We’re somewhat conditioned to inherently trust and expect a certain level of care from medical professionals. In many instances, though, doctors, nurses and technicians alike remind us that they are all too human.
In a stunning report that sent shockwaves across the country, researchers with the John Hopkins University School of Medicine confirmed that medical errors are now the third leading cause of death in the United States.
Of course, not every occurrence of medical malpractice will result in a wrongful death, but many will lead to life-altering conditions for the victim.
What is medical malpractice?
The legal definition for medical malpractice is harm or injury caused to a patient by negligence from a hospital, doctor other health care professional.
- Surgical errors
Data from the National Center for Health Statistics report that of the more than 234 million surgeries each year in the U.S., there are more than 4,000 preventable errors.
A study published in BMJ Quality & Safety confirmed that each year, about 12 million U.S. adults (1 of every 20 people) seeking medical care are misdiagnosed.
- Medication errors
The Institute of Medicine confirms that seemingly innocent mistakes with medication injure about 1.5 million people each year. Common mistakes with medicine include the wrong drug, the wrong dosage, and a bad combination with other drugs or an unanticipated bad reaction.
Do I have a medical malpractice case?
There are essentially four (4) components – each of which must be proven – that will determine whether or not you have a medical malpractice case.
- The existence of the doctor-patient relationship.
While easy to prove, this is necessary because it provides a starting point of an obligation of a “standard of care” in terms of expected medical treatment.
- The medical professional was negligent in providing care.
This component, often with the help of expert witnesses, should prove that the level of the provided care was less than what a reasonably competent professional would have given.
- Injuries suffered by the victim were caused directly by the negligence.
It’s not enough to prove that doctor, nurse or other medical professional was negligent; rather, you must prove that you were injured.
- Proof of the harm to the victim.
This can be in the form of independent physical examinations, proof of lost wages, medical bills incurred, etc.
What is medical negligence?
Medical negligence is but one component of a medical malpractice case. When a patient establishes a relationship with a doctor, it’s presumed that the patient is entitled to a standard level of care.
Medical negligence occurs when the health care professional fails to deliver that standard level of care.
Is medical malpractice a civil or criminal case?
It depends upon the individual aspects of the case involved. Cases that involve involuntary negligence are typically considered to be civil cases, and can be launched by a private party. In most civil cases, the punishment is typically in the form of monetary compensation.
If gross negligence – the conscious and voluntary disregard of providing reasonable care – is proven, the case will most likely be a criminal case, and brought by either the federal or state government. Punishment in criminal cases can involve imprisonment and monetary compensation.
How many medical malpractice lawsuits go to trial and how long do they take?
Statistics from the Harvard School of Public Health confirm that over 90% of medical malpractice cases are settled out of court. Among the numerous factors for this is that fact that cases that do proceed to court can often take years to resolve. In fact, another study from a Johns Hopkins affiliated hospital confirmed that the average wait time for a medical malpractice case to be resolved in court was 4.5 years.
Why should I settle my medical malpractice case?
Settling a medical malpractice case usually involves the defendant (hospital, doctor, nurse, etc.) and the plaintiff (victim) reaching an agreement to some or all of the plaintiff’s claims without taking their chances in court.
Among the benefits to settling a medical malpractice case out of court are:
- the victim receiving compensation faster to cover medical bills, lost wages and other expenses;
- avoiding the substantial expenses of going to court; and
- the privacy afforded in settlement agreements rather than the public record of a jury or judge decision.
What is the average for a medical malpractice settlement?
A study from the New England Journal of Medicine confirmed that the average compensation for a medical malpractice claim is $521,560.
How much is my medical malpractice case worth?
Because all cases are unique, it’s not possible to predetermine how much your case is worth. Your lawyer, however, will consider a number of things before determining what’s felt to be a reasonable amount, including:
- strength of the evidence;
- costs of medical bills and treatment you’ve already received, and the amount of treatment anticipated in the future;
- loss of earning potential; and
- physical pain and suffering.
Are medical malpractice settlements taxable?
Medical malpractice lawsuits are personal injury cases. Settlements and jury awards are intended to compensate you for things like medical bills, lost wages, loss of consortium (the loss of one’s emotional and physical support from a spouse or partner), emotional distress, pain and suffering and lawyer fees – and are considered to be tax-free.
However, the key is for your case to be based on the incurrence of an injury. If your settlement is based on emotional distress, for example, your settlement will be taxable income.
Do I need a lawyer to negotiate a settlement on my behalf?
Because medical law is an incredibly complex topic, the smart move is to leverage the skills and expertise of a medical malpractice lawyer, who will rely upon a thorough understanding of the law to determine whether or not a settlement is in your best interest.
