Medical malpractice occurs when a patient feels they’ve been neglected by a healthcare provider. A medical malpractice attorney may represent either the plaintiff in the case, the patient and their family, or the healthcare provider accused of misconduct. These professionals create a strong case for their clients by gathering evidence and performing research to present to the court.
Average Annual Salary
The average annual salary of lawyers, including those specializing in medical malpractice, is $112,760, according to the latest data from May 2010 by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Salaries ranged from $54,130 on the lower end, to $166,400 at the top of the pay scale (Ref. one).
Medical Malpractice Fees
Most medical malpractice attorneys earn a sliding fee for their work, so salaries vary greatly according to each individual. Sliding fees vary by state and each individual settlement. For example, in California fees may not be greater than 40 percent of the first $50,000, one-third of the next $50,000, 25 percent of the next $500,000, and 15 percent of damages greater than $600,000. In some states such as Michigan, the fee structure is more straightforward, as the maximum contingency fee for a personal injury lawsuit is one-third of the settlement.
A medical malpractice attorney must complete a Juris Doctor degree program from an accredited law school to practice in the United States. Additionally, many professionals in this field choose to take healthcare-related electives or to obtain a dual degree in a field such as healthcare administration or public health, to gain a better understanding of medical topics. Medical malpractice attorneys in all states must take continuing education classes to keep their knowledge up to date. Requirements vary by state, but professionals may opt to take healthcare-related courses to further enhance their understanding of medical topics.
Future Job Outlook
The BLS predicts that employment of lawyers, including medical malpractice attorneys, will increase by 10 percent between 2010 and 2020, which is lower than the 14 percent growth rate for all professions. While the 10 percent increase should add approximately 73,600 new jobs, competition for these positions will be intense, as more students are graduating from law school each year than there are open positions.
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