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Settling a medical malpractice case: work with experienced counsel to protect yourself

Readers may remember that not long after the death of comedian Joan Rivers, stories started popping up in the headlines that her family was accusing a New York clinic where she received treatment of negligence in caring for her. Rivers died about a week after an appointment at Yorkville Endoscopy in Manhattan.

During the procedure, Rivers had apparently had a spasm of her vocal chords which made it difficult for her to breath. This caused her body to not receive enough oxygen, and her brain subsequently shut down. In the family’s medical malpractice filing, the family claimed that the clinic failed to obtain Rivers’ consent to perform certain procedures, though the clinic denied the accusations.

Earlier this month, Rivers’ family reached a settlement with the clinic, putting an end the malpractice case. As is often the case, the terms of the settlement are confidential, and neither party has revealed any details. Oftentimes, though, settlements are reached in which the party accused of malpractice does not admit responsibility. Typically, settlements are premised on the need to set the legal issues aside and move on.

For patients and their families, there isn’t necessarily anything wrong with accepting a settlement. In fact, patients are best off settling in some cases, particularly when the potential payout from litigation doesn’t justify the likely costs.  In other cases, pursuing litigation may make sense. It really depends on the facts of the case, the patient’s—or family’s—goals, the likely damages award, and other factors.

Working with an experienced medical malpractice attorney is important to ensure that one has guidance in negotiating and litigating a case, whatever may be the case. 

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