When you see your doctor and they tell you that something is wrong, you get anxious. But the more you talk with your doctor, you understand that whatever comes next is in your best interest. Whether you simply need to take a pill every day for the rest of your life or you need to undergo a serious operation, you know that doing so will help you in the long run.
While that is always the intent, the execution does not always follow the same way. Sometimes, mistakes happen. A pharmacist could give you the wrong dose. A surgeon could make a mistake while operating on you. There are myriad ways that medical professionals could make mistakes that result in additional and unnecessary suffering for patients like you. When that happens, you need to speak with a trusted medical malpractice attorney. Knowing where to find the right lawyer for you is the best place to start.
Types of Medical Malpractice
Before we get too deep into how to find the right lawyer for your medical malpractice claim, you need to know what qualifies as medical malpractice. You may have a medical malpractice claim if the negligence of your doctor or other medical professional caused you additional injury or harm. Simply experiencing a bad outcome from a surgery or other medical procedure may not be enough in and of itself to qualify as medical malpractice.
This is what makes medical malpractice so complex. Not only is your injury surrounded by a medical issue, a layperson may not immediately know if their injury resulted from medical negligence.
These are the most common examples of clear medical malpractice:
- Misdiagnosis - If your doctor examines you and determines that you have a medical issue other than the one you actually have, or do not have any issue at all, that would be classified as a misdiagnosis or a missed diagnosis. To rise to the level of medical malpractice, a doctor must have acted in a manner that other medical professionals would not have in a similar situation.
- Delayed diagnosis - Similar to misdiagnosis, a delayed diagnosis happens when your doctor first does not diagnose or misdiagnoses you but then, upon further examination, gets the proper diagnosis. The problem here is that the delay could cause you additional harm. Usually this happens when your doctor does not examine you fully or is rushed in the examination.
- Failure to treat - Your doctor may have arrived at the correct diagnosis but offers the wrong treatment. Generally this happens when doctors are too busy, offering a sub-standard level of care to patients.
- Surgical errors - Surgical errors often result from rushing or performing a surgery outside the doctor’s scope of expertise. This can take the form of operating on the wrong body part, performing the incorrect procedure, damaging body parts, leaving medical equipment inside the patient's body, and providing inadequate post-surgery care.
- Birth injury - These are tragic injuries that occur to a mother, child, or both, during the birth process. These injuries take many forms and do often result in death. Whether a medical professional administered too much medication or used the wrong birthing tools, the injuries suffered by the mother and child can be devastating, leaving life-altering consequences.
- Medical product liability - Sometimes, mistakes are made during the manufacturing process of medical tools. If a device does not work as intended, even though the medical professional used it according to the manufacturer’s instructions, the device was possibly improperly manufactured. Unfortunately, this discovery of faulty devices does not usually happen until doctors use them on patients.
This list is not comprehensive. These are simply the most common causes of medical malpractice claims. To know for sure if you have a medical malpractice claim, you need to speak with a medical malpractice lawyer near you right away.
Where to Look
Just like looking for a doctor, you want to make the best decision you can when searching for a medical malpractice lawyer near you. Research is important, but understand the time constraints. Once you have suffered a medical malpractice injury, the clock ticks down the time you have to file a claim against the negligent medical professional. Letting yourself fall trap to analysis paralysis could exhaust this time, leaving you unable to file a claim against the at-fault party, resulting in you having to pay out of pocket for your own medical expenses.
Medical malpractice is an extremely complex area of the law. Not just any lawyer can competently handle a medical malpractice claim.
Generally, medical malpractice lawyers practice in one of two areas:
- Defending doctors, medical professionals, and medical device manufacturing companies
- Plaintiff’s lawyer, representing injured patients
If you have suffered injuries, you need a plaintiff’s lawyer to help you hold the negligent party liable for your injuries. Medical malpractice cases usually settle out of court. However, because of the complexity of medical malpractice cases, they may be more likely to go to trial than other, less complicated, claims. Looking for a trusted lawyer who is a member of National Trial Lawyers is a great place to start. The American Bar Association also has a great resource to help you find lawyers specializing in medical malpractice.
When you narrow down your list of lawyers, search online for their names. This will give you reviews from actual clients that the lawyer may not have listed on their website. These can be insightful, providing a more accurate picture of what to expect from your lawyer.
You can also ask your doctor for a recommendation. If your doctor is not the subject of your medical malpractice claim, you can speak with them and ask if they know any lawyer that might be an excellent resource for you. You can also ask family and friends. Word of mouth is often the best form of advertising. Plus, you trust your family and friends to give you straight answers and honest opinions about their experience with a lawyer.