If you or someone you love gets injured as a result of medical malpractice, it’s of the utmost importance you find an experienced and qualified attorney. Unfortunately, this process can be tough, especially if you’re dealing with medical bills and health issues.
Hiring a malpractice lawyer isn’t as easy as calling the first one that comes up in a Google search. There are many different types of malpractice. In addition, some attorneys specialize in certain types of injuries and malpractice suits, so it’s important you find the right one.
The internet is a great resource when looking for information about this sensitive legal issue. It’s also great for finding attorneys near you. But you still need to know what to look for.
To help you through this trying time, we’re discussing tactics to finding the best medical malpractice attorney for your case.
Let’s get started.
A personal referral is a great way to get in contact with a malpractice lawyer who’s right for your case. If you know someone who went through something similar, ask them who they used. An advantage here is you’re getting firsthand testimony regarding the experience they had with an attorney.
If you have a different type of attorney for other issues, or just know an attorney, ask them for a referral. Local attorneys and law firms form a tightly-knit network. If they don’t personally know a malpractice lawyer, they know someone who does.
A huge benefit of getting a referral from another attorney is they can listen to your situation and quickly understand who you need to work with. Even if they aren’t a malpractice lawyer, they will know enough to point you in the right direction.
Qualified Referral Services
A great resource for finding qualified attorneys is the state or local bar associations where you live. Most of them have referral services that connect individuals to the right lawyers. In fact, many attorneys list themselves on their bar association website.
Finding an attorney through a bar association gives you peace of mind that who you’re getting in touch with is qualified and trusted. Most bar associations require a certain amount of experience in the malpractice field in order to advertise with them.
There are also many online attorney referral services that connect individuals with attorneys or firms in their area. Many have a search mechanism that makes getting results easy.
Look at Online Reviews
Online reviews are now a huge factor in the decision-making process of web users seeking products and services. This applies to law firms and attorneys.
Taking a look at reviews and testimonials gives you an idea of both the type of success they’ve had in the past and the type of experience you’ll get. People like to let others know if something worked out well for them. A review could give you some insight into an attorney’s personality and how they operate.
Obviously, if you see consistent negative reviews from an attorney, it may be a good idea to avoid them. Pay special attention to anything related to appointment cancellations or unprofessional business practices.
However, keep in mind that some people are pretty harsh when they don’t get the outcome they want. They may lash out at an attorney just because they didn’t win their case. Make sure you look with an objective eye and understand that not every case works out for an attorney.
Pay Attention to Qualifications
This is one of the most important things to consider when looking for a malpractice lawyer. You need to pay close attention to an attorney’s experience and qualifications within the medical malpractice field.
Remember, just because a lawyer practices personal injury law doesn’t mean they’re fit to handle a malpractice case. This is a very specialized field, so you need someone who has handled cases similar to yours.
You also want to consider how many years they’ve been practicing and if they’ve devoted their entire career to malpractice. All of this information should be listed on their website or online profile.
A great thing to look for is blog articles on an attorney’s website. Many lawyers are now blogging and putting out great content that shows their expertise in a particular practice area.
Another very important thing to keep in mind is where an attorney operates. Use Google to filter attorneys practicing in your city. For example, search for “Atlanta medical malpractice lawyer” if you need qualified representation in the Atlanta area.
Other signs of qualified representation include participation in any malpractice or personal injury associations. Look for badges on their site for things like the American Trial Lawyers Association or The American Association for Justice. If an attorney is a member of these associations, they’ll have a badge on their website.
Consider the Cost
There’s a good chance you’re in a tough financial spot if you’re searching for a malpractice lawyer. You may have medical bills piling up and could even be out of work due to your injuries. You’ll need to ask any prospective lawyers about what the exact cost will be.
It’s also important you ask whether they work on a contingency fee basis. This means that you don’t pay the attorney anything unless the case results in a recovery. Many personal injury attorneys do this, so there’s a good chance you’ll pay nothing up front.
If a contingency fee is in place, the attorney gets paid a certain percentage of the recovery. You’ll need to discuss this percentage before hiring them.
Watch out for a someone who asks for a flat fee just to review your case. Some lawyers do this and end up making money off people without even taking their case.
Find the Perfect Malpractice Lawyer for You
Getting your life back on track is your top priority, so finding an attorney that has the experience and know-how to handle your case is imperative.
Doing a little homework and taking your time finding the right attorney could be the deciding factor in receiving the justice you deserve.
At Halt.org, we provide an extensive attorney directory to help you get in touch with the right lawyer in your area. Learn more today.
We are taught to trust our doctors. We believe they have our best interests at heart.
