You suffered terrible injuries.
Permanent and disabling injuries.
All because your doctor was careless.
Just that one time.
On that one day.
Because of his medical errors, your life has changed forever.
You can't do the types of activities you used to do.
You can't work.
You can't play with your kids.
You're depressed all day.
You're angry watching your colleagues and friends head off to work each day while you sit at home with your visiting nurse watching daytime TV.
You loved your doctor.
You trusted him.
You enjoyed your visits with him.
He liked you.
You got along well with him and his nurses.
That's why you didn't hesitate when he told you that you needed surgery.
You had total confidence in him.
This was supposed to be a 'routine' surgical procedure.
In and out in an afternoon.
He'd done it hundreds of times before.
"Piece of cake," he told you in the office.
You had no reason to disbelieve him.
When you awoke, you were in the surgical intensive care unit.
You couldn't speak.
You had a tube in your throat.
You had IV's in both hands.
You were hooked up to many different monitors including an electrocardiogram and a pulse oximeter.
You could barely move as you tried to remember how and why you were there.
Suddenly a nurse appeared in your peripheral vision.
"Ah, I see you're awake. Good. Go back to sleep. I'll see you later," as you saw her push some medication into your IV and promptly drifted off to sleep again.
You awoke the following day.
Your endotracheal tube had been removed.
Your voice was scratchy.
Another nurse popped into your view.
"What am I doing here?" you ask, bewildered.
"Oh, there was a little problem during your surgery and we're getting you better. You should be moved to a regular floor in a few days," she says.
That doesn't answer your question.
Days later, your surgeon finally comes around to see you.
"What the hell happened?" you ask with a hint of anger.
The doctor tries to deflect the question and says "Listen, there was a problem during surgery. You were bleeding excessively and I did everything to try and close you up quickly. You may need another surgery or two down the road, but let's focus on getting you better and out of the hospital," he says to you authoritatively.
That answer pacifies you for a little while.
Until those days turn into weeks and you're still in the hospital.
You develop one complication after another.
You develop internal bleeding requring more surgical evaluations.
You need imaging tests including MRI's and CAT scans.
You need massive antibiotics to kill off those germs that are now in your bloodstream.
Your wife is terrified.
You've lost weight.
Your kids are worried sick about you.
All you know is that you walked into the hospital without a problem.
It's now been two and a half weeks and you're still stuck in the hospital not knowing exactly why.
You want answers and you're not getting them.
Three weeks after your 'routine' surgical procedure, you're finally discharged.
You now need a visiting nurse for twelve hours a day.
You need a home health aide as well.
You can't go up or down stairs.
You convert your living room into your bedroom.
Your entire family is catering to you now.
You feel helpless.
When you return back to your doctor for follow up, he still isn't giving you the details to satisfy your curiosity about how you came to be in this awful situation.
The more you think about it, the angrier you get.
Every day, while watching daytime TV, you see one lawyer ad after another.
You begin to wonder whether your surgeon did something wrong to cause your injuries.
Instead of calling one of those TV advertising lawyers, you decide to do some research online.
You want to know who other lawyers use when they have legal problems.
You talk to a few of them and then invite one to visit you at home.
You like him.
He talks well.
He has many years of experience.
He's handled cases just like yours.
He doesn't pull punches either.
He's a straight shooter and tells you "I have no idea if you have a good case yet. I need to gather all your medical records and then have a board certified medical expert review them as well. Then I can tell you if you have a valid case," he says.
It costs you nothing.
That's even better.
If you have a good case, your lawyer will work for free for years until you either settle your case or a jury gives you money.
Only then will he get a percentage of what he gets for you.
If you lose your case at trial, your lawyer has worked for free.
He gets nothing and you get nothing.
"Sounds good to me," you tell him.
Two months later, your lawyer calls you.
"I got all your records and sent them to a board-certified surgeon. He tells me that your surgeon violated the basic standards of medical care causing you harm and injury. Had he done the procedure correctly, none of these injuries would have happened. The injuries you got were not known recognized risks of the procedure," he tells you.
