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New York medical malpractice reforms coming to a court near you

If you have been injured by a hospital's negligence or a doctor's failure to diagnose you with a condition led to considerable pain and suffering, you may be considering a medical malpractice lawsuit. Although you have a right to seek compensation for a doctor or hospital's medical negligence, the typical medical malpractice lawsuit takes three years before a patient will finally see money from a courtroom win or a settlement.

In an effort to resolve New York medical malpractice lawsuits earlier, a judge in the Bronx has started a new settlement-focused approach that is starting to spread to other parts of New York. One of the major differences between the traditional lawsuit and this new program is that one judge will be involved in the case from beginning to end. This judge-directed negotiation is supervised by a judge that has a certain degree of medical expertise and works to facilitate a settlement.

While the program is meant to encourage settlement, it doesn't prevent a medical malpractice victim from going through with a trial. If the patient and the doctor cannot come to an agreement or continue to dispute the amount of a settlement, either party can choose to bring the matter before a judge and jury. Even if the parties are at an impasse, the judge will not force a settlement.

There have been some doubts about the system and whether it is truly beneficial to patients who sustained injuries from medical malpractice. In some situations, certain plaintiffs may receive a lower settlement award than if they had gone to trial or obtained a settlement through a more traditional method. The benefit, however, is that the patient or his or her family is able to receive compensation years earlier. The new judge-directed negotiation has reduced many medical malpractice cases down to six months.

Source: The Washington Post, "Judge devises model for resolving medical malpractice cases more quickly," Michelle Andrews, Nov. 21, 2011

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