What Does a Medical Malpractice Lawyer Do?
Let’s say you go to a hospital and receive substandard care, resulting in an injury. Perhaps the doctor made a mistake when performing surgery, or maybe a nurse gave you the wrong medication. These are examples of medical malpractice. If you’ve been the victim of medical malpractice, you may wonder what your legal options are and whether you should hire a Chicago Medical Malpractice Attorney or a go-to lawyer in your state.
Basically, such a medical malpractice lawyer is a professional who speaks for the people who have been injured due to the negligence of medical professionals. This could be any type of healthcare provider – a doctor, nurse, medical technician, or even a facility. Such malpractice can have life-altering consequences for patients. That being said, how can such a lawyer help you? What do they typically do? Let’s delve into the details.
Table of Contents
1. Proving Medical Malpractice
The burden of proof in a medical malpractice case usually lies with the plaintiff. Hence, if you opt to pursue legal action by hiring a lawyer, they’ll have to prove the said malpractice occurred by establishing four facts, namely:
- Showing that the health care provider in question owed you a duty of care – in other words, they must prove the service provider was responsible for your well-being and safety. A duty of care also implies the medical facility or provider must adhere to a professional standard of care. To ascertain the care your physician or healthcare provider owes you, the attorney considers aspects such as your age, illness, and general health condition. They also factor in the physician’s decision-making, follow-up, and how they diagnose your illness or condition.
- Breach of duty by the health care provider – your attorney has to prove to the court that the actions or inactions of the medical provider fell below the required professional standard of care.
- Causation – this implies the breach of duty caused your injuries. Simply put, your injuries were a direct result of medical negligence and not due to other pre-existing conditions.
- Damages – the physical, emotional, and financial injuries you suffered resulted from the said malpractice.
As you’ve probably noted, the aspects above are closely interlinked. Hence, to successfully prove medical malpractice, all four conditions must be met.
It also helps to point out that in many cases, more than one healthcare provider may be involved. So, if you’re considering filing a lawsuit, your lawyer will most likely name all the individuals who were part of your care in the suit.
2. Conduct Investigations
This usually involves reviewing your medical records and talking to any witnesses who were present during your care. The attorney may also seek the opinion of expert witnesses, such as other doctors, to review your case and provide their professional opinion on if there was any malpractice occurred.
3. Gather Evidence
The lawyer gathers all the evidence and compiles it into a strong argument. This may entail a review of your medical records and consultations with experts to determine if you have a case or not. An expert report is often required to prove causation and helps the lawyer develop a theory for your case. They may also rely on expert testimony to prove the breach of duty and causation elements.
If your lawyer believes you have compelling evidence, they’ll work with you to build a strong case against the responsible party. In many cases, a medical malpractice lawyer can help you get a favorable outcome.
Your attorney also conducts depositions. This involves questioning the people involved in your care ‘on the record’, including doctors, nurses, and other staff members. While at it, they may also question other witnesses (if available) who can attest to what happened. These depositions help you find out more crucial info about your case and can serve as evidence in court.
4. Negotiate a Settlement
If the evidence against a healthcare practitioner is strong, they may choose to settle out of court. Either party may reach out for negotiations based on their own accord, but having an attorney increases your chances of getting a good settlement.
Usually, your attorney will fight for a fair settlement covering all your damages. As such, it may involve a lot of back and forth, as the other party will also have a team of lawyers to protect their interests.
If you’re not willing to settle or the other party isn’t budging, your case will typically go to trial. However, healthcare professionals prefer not to take this route as the consequences of losing are much higher. They not only risk paying damages but could also face disciplinary action from their licensing board. What’s more, negative publicity could damage a medical practitioner’s reputation and hurt their business.
5. Prepare for Trial
If you decide to go to trial, your lawyer files a lawsuit on your behalf and represents you in court. As such, they’ll work to prove the elements of your case to a judge or jury. No matter your case, a medical malpractice lawyer can guide you through the process and protect your rights while at it.
Also, it helps to point out that medical malpractice cases can be very complex. They often require expert testimony to prove that the health care provider breached their duty of care. That’s why hiring an experienced medical malpractice attorney helps – if you believe you’ve been a victim of such negligence.
6. File An Appeal
A lot can change during a trial. As a result, what initially seems like a clear-cut malpractice case may not be the case after all. For instance, if the court determines that an expert witness’s testimony is unreliable, your whole case could be thrown out.
That said, if you’re dissatisfied with the outcome of your case, you have the right to file an appeal. This is also a complex process, and you’ll need a lawyer to help you navigate it. Once you do, an appellate court reviews the case to establish whether the lower court erred during the original trial.
Having a medical malpractice lawyer on your side can make all the difference in the outcome of your claim or case. And as you noted, their role isn’t limited to one stage of the process. They can help you navigate every step, from investigating to filing an appeal. By teaming up with such a professional, you won’t have to endure the challenging process alone.