You're glad that a medical expert has validated your concerns,
You do feel somewhat guilty knowing that you'll have to sue the doctor whom you once admired and loved.
But you quickly realize that your former doctor will not put your kids through college.
Nor will he willingly put food on your table.
Nor will he pay your bills and ongoing medical expenses.
You have no choice but to sue your doctor for medical malpractice.
As expected, your doctor disputes all your claims.
He says "Why are you suing me? I did nothing wrong!"
He also says in response to your lawsuit papers "If I did something wrong, so did you!"
Imagine that! While you're under anesthesia, you did something wrong! Unbelievable.
Then he argues that if he did something wrong then whatever he did, didn't cause your injury. It was something else, he argues.
Then he says "If I did something wrong and I caused you harm, your injuries are not as bad as you claim."
That gets your blood boiling.
Now, you're out for blood.
Now it's 'game on'.
"BRING IT!" you tell your attorney.
Your doctor refuses to negotiate.
He refuses to settle.
That means your case will ultimately have to go to trial.
That means that a jury will have to decide whether you are slightly more likely right than wrong that what you are claiming is true.
If the jury believes you, they'll have to determine if your surgeons' carelesssness was a cause of your injury.
If yes, then they'll have to determine how much money you are to receive for all the harms, losses and damages you incurred.
Two years after starting your lawsuit, your case finally gets to trial.
Your lawyer braces you for all the different possibilities that can occur when you go to trial.
"You could lose," he says as your eyes widen in shock.
"You could win and the jury gives you a small amount of money."
"You could win big and the judge could throw your verdict out," he tells you in all honesty.
"You could win and your case gets appealed."
On appeal, your case could get thrown out.
On appeal, you could get your verdict made much smaller.
On appeal, the higher court could determine that your injuries are worth more!
On appeal, the higher court could decide that legal errors were made and you need to have a new trial...essentially a do-over.
There are many possible outcomes when you go to trial, your lawyer tells you.
"Still no chance of negotiating?" you ask.
"As of now, no," your lawyer tells you.
"If the defense did want to negotiate, what do you think would be a good settlement number?" you ask innocently.
Your attorney answers thoughtfully.
"I did a lot of research on this issue. Based on what similar cases have settled for and what other cases have gotten after verdict and appeal, I think your case has a value of between $350,000-$500,000," he tells you.
This is all new to you.
You have nothing to compare it to.
"What about that person who got $5 million? What about my neighbor who got $900,000 for a fracture? What about that guy who was killed by police and got $3 million?" you ask.
Your lawyer has good answers for each.
There are differences in each case you mention.
They were in different counties.
Their injuries are not the same as yours.
Many of those people have injuries that were much worse than yours.
They had lost earnings. They had lost business opportunities too.
They didn't have to repay Medicare or Medicaid for the services they provided to you after the wrongdoing happened, like you did.
Each of them needed two or three additional surgeries after the initial wrongdoing.
Thankfully for you, you have not needed any other surgery at this point.
You're beginning to get it.
You now understand the risks of going to trial.
Risks on both sides.
A few days before jury selection is scheduled to start in your trial, your lawyer calls to tell you the defense wants to negotiate.
They understand the risks as well.
This is a business decision for them.
They offer some money.
"$!00,000 is what they offered," your lawyer tells you.
"Tell them to take a hike," you say, totally offended by this late and puny offer.
"I'm going to see if I can get them to come up to that range we talked about a few weeks ago," he tells you.
A day later your lawyer calls again.
"They finally came up to $200,000. This is their best offer," he tells you.
"No way. I'll take my chances at trial," you say.
Your lawyer agrees with you.
The offer is insufficient.
To trial you go.
Two weeks of hard-fought trial.
Opening arguments, direct questioning, cross examination and finally closing arguments are made.
It's mentally exhausting.
