If you, or someone you love, are the victim of medical malpractice, finding a good medical malpractice lawyer is very important. If you are like most people the only thing you know about medical malpractice law is what you have seen on TV commercials and billboards. Most of those advertisements will give you the impression that the lawyer advertised is “the best medical malpractice lawyer” with little other detail about what that means. Because of that, you might be asking yourself “what does a medical malpractice lawyer do?”
What Do Medical Malpractice Lawyers Do?
A medical malpractice attorney is a lawyer focused on helping patients who have been injured by a doctor or hospital while under their care. Unfortunately, medical malpractice happens far more often than it should. According to recent studies, preventable doctor/hospital errors would be the third leading cause of death on the Center for Disease Control’s list of the top causes of death in the U.S. if they were included. That would put them right behind heart disease and cancer.
Medical malpractice lawsuits are very complex. A good medical malpractice lawyer needs to have a special set of experience and qualities:
- Legal Expertise – Medical malpractice lawsuits involve many unique legal issues. They can often take 3-5 years to resolve. A good lawyer needs to understand all of the issues, prepare a case for trial throughout all stages of the case, and know how to keep a case moving forward.
- Medical Expertise – Understanding the medical profession is crucial. A medical malpractice lawyer has to be able to look at a potential client’s case and establish what rule or rules were broken and how that led to the injury. He or she must also be able to understand the science behind the medicine because every medical malpractice lawsuit requires that both sides have testimony and evidence from medical experts.
- Experience – Medical malpractice lawsuits are difficult. When choosing a lawyer or law firm, look for experience in taking medical malpractice cases all the way to and through a trial. Be wary of lawyers that look to settle a case early. The best results in a medical malpractice lawsuit, including settlements, come from lawyers and law firms being willing and able to take the case to trial.
What happens when a medical malpractice attorney takes a case?
When a medical malpractice lawyer takes your case he or she has to prove that the doctor or hospital that was providing your care was negligent in their care. Proving medical negligence is why you want an experienced trial attorney from a law firm that focuses on medical malpractice. This is not an area of law where a lawyer who dabbles in it is likely to be successful. Here are the things your attorney will need to prove:
- Duty of Care – Establishing that you were a patient of the doctor or hospital means that you were owed a legal “duty of care”. That means that the care they provided you must have been consistent with established medical standards. It also means that the medical or hospital personnel treating you had a responsibility to give you the same kind of care any other similarly qualified peer would have provided. The attorney needs to ascertain precisely what care, such as the decision making, surgical technique, and follow-up; was required in your particular case.
- Breach of Duty – Showing that the medical professional(s) treating you failed to provide the level of care that was required.
- Causation – Showing that the breach of duty was the cause of your injury.
- Damages – Showing that your injury has caused significant damage to you. This can be a loss of income, increased medical care, costs incurred for adapting to your injury, and for pain and suffering.
To prove those things medical malpractice attorneys will gather a lot of information. Often they will begin by gathering and reviewing all the medical records available to understand both what happened, and what should have happened. They also conduct “on the record” interviews called depositions that they can use as evidence if the case goes all the way to trial. These depositions will include the plaintiff, the medical professional(s) alleged to have been negligent, medical experts, and other witnesses that can help fill in the picture of what happened, and what went wrong. They will also work with medical experts to help support the case and potentially be witnesses in the trial. Finally, they will help victims show the extent of their injuries through detailed research and, where necessary, independent medical examinations.
Medical malpractice cases are some of the most complicated legal proceedings a person can get involved in. These cases can take a long time, often they can take 3-5 years to conclude. The “best medical malpractice lawyers” will help you understand what is going on every step of the way.