malpractice lawsuits can do much more than provide restitution to victims.

One thing that a medical malpractice lawsuit achieves is holding the hospital and its staff accountable for their actions. Whether it’s a misdiagnosis or a surgical error, these forms of negligence can not only impact a patient’s life but their families’ lives as well. And in the event that the mistake results in wrongful death, the need for justice could be that much stronger. Seeking punitive damages is one way of getting that sense of justice because it acts as a deterrent for future negligence.

But a civil complaint can also bring about medical reform as well. As was pointed out by Forbes in an article last month, the medical community is resistant to change, possibly because reforms could “infringe on individual doctor or hospital prerogatives.” But much of the reforms in the past few decades have made things safer for patients.

Take for example anesthesiology errors. In 1982, hefty medical malpractice verdicts forced the anesthesiology community to improve processes to ensure patient safety and decrease the risk of errors. These efforts have caused the mortality rate to drop to 1 in 100,000 administrations.

So while many people may think that the goal of a medical malpractice lawsuit is to obtain restitution for a mistake, it’s worth noting that they can achieve more than that. Not only can they hold hospitals and its staff accountable for mistakes but they may even bring about change as well, which prevent future mistakes from happening.

Source: Forbes, “Malpractice Lawsuits Aren't Just About Money,” Steve Cohen, June 18, 2014

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