As a human race, we put a lot of faith in doctors. We trust them to know everything, from stitching up a cut to performing complicated brain surgery.
“That’s a reasonable assumption – physicians and other healthcare professionals have a sworn duty to provide safe, ethical and accurate medical treatment to their patients,” says an article from the Illinois law firm Salvi, Schostok, & Pritchard P.C. “But that doesn’t always happen. As many as 250,000 people in America are the victims of medical malpractice every year.”
Ultimately, doctors are humans too. Yes, they spent years studying human anatomy and common illnesses, but that doesn’t mean they’re perfect.
Unfortunately, they make mistakes, and when that happens, someone becomes a victim. That person might experience increased pain and suffering from a botched surgery or, in drastic cases, a wrongful death based on negligence.
When this happens to you or a loved one, the best thing to do is sue for medical malpractice. This doesn’t make you greedy or unreasonable. A medical malpractice suit provides you with reasonable compensation to get you through the pain and suffering that resulted from someone else’s mistake.
Here’s what you need to do.
Consult an Attorney Immediately
Your very first step should be to consult with an attorney. Although some personal injury cases, wrongful death suits, and other types of lawsuits can be handled without an attorney, there are too many technicalities and legalities to try to handle a medical malpractice case on your own.
David Berg of AllLaw.com explains that there are statutes of limitations for each state and pre-suit requirements you might need to meet before you can file your case.
“Medical expert affidavits, review boards, notices of intent to file suit — all of these have potential ramifications regarding whether or not your case may proceed,” Berg says. “If you fail to meet any procedural requirements your jurisdiction may have, your case could be summarily dismissed. An attorney that routinely handles medical malpractice cases will have the experience, contacts and procedural know-how to ensure your case is filed in a timely and professional manner.”
Don’t risk having your case dismissed or receiving less compensation than you deserve simply because you didn’t contact an attorney. Look for a law firm with an excellent track record and experience fighting medical malpractice in your state.
Contact the Hospital or Practice
Before the case is formally filed, contact the medical professional involved in the suit and/or the hospital or practice they work for. In some cases, the mistake can be fixed at no cost to you, restoring your health and eliminating the need for a lawsuit. Other times, you can work with the practice or professional to get a settlement without filing a suit.
Although this seems like something you can do on your own, don’t try without an attorney. “Your attorney will act as a professional buffer between you and claims professionals who may or may not decide to bully you or take a hard line on your case,” Berg says. “While this can be a mere negotiating tactic, it does not make it any less unpleasant. When it comes down to it, having an attorney provide notice of your intent to file suit is the best way to handle the situation.”
Obtain Medical Records and Other Evidence
Your attorney will have you obtain a copy of your medical records as quickly as possible. The content will serve as evidence for your claim. You’ll have to sign a release form to both your attorney and the defendant’s attorney.The faster they get the records, the sooner they can review your case and devise a plan of action.
If your case goes to trial, it’s useful to have an expert testimony, usually from another doctor who shares his/her professional opinion about how the procedure or treatment went wrong. Your attorney can provide assistance in finding someone to testify on your behalf based on your case and state.
“State rules vary as to what makes somebody qualified to provide expert medical testimony, but generally it is someone with experience in the particular field at issue,” says Coulter Boeschen of Nolo. “In a very limited number of circumstances, expert testimony is not required, such as when a surgical towel is left inside the patient after a surgery.”
If you had a second opinion following your bad experience, those records can also be used in your case to support your claim.
Medical malpractice suits can be trying, especially when you’re dealing with an injury or illness. But with a great attorney on your team, the process can go smoothly and you can get the compensation you need and deserve following a negative experience.