It’s a road you never imagined you’d walk. Your doctor failed you. Their negligence cost you your health and livelihood. Now you’re gearing up to meet with an attorney. But what should you bring to your first consultation? What medical malpractice questions should you ask?
Since malpractice cases are complex, you need an experienced lawyer to guide and defend you. In this article, we’ll cover everything you need to know before you hire one.
#1 Do I Have A Valid Case?
This is the most important of all the questions to ask a medical malpractice attorney. If you don’t have a case, you shouldn’t proceed. You don’t want to spend time and money on a process that won’t get results.
Maybe you feel 100% sure that medical staff did you wrong. Perhaps you even observed their error with your own eyes. But there could be hidden reasons your case may not hold up in court or in a mediation hearing.
For example, you might not have enough objective evidence to prove that negligence took place. In civil cases, the plaintiff has the burden of proof. This means you have to provide “clear and convincing evidence”, “probable cause”, or “reasonable belief” of malpractice. The exact degree and type of proof necessary can vary. It depends on the jurisdiction and type of action.
#2 Who Was At Fault?
Some medical malpractice cases are like the song “Who Took the Cookie from the Cookie Jar?” Everyone says, “Not me!”
Then who is to blame? That’s what you and your attorney will need to uncover, unless it’s crystal clear.
Sometimes, multiple people or institutions are at fault. For example, it’s possible to file a claim against both a doctor and the hospital that treated you.
On the flip side, a court may determine that the plaintiff is at fault. For example, a patient might consent to a risky procedure. The doctor could be off the hook for complications that happen when the procedure goes awry.
Or a patient might withhold important information. They might fail to mention conditions they have, or medications they’re allergic to. In that case, a court wouldn’t hold a doctor liable for malpractice.
#3 What Is The Statute Of Limitations For My Case?
During your initial consultation, there’s something you need to do before asking your medical malpractice questions. You must tell the attorney your story. They need to know what happened to you, and exactly when it happened. The “when” is important, because of a time limit known as the statute of limitations.
The statute of limitations limits your window to sue. This is why you shouldn’t twiddle your thumbs if you suspect you’re a victim of malpractice. Make that call to an attorney!
Ask the lawyer what the rules are for your state and case type. Most cases cap malpractice lawsuits at 2 or 3 years after the negligence happened. But there are some exceptions. For example, minors or people with disabilities may have more time to file.
#4 How Much Is My Case Worth?
This is one of the most common medical malpractice questions that victims ask. But there’s no dollar amount set in stone for, say, birth injury cases or anesthesia malpractice.
Courts determine the amount you’re entitled to based on the details of your case. In general, they calculate the payout according to the needs your injury created. This includes past expenses, current bills, and future needs. Your attorney should help you recover enough to cover all of these expenses.
You might wonder which cases produce the largest settlements. Cases of wrongful death can return damages in the millions. Plaintiffs who are injured for life often receive hefty amounts as well.
#5 Should I Settle? Or Go To Court?
Injustice can make your blood boil. You might be ready to whip out your boxing gloves and take your doctor to court. But before you do, add “settle or sue” to your list of medical malpractice questions to ask.
It may be in your best interest to settle outside of court. This can save you a lot of time and money. Your lawyer can help you reach an agreement with the offending party. If the defendant offers you an acceptable settlement, your best option may be to take it.
But what if you can’t agree during mediation? What if the negligent hospital offers a pittance that won’t cover your needs? In that case, your lawyer might suggest you take your legal battle to the courtroom.
#6 What Experience Do You Have With Cases Like Mine?
When it comes to asking an attorney medical malpractice questions before you hire them, this is one of the most important. You want someone who not only takes on malpractice cases, but has ample experience with them. Better yet, a lawyer who has handled cases similar to yours.
During your initial consultation, ask the attorney the following medical malpractice questions:
- Have you handled cases similar to mine?
- What were the outcomes of those cases?
- How will you get the best possible results in my case?
- Should my case go to trial, do you have trial experience?
- What kind of experts would you call on to provide testimony for my case?
- How do you charge for your services?
If you want a better chance of winning, hire a seasoned attorney with access to medical experts. Make sure they have experience related to your health issue.
Why is hiring a qualified lawyer so important? Medical malpractice cases often involve insurance companies. They have ample resources and access to medical experts. They’ll do everything possible to devalue your claim based on a technicality. Lawyers with little experience can lose cases like these.
What To Bring To Your Initial Consultation
Before asking your medical malpractice questions, you’ll give your attorney an overview of your case. They will also need to see some documents like the following:
- Hospital records from during and after your injury
- Medical bills
- Records from physicians who treated you after your injury
- Pharmacy receipts
- Diagnostic images such as x-rays or MRIs
- Lab test results
- Psychological evaluations
- Photographs or videos of wounds
- Pay-stubs or other evidence of missed work and loss of wages
- Records of correspondence between you and the party that committed malpractice (such as emails, calls, text messages).
- Health insurance billing statements.
- A summary of what happened to you. Write it yourself. In case of wrongful death or incapacity, write it on your loved one’s behalf.
- Journal entries from when you were being treated and your recovery
Coming to the consultation prepared will do more than make the meeting more productive. It will help the law team provide more precise answers to your medical malpractice questions. So gather as much evidence as you can. Be sure to make copies of the items above. Bring both the originals and copies to your consultation.
Also, don’t forget to bring a list of medical malpractice questions you want to ask. Use the ones in this article, and add your own. Making a written list helps ensure that you don’t forget anything. It helps you make the most of your appointment. Once everything’s in order, schedule your consultation.
The legal team at Hampton & King is ready to put our 60+ years of experience to work getting justice for your family! We operate on a contingency fee basis. This means you won’t pay a cent unless we win. Call us today to get started.