It's an emotional roller-coaster sitting in court listening to witnesses fight over what happened and what it means for you.
You're tired of it all.
You have no idea what the jury is going to do.
Some days you think they're leaning in your favor, but you just can't tell.
On other days it appears as if they're totally against you.
The jury isn't giving you any telltale signs.
You're worried the jury will give you nothing.
You're worried they'll find the doctor did nothing wrong.
You're worried that if they find in your favor that they give you even less than what the defense offered to settle.
That would be embarassing and frustrating as hell.
The judge gives the jury final closing instructions on what the law is in your case.
He has the court officer lock the courtroom door so nobody can go in or out while he's explaining the law to the jury.
Then he goes through the different questions they must answer in order to reach their verdict.
The judge tells the jury "This is the verdict sheet. You must answer these specific questions in order. DO NOT GO OUT OF ORDER," he warns them.
It's now time for the jury to start their deliberations.
It's torture sitting in the courtroom waiting.
You're waiting around for hours.
You break for lunch and hope you have a verdict soon.
When you return from lunch, still no word from the jury.
A few more hours go by.
Finally, toward the end of the afternoon, the jury sends word to the judge that they reached a verdict.
"HALLELUJAH!" you think.
You wish you could overhear what went on in that jury room.
You wish you could see into that room and learn what they talked about.
"What could they have been talking about for so many hours?" you wonder.
The wait is almost over...
The judge calls the attorneys back into the courtroom.
The court stenographer is called back in.
You are waiting breathlessly.
"As to the first question, was Dr. Jones negligent, what do you say?" the judge asks the jury foreperson.
"We the jury find that Dr. Jones was negligent," he says.
You see your lawyer check of a box on his jury sheet.
"As to the second question, was Dr. Jones' negligence a proximate cause of this patient's injuries?" the judge asks.
"Yes," the foreperson responds.
Your lawyer quickly checks off another box on his jury form.
You're trying to process this.
It's happening too quickly.
You're wondering what the next question and answer will be.
"As to the third question, how much money do you give this patient for the pain and suffering she received in the past?" the judge asks with anticipation.
"We the jury give her $5 million dollars for her past pain and suffering," the jury says.
You feel lightheaded and almost pass out.
"As to the fourth question, how much money do you give this patient for pain and suffering into the future?" he asks.
"We give her $5 million dollars," he says.
"Oh my God," you whisper to your spouse sitting next to you in the courtroom.
You're quickly adding up these numbers and you somehow think the jury just gave you $10 million dollars for your pain and suffering.
You're right but you can't believe it.
"As to the fifth question, how much money do you give this patient for her lost earnings in the past?" he asks.
"We give her $125,000," the jury foreperson says.
"As to the sixth question, how much money do you give her for lost earnings into the future?" he asks.
"We give her $250,000," he says.
"As to the seventh question, how much money do you give her spouse for his loss of services?" the judge asks.
"We give him $500,000 for his loss of services claim," the foreperson says.
You again quickly add up in your mind what just happened.
Your attorney is trying to do the same.
Before the judge has a chance to discharge the jury and thank them for their service, you jump up and yell out...
"EXCUSE ME JUDGE! SOMETHING'S WRONG. THIS IS TOO MUCH MONEY. I WANT TO GIVE SOME OF IT BACK," you say to a shocked courtroom.
It's at that point that your spouse shakes you gently on the shoulder as you wake up from your nightmare dream. You open your eyes and wonder where you are as you are sweating profusely. You realize your fever just broke and that you're still in the hospital trying to recuperate from your botched surgery.
You soon recall the last part of that horrific dream where you told the judge you wanted to give back much of the money the jury just gave you because, well...it's just too much. The only thing you had to compare that jury verdict to was the amount that your lawyer told you your case was worth, about $350,000-$500,000.
Then again, it's worth whatever the jury feels your case is worth.
As you head off to sleep with more pain-killing sedatives, you get the sense that this wasn't a dream at all.