Experienced trial law firm devoted to representing children who have suffered birth injuries and their families, victims of medical negligence, and individuals in major personal injury cases, product liability and trucking accidents cases. Our partners, Dale Williams and Laura Brown, are Board Certified Specialists in Personal Injury Trial Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization.
What does a Medical Malpractice Attorney do?
Most everyone knows a person that has had to have a surgery. Whether the surgery is a complicated procedure or a simple outpatient procedure, there is always the risk that something may go wrong during the surgery.
Unfortunately, during medical procedures, sometimes things do go wrong. These errors can lead to various injuries including minor complications – or in the worst case scenario, a death.
When an issue arises out of a medical procedure there are usually many questions that need to be answered. It's a time where a patient defers to the wisdom and expertise of a person who knows more about what has occurred then they do. This process can be emotional or sometimes even hostile although, of course the doctors and medical personnel that assist them are not trying to make mistakes during a medical procedure. This can lead to defensive tactics being taken in response to the questions being asked.
Examining the cause of these issues and analyzing what should have occurred or what could have occurred are the main issues determined in a medical malpractice lawsuit. Attorneys that handle these cases are well versed on the subject and can help a patient or the family of the patient vindicate their rights when a medical procedure goes wrong.
Medical malpractice cases often arise when a doctor or organization does their best to help a patient yet problems arise that could not have been avoided. Medical malpractice attorneys can help a doctor or healthcare provider to properly defend themselves against these claims of wrongdoing.
Medical malpractice claims are usually complicated because they involve highly sophisticated procedures which require in-depth legal and scientific analyses. Because of this intricate nature, experts are needed to determine what should and should not have occurred. Obtaining the right experts and navigating the correct legal analyses are steps that are taken by qualified medical malpractice attorneys.
When would l need a Medical Malpractice Attorney?
Medical malpractice claims can lead to some of the largest payouts in personal injury cases in the United States. Having said that, medical malpractice cases can be very hard to litigate. The issue is two-fold.
Many states have passed tort reform laws that make a plaintiff's case difficult to prove. Some states require a plaintiff to have their claim signed off by an expert well before it is even filed requiring a case to be developed much faster than normal. Additionally, medical malpractice cases can be hard to explain to a jury and even harder for them to understand. Moreover, juries understand that medicine is a difficult area and tend to lean on the side of a defendant that appears to do everything within their power.
Medical malpractice cases can also be very taxing on the defendant medical practitioner. Everything they have done in relation to the case including certain aspects of their personal life, like stress levels and their personal relationships can be up for scrutiny. Often their professional qualifications or methods are called into question not only by a plaintiff, but by their peers within an organization such as a clinic or hospital. And while there is some debate as to whether medical malpractice claims have caused a rise in healthcare costs generally, litigating a medical malpractice case can be very costly.
So why are these cases so hard to prove and costly to litigate? The answer comes in the nature of the law. In a personal injury negligence claim, the plaintiff must prove that the defendant owed the plaintiff a legal duty of reasonable care. The plaintiff must then prove that the breach of that legal duty was caused by the defendant's conduct. Further, the plaintiff must prove that the defendant’s negligence caused the plaintiff some demonstrable harm.
Specifically, these cases hinge on the breached duty of care owed by the doctor or healthcare provider. That breach is determined by the medical standard of care. Simply put, the question is whether the doctor acted similarly to what other doctors would have done in the same or similar circumstances.
To explain this to a jury or to even determine what the standard is, a medical expert must provide context. The experts will show either how the doctor failed or succeeded to carry out that standard of care. This explanation can be filled with complicated medical jargon and science, it can be very difficult to digest in a trial setting. Lawyers are needed to help facilitate juries’ understanding of the issue. And this may take additional experts and lots of effort and time on the part of the attorney, so high legal fees are to be expected.
Nevertheless, if you or a loved one has been injured by a medical procedure, you need to discuss the issue with an attorney. They are invaluable to help explain the issues that may arise when you try to bring a medical malpractice case.
Conversely, if you are a healthcare provider such as a doctor, nurse, or another specialist, you need to ensure that you are represented by a qualified medical malpractice attorney. Keep in mind that you may also want to speak to your own attorney if the claim involves a suit against your employer. Your employer's attorney represents your employer, not you. Your interests may not perfectly align.
Signs you need to speak to a Medical Malpractice Attorney
• You are suffering unlikely effects from a recent medical prognosis
• You have had a medical condition misdiagnosed
• You require multiple unexpected follow-up surgeries
How do you choose a Qualified Medical Malpractice Attorney?
Finding a qualified medical malpractice attorney is of the utmost importance if you are dealing with a medical malpractice claim. Often, qualified means an attorney with specialized education in both law and the sciences who has many years of experience in litigating claims. Here, qualified definitely means experienced. You will want to find an attorney who has handled many of these cases before.
Step 1: Determine Your Needs
Determining your needs will be the trickiest step. Often people ask if the more expensive attorney is the right way to go. Well, as was discussed above, qualified is going to be synonymous with experienced when it comes to medical malpractice claims. Whether you are a plaintiff or defendant you will want an experienced attorney. Experienced attorneys often charge more than less experienced attorneys.
For a plaintiff, you will want to find an experienced attorney who has the resources to take on a case of this magnitude. An attorney that can afford to hire experts and conduct the necessary investigations. Many attorneys will offer personal injury cases on contingency, meaning the client does not have to pay until they win at trial. If that arrangement is a necessity for you, be sure to look for attorneys who offer contingency based cases.
Defendants in medical malpractice cases will simply want to find an attorney who has successfully represented doctors and other healthcare professionals. Medical malpractice insurance carriers usually provide an attorney to represent the defendant. This can be a little tricky if an employer clinic or hospital is involved. You may want your own attorney, be sure to understand the client-attorney representation in this instance.
Step 2: Research Online
Next, take your search online. Take a look at medical malpractice articles. You may want to look at some attorney organization sites that discuss malpractice law news. ABAjournal.com has a section devoted to it. You will see that many sites cover medical malpractice. Take a look at the case statistics and topics discussed in articles to get an idea of what you can look forward to.
Most of these sites will also show you where you can find attorneys in your area that handled medical malpractice cases. Pay special attention to their successes and years of experience litigating medical malpractice cases.
Step 3: Check the State Bar Association’s Website for any Disciplinary History
Once you have found the name of an attorney you are thinking about contacting make sure you check the website of the local bar association the attorney is affiliated. Take a look at the attorney’s disciplinary history, be sure to take not of any disciplinary action.
Step 4: Schedule an Appointment with a Medical Malpractice Attorney
After you find an attorney you are comfortable with, set up an appointment to speak with them. Make sure you ask the attorney about their specific experience in handling these cases. You also want to make sure you speak with multiple attorneys, for instance, attorney’s opinion as to the viability of your case may differ drastically. You will want to know if there is a strong disagreement with the viability of your case.