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Questions and Answers

Medical malpractice facts, myths, and statistics

Question: Do I have a case?

It depends on the details of your situation.  For End, Hierseman & Crain to represent your interests we must thoroughly investigate your medical records, your injury, the potential compensation, and the cost of pursuing the case. Following that, if we believe your case has merit, we will attempt to find one or more expert physicians to review your case.

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Question: How much time do I have to file a claim or lawsuit?

Generally, the time limit in Wisconsin for pursuing a claim is 3 years from the date of injury. In medical negligence cases, however, the date of injury is not always easily determined.  The date of injury may be when you receive a diagnosis or it may be at the end of a long course of negligent treatment.

Children injured before age 7 have until their 10th birthday to bring a claim.  After age 7, the time limit for kids is 3 years from the date of injury.  Discuss the rules of Wisconsin’s statute of limitations with one of our skilled attorneys.

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Question: Are there limits to how much compensation I can receive in a personal injury case?

Yes.  On March 22, 2006, a law passed that placed a monetary limit of $750,000 on medical malpractice non-economic damages:

  • Pain
  • Suffering
  • Emotional distress
  • Disfigurement
  • Loss of society or companionship

This damage limit does not apply to medical negligence cases that occurred prior to April 6, 2006.

There is no limit on the amount of monetary recovery for economic damages for medical negligence or other personal injury cases:

  • Wage loss
  • Medical expenses
  • Tangible expenses

There are other limitations, including on the damages allowed for wrongful death claims, and we encourage you to call our office to discuss your particular circumstance.

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Question: My insurance company (or Medicare or Title XIX) paid my medical bills (or disability benefits) are they paid back after a lawsuit?

If you receive compensation related to your injury, part of that money is to pay back the insurance companies who paid benefits to you or on your behalf because of the negligence.

We do not charge a fee for medical expenses or other insurance benefits awarded.  The insurance companies who provided benefits to you or on your behalf will have their own lawyers representing their interests.

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Question: I have heard that I do not pay attorney fees if I do not win.  Is pursuit of a case risk-free for me?

It is true that most people hire End, Hierseman & Crain to handle their case on a contingency fee basis (there is an option to hire us with an hourly fee).  A contingency fee means that our law firm will only recover an attorney’s fee if you receive compensation for your injury.

However, in order to pursue your case, End, Hierseman & Crain will spend money to accumulate records, hire experts, and prepare the case for trial.  You are obligated to reimburse our firm for those expenses whether we recover money for you or not.  We will keep you advised of the expenses incurred and can work with you to make payments if necessary.

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Question: Do most cases go to trial or are many settled out of court?

Some cases do settle, but many do not.  For example, in the year 2003, there were 81 people compensated for medical malpractice in Wisconsin but only four of those cases went to trial.  Insurance companies frequently push cases to trial because they know that injured people have to dismiss a case when they cannot afford the associated costs.

At End, Hierseman & Crain we know the insurance companies’ strategies and are equipped to fight them.  However, we do not fight foolishly.  We will only take your case to court when we believe it has strong merit.

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National Malpractice Statistics

  1. Less than one-half of 1 percent of the nation’s doctors faces serious state sanctions each year.
  2. In 1999, the medical boards took 2,696 total serious disciplinary actions.
  3. A recent study by the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences estimated that as many as 98,000 patients might die each year, in hospitals alone, because of medical errors.
  4. Harvard researchers found that out of a representative sample of patients treated in New York state hospitals in 1984, 1 percent were injured, a fourth of which died, because of medical negligence.  Nationwide, that would have translated into 234,000 injuries and 80,000 deaths from negligence and, since the time of this study, there has been no documented improvement.
  5. An in-depth interview with 53 family physicians revealed that 47 percent of the doctors recalled a case in which a patient died due to physician error.  Only four of those reported errors led to malpractice suits and none resulted in action by a peer review organization.
  6. Although the surgery residents reported negligible recent cocaine use, when used it typically came from the hospital supply.  This indicates a greater ease of access to the population as a whole.
  7. Their longest period residents reported without sleep during their first year of residency was an average of 37.6 hours.  During a typical workweek, they worked an average of 56.9 total hours during shifts on-call.  This is different from a typical workweek because an on-call shift is a continuous shift at the hospital that allows for little to no sleep, with two on-call shifts scheduled per week being a common occurrence.
  8. Twenty-five percent of the residents reported being on-call in the hospital a total of more than eighty hours per week.
  9. Surgeons reported the highest average hours of on-call time per week with 72.5.  On a scale of zero (never) to four (almost daily), residents most frequently gave a response of three for sleep deprivation experienced during the first year.
  10. According to data from the National Practitioner Data Bank, just 5.1 percent of doctors account for 54.2 percent of the malpractice payouts.
  11. Of the 35,000 doctors who have had two or more malpractice payouts since 1990, only 7.6 percent had disciplinary measures taken.  Only 13 percent of doctors with five or more medical malpractice payouts have had disciplinary measures taken.
  12. The Institute of Medicine found between 44,000 and 98,000 people die in hospitals annually due to preventable medical errors.
  13. There is no growth in the number of new medical malpractice claims.  According to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, the number of new medical malpractice claims declined by about four percent between 1995 and 2000.
  14. While medical costs have increased by 113 percent since 1987, the amount spent on medical malpractice insurance has increased by just 52 percent over that time.  The director of insurance for the Consumer Federation of America indicates that insurance companies are raising rates because of poor returns on their investments, not due to increased litigation.
  15. Malpractice insurance costs amount to only 3.2 percent of the average physician’s revenues.
  16. Few medical errors ever result in legal claims.  According to a Harvard study, only one malpractice claim arises for every 7.6 hospital injuries.
  17. Plaintiffs drop 10 times more claims than they pursue, according to Physician Insurer Association of America data.

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