We put our faith in them. But sometimes, something goes wrong. Whether by accident or on purpose, we end up with more than we bargained for.
Perhaps we were accidentally burned during surgery. An unnecessary procedure was performed. A loved one dies because of a mistake.
It’s then that we need a lawyer. But not all lawyers are the same. You deserve the best.
Here are a few questions to ask when to hiring a great medical malpractice lawyer.
How Long They’ve Been Practicing
The same way an artist gets to Carnegie Hall is the same way a medical malpractice lawyer becomes good at their job. Practice, practice, practice.
Ask them how long they’ve been practicing medical malpractice law. Make sure they specialize in it as well.
Ask if medical practice law is their primary focus or if they also represent other types of cases. A lawyer who focuses on several types of law may not be as up-to-date on the current laws and procedures.
You deserve someone who has experience in medical malpractice. Someone who has been to court before and who understands how to win cases.
Check out their website to learn more about the lawyers within the firm. Don’t be afraid to ask them any further questions you may have about their experience.
How Many Cases They’ve Won
Ask how many cases the medical malpractice lawyer has won. Then ask how many of them were settled out of court.
These numbers are important to your case. You want someone who the experience and expertise to handle your case in your best interest.
Whether that’s taking the case to court or having the other side settle first. If they settle a lot of cases, insurance companies may know this and you might receive less money.
Don’t forget to ask how many cases they’ve lost, too. If a lawyer has been in business for 30 years and has won 200, that might sound great. Until you learn they’ve lost well over 500 cases.
Ask what the size of the rewards have been for their most recent cases. Definitely, ask the outcome of the last few cases they’ve worked on.
Any lawyer worth your time will be happy to share with you this type of information. You want someone who is successful and confident they can win your case.
If They’re in Good Standing with the Bar Association
Take a look at your local bar association’s website.Make sure they’re a member.
Check out other law associations like personal injury trial lawyers association.
See which associations they’re members of. Check to see if they have taken on any leadership roles.
That can suggest they have the respect of their peers. A medical malpractice lawyer should be in good standing with any and all associations they are members of.
If they are not listed anywhere, look somewhere else for another attorney.
If They Can Provide Testimonials and/or References
Of course, no medical malpractice lawyer is going to tell you that their last client hated their guts. It’s not in their best interest to do so.
But that doesn’t mean you can’t do some additional research. Ask for some references so you can speak to a few past clients.
Contact those past clients and ask how and why they found their medical malpractice lawyer so helpful. See if their clients would hire them again.
Obviously, they’ll give you the names of people who loved their services. Keep digging.
Check online reviews to see what other people are saying about the attorney or law firm in question. The Better Business Bureau is one place to check.
Keep in mind that if the firm lost the case or the outcome wasn’t to the client’s satisfaction, that person may have left an angry review.
Trust your instincts while reading testimonials and reviews. If your instincts are telling you to keep looking, do so.
Their Fees for Your Type of Case
Hiring a medical malpractice lawyer isn’t going to be cheap. Especially if they’re good and well experienced.
The lawyer should be able to clearly provide details on their fee agreements and case costs.
In most cases, you should have the ability to hire a lawyer on a contingency fee basis. This means, that they get paid a percentage of the money received through settlement.
If the case goes to trial, they would receive a portion of the money you win.
But there are always costs involved in any case. Ask to see if the law firm will absorb the expenses.
Most expenses come about when a case goes to trial. Expert witnesses are paid.
There’s also document preparation and filing fees. Depending on the nature of the case, there may be other costs involved.
Make sure you have a clear understanding of how any and all costs will be handled before you hire a lawyer.
Meet With the Medical Malpractice Lawyer
Even if you get a great feeling about a lawyer over the phone, it’s a good idea to meet with them in person before making a final decision.
If they can’t meet with you straight away, don’t consider it a bad sign. Sometimes, they just have a heavy caseload to contend with.
When you do meet with them, note how well you can communicate with them. If you speak another language, make sure they have someone there who can speak fluently in your native language.
Take a look at their office. The Marrone Law Firm offices, for instance, will look professional and be free of excessive clutter. While it might be fun to hire the oddball lawyer on a tv show, doing so in real life rarely works in your favor.
Make sure you’re confident about both the lawyer and their staff. This should be a team effort.
Let’s hope you only need to hire a medical malpractice attorney once in your life. But that doesn’t mean you won’t need another type of lawyer.
When and if you or someone you know needs to hire a lawyer, look no further than our site. We’ll help you find the best lawyer to represent you.
Our blog is here to help you make the best-informed decision you can before you hire any type of lawyer. Keep coming back to learn more.