Finally, if you have relationships with lawyers specializing in other areas of the law, ask them. Good lawyers know good lawyers.
Information to Have Ready
Once you speak with a medical malpractice attorney near you and decide to hire them, you will need to provide them with a ton of information, much of it very personal. It is best to start collecting and compiling this information even before you hire a lawyer, as this will speed up the process once you do.
Your medical malpractice claim can be complicated. Lots of medical documents and evidence will need to be reviewed by your lawyer and their medical expert resources.
You need to provide, at a minimum:
- All medical records pertaining to your injury
- Mental health records
- Prescription drug information
- Insurance information
- Medical bills
- Pay stubs before and after your accident
Besides these documents, if you have received any letters or documents from your doctor or their lawyer or insurance company, provide them to your lawyer right away. You need access to your past pay stubs. You may not initially think that your pay matters. Many medical malpractice victims only think about their medical expenses. But accounting for your financial losses can be equally important and can actually greatly increase the amount of compensation you may receive.
Depending on the severity of your injuries, you may not return to work for a long time or may never again hold gainful employment. This severely impacts your earning potential and your ability to provide for your family. Your lawyer needs to know how much money you were making before your accident so they can accurately calculate how much income and interest you are missing out on by being out of work temporarily or permanently.
Cost to Hire a Medical Malpractice Attorney
When you are out of work, your personal finances are always at the top of your mind. You also know that to cover your medical expenses, you will need a medical malpractice lawyer to help you hold the negligent party liable and collect compensation from them. But, you are also unsure of how much a skilled medical malpractice lawyer will cost you.
As a medical malpractice victim, there is some good news. Most medical malpractice lawyers will provide you with a free consultation to discuss your case and see if it is worth pursuing. The lawyer may also provide you some insight on how to proceed and how they can help you collect maximum compensation.
Once you decide on a lawyer, you will enter into a fee agreement. This will most likely be a contingency fee agreement. This means that your lawyer will handle all of the up-front costs and you will not pay anything to your lawyer until they win or settle your case.
When that happens, your lawyer would take a portion of the settlement or the trial verdict to cover their time and costs that they paid on your behalf. Then rest helps you cover your medical bills and financial losses resulting from your medical malpractice injury. Speak to a medical malpractice attorney today for more information about their payment structures.
When you choose a medical malpractice lawyer to represent you, they will begin filing your medical malpractice claim. The point of the claim is to collect compensation so that you do not have to pay out of pocket for any medical expenses related to your injuries. The goal is also to ensure that any financial losses you have suffered are covered.
Your lawyer may try to get you compensation for:
- Pain and suffering
- Emotional distress
- Lost wages
- Lost earning potential
- Loss of companionship
- Loss of life enjoyment
- Present and future medical bills
- Rehabilitation costs
Your lawyer may also attempt to conduct settlement negotiations with the medical professional’s lawyer. Your lawyer will stand up to the big insurance company on your behalf, trying to settle your case without the time delay of a trial. This step does not always succeed, so prepare to go to trial to ensure you do not pay out of your own pocket.
A word of caution before you have a lawyer: Once the medical professional’s insurance company hears of your injury, they may contact you and offer you a quick settlement. Many victims think this is good for them. They think that they do not need to hire a lawyer to negotiate on their behalf, and that they can avoid a trial.
Unfortunately, this quick settlement offer may only be good for the insurance company. They know that you are suffering and that you need money to cover your bills and medical expenses. They could use this knowledge to prey on you, pressuring you to settle for much less than your case is worth.
Ultimately, if you sign a medical malpractice settlement agreement without having a lawyer review it first, you could end up facing financial hardship. The initial settlement offer likely will not include enough settlement funds to cover all of your medical expenses, let alone your financial losses from missing work. That is why it can be in your best interest to have a trusted medical malpractice lawyer at your side, guiding you every step of the way.
Find the Right Lawyer for You
Choosing a medical malpractice lawyer does not have to be challenging. Using the resources available to you, you can make the best decision possible. No matter what, do not take this decision lightly and hire the first lawyer you see on TV.
You have suffered tragically and you deserve a lawyer at your side who knows you and is willing to fight for you, with your best interests at heart. The right lawyer can help you collect every dollar you deserve so you can have the best chance of making a full physical recovery from your medical malpractice injuries.
If medical malpractice injured you or a loved one, you need to speak with an experienced and trusted medical malpractice lawyer today.