When you take ill, you go to a physician for help. This is the right thing to do because they possess the education, training, and experience to make you healthy again. At least, they should have these qualities. If the result of putting yourself under the care of a physician is even worse health, then you may have been the victim of medical malpractice.
Being in such a situation can not only cause you physical pain and psychological stress; it can also lead to financial strain. Not only will you need to deal with your original ailment, you will also need to find a solution for the additional injury done to you owing to malpractice. This is not something you should try to manage on your own. You should engage the services of a medical malpractice lawyer.
How Common is Medical Malpractice?
Medical malpractice occurs more frequently than most people realize. The public tends to be familiar with the dramatic forms of medical practice: surgeons operating on wrong body parts or removing the wrong limbs or organs. However, the more common kinds of malpractice tend to be less extreme, but still dangerous. Misdiagnosis and mis-prescription are among them, and they can also cause people serious harm.
If you have gone to a qualified physician complaining of certain symptoms, it is their job to run medical tests to determine the problem. Every medical professional understands the limits of their knowledge; they know when it is necessary for them to consult with colleagues and get a second opinion on a case. If your physician fails to do this and gives an incorrect diagnosis, it can jeopardize your health.
The same goes for writing prescriptions. Your physician must take down a detailed history of your medical history before prescribing you drugs; they should know of any allergies you might have and how the drugs could affect them. They must also know the strength and power of the drugs. This is especially important given the current opioid crisis. Pain-killing drugs should be assigned with care and discretion and the amount prescribed strictly limited.
How to Find a Malpractice Lawyer
You put your trust and confidence in a person you believed to be a thoroughgoing professional. That trust was betrayed, and you have suffered greatly because of it. You need not resign yourself to the situation. You can get justice by hiring a lawyer who specializes in medical malpractice law.
You need to be sure about the lawyer you choose. That is why you should go through a rigorous process of selection. These are some of the things you should do to find the right medical malpractice lawyer:
1. Ask for a referral
You should not hesitate to ask around. If you have friends or know of someone in your family who has gone through something similar, you should ask the name of the law firm that represented them. You can also get good referrals from work colleagues. You can ask people in your group or team if they know of a good malpractice lawyer. You may be surprised at how many people have had to sue doctors or know of someone who has.
2. Check law websites
Legal websites offer a treasure trove of law firm websites. FindLaw.com and Nolo.com are two of the best directory sites. Neither of these sites rates law firms. However, either one is a good place to start your search.
3. Use a search engine
The simple act of typing “medical malpractice law firms” into your preferred search engine will yield a great many firms. It will also take you to websites that list law firms which specialize in medical malpractice.
4. Call the county bar association
If you are not very computer savvy, you can simply call the local bar association. You can find the number online or in the phone book. They will be able to tell you the law firms nearest you that specialize in medical malpractice. If you are unable to reach anyone at the county level, then you can call the state bar association. You will reach someone at that organization.
5. Narrow the list of candidate firms
Once you know of all the law firms that take medical malpractice cases, you should narrow the list of potential candidates for your case down to 2 or 3. Most law firms will promote themselves as winners and highly effective advocates in medical malpractice cases. However, the actual record of each individual firm is what matters. The firms that have gotten money for their clients will not be shy about posting the exact amount or including specific examples of good settlements on the websites. These are the firms you should consider.
6. Interview each firm
The idea of interviewing a law firm may seem strange, but it is necessary and easily done. Call the few law firms you have chosen and ask them questions. The following are examples of what you should ask:
- The percentage of medical malpractice cases handled by the firm
- The experience (in years) of the lawyer who would handle your case
- Whether the firm handles only certain kinds of medical malpractice cases
- Whether they have malpractice insurance
- Whether any of those practicing in the field of malpractice has published any articles on the topic
- Whether they operate on a no-win, no-fee basis
The last point is especially important. Many firms take injury and malpractice clients on contingency—that is, they only get paid if they win. The firms that do this take considerable risk, so they are careful about the cases they take. A no-win, no-fee firm will only take your case if they are certain they can negotiate a settlement that is adequate to cover their fees and give you fair compensation.
The Legal Process
Once you have hired an attorney, you will need to put the case and all the communication and negotiation surrounding it into their hands. The first thing that the law firm you chose will do is bring you in for an in-depth discussion about your case. They will ask you to recall everything that happened before, during, and after the malpractice incident. You should be as accurate as possible about conversations you had with your doctor. You should also bring to your attorney all documents related to the medical procedure. Medical malpractice lawyers have enough experience to determine where your physician went wrong and the extent to which they are liable for your suffering.
The next step is for your lawyer to investigate the medical professional responsible for the malpractice. Any past errors can be gleaned from public records. Your lawyer will also send their own private investigators to interview the staff and technicians that worked with the doctor who harmed you. It is usually the case that if a mistake was made someone will want to talk. Your lawyer will work to get one or more eyewitnesses to the error to make sworn statements.
Once your lawyer has gathered all the evidence, they will approach the physician in question and their legal team. At this point, negotiations will begin. Your lawyer will present just enough evidence to get them to make an offer. The latter is likely to be low. However, your attorney will push them to make an offer that is commensurate with the extent and devastation of the error.
You may not need to file a lawsuit. It may be possible to settle the matter without a prolonged process. Even if you do need to sue, it is in everyone’s interest to reach a settlement out of court.