“Courthouse” by Gabriel White is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0
As a patient, you put your health and well-being in the hands of the physicians and healthcare workers that treat you, during a routine checkup, after an accident or when undergoing necessary surgery. These professionals should have a high level of education and experience in various specialties. However, some healthcare providers commit preventable medical errors that can have devastating effects, seriously injuring or even killing their patients.
If you or a loved one has suffered an injury or ailment or even the death of a loved one due to medical malpractice, you may feel powerless about what to do and how you can seek recourse under the law. For injured patients, it’s not enough to hire a general practice attorney, these cases are much too complicated and there is too much at stake. If you or a loved one has suffered an injury due to medical negligence, it’s important to talk to an attorney who specializes in medical malpractice law. It’s crucial to have a knowledgeable attorney help you through the legal process and make sure you obtain the compensation you deserve.
While a lawsuit cannot undo the injuries caused by the healthcare professional’s negligence, it can help victims pay the astronomical financial costs of medical malpractice and compensate them for their injuries, disabilities, physical pain and emotional suffering. It is, also, the only system in place for a victim to hold a healthcare professional accountable for wrongdoing. A qualified lawyer is your partner in negotiating with aggressive insurance companies that will pressure you to settle for a lower amount rather than go to trial. The best medical malpractice attorneys are also effective when it becomes necessary to take your case to court.
Retaining the right attorney can seem daunting. Like most individuals who were the victim of medical malpractice, you probably have many questions about where to turn and how to find top medical malpractice lawyers. Here are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions to help you go about your search.
Where should I search to find the best medical malpractice lawyers?
You’ve no doubt seen commercials on TV and even billboards, advertising medical malpractice attorneys, but remember that’s exactly what they are: paid advertisements. Spending money to tout a lawyer’s skills doesn’t translate into actual qualifications. Unfortunately, some attorneys advertise and say they are experienced in handling medical malpractice claims when it is really not true. Be wary of “national” law firms that advertise they will handle your case anywhere in the country. What they actually do is sign you up and then refer your case to a local attorney in order to collect a referral fee when your case is settled. You need to investigate before retaining an attorney.
Start your search by speaking with friends and family members who have previously hired an attorney. Ask if anyone can refer you to a medical malpractice lawyer who helped them get good results or about whom they have heard good things. You might even talk to recommended attorneys who do not specialize in medical malpractice, as they typically have a network of trusted colleagues who can help you with your case.
If you are comfortable with computers, an internet search may be a good starting point in your investigation. You need an attorney in the state where the malpractice occurred even if that is not the state where you live. For example, a good search phrase, using enclosed quotes, is “New Jersey medical malpractice attorney.” Make sure all claims made on websites are documented.
You can also contact your local bar association as you begin the process of hiring a lawyer to represent you. These organizations often have a legal services directory of attorneys listed by name and area of expertise.
What qualifications do the best medical malpractice attorneys have?
In order to effectively represent you, your lawyer must have comprehensive knowledge of all the laws, legal remedies and court rules of procedure that relate to medical malpractice. Therefore, always ask for a detailed, written resume from a lawyer. The attorney you choose to represent you should be Certified as a Civil Trial Attorney.
How important is experience when I’m looking at top medical malpractice attorneys?
Hands-on legal experience is critical. Ask specific questions of an attorney about his or her experience, and the number of medical malpractice cases he or she has handled. The best medical malpractice attorneys have spent years negotiating with shrewd insurance companies and are not intimidated by the insurance companies’ high pressure tactics.
A lawyer may have to appear on your behalf in court if you’re unable to reach an agreement with a medical malpractice insurer. In every case, your attorney should prepare diligently for trial, even if the case may be settled. Possessing talents in the court room is not something that an attorney develops overnight. It’s only through countless appearances before a judge and jury that these skills are attained. Your lawyer should have significant experience in arguing motions, presenting testimony, cross-examining witnesses and experts and persuading juries. Medical malpractice insurance companies employ teams of dedicated defense attorneys who will fight to ensure the insurance company pays out as little as possible. You need an experienced medical malpractice lawyer on your side.
What other qualities I should ask about?
There are additional factors you should consider when you’re interviewing candidates to act on your behalf as attorney. It’s wise to find out whether a lawyer belongs to certain legal organizations or has professional affiliations with groups that concentrate on medical malpractice law.
You also want to know what others in the industry think about this individual. Credentials and reputation often represent the opinion of judges and other attorneys who know how to value an attorney’s skills and effectiveness. Here are some of the credentials you should look for when selecting a medical malpractice attorney:
- Certified Civil Trial Attorney designation;
- Membership in the American Board of Trial Advocates (ABOTA);
- Membership in the American College of Trial Lawyers;
- Martindale-Hubbell rating of AV Preeminent;
- Awards and recognition bestowed by major bar associations, both local and national; and,
- Other affiliations and credentials that demonstrate a high level of esteem among the lawyer’s colleagues.
Are there licensing requirements for medical malpractice lawyers?
In order to legally practice law in their state of residence, an attorney must be licensed to do so. Their initial license is contingent upon passing the bar exam, but there are also requirements for renewal and continuing legal education. Plus, a lawyer must maintain a license in good standing by adhering to rules of ethics and not engage in wrongdoing involving clients. These types of standards and regulations for licensing are handled at the state level.
However, under certain circumstances, it’s appropriate and advantageous to file a medical malpractice case in federal court. In order to appear on your behalf in federal court, your lawyer must also have the appropriate credentials. Therefore, always ask during your initial consultation with candidates whether an attorney has the proper license to practice in federal court.
Who are the other people working on my case?
The law firm support staff often provides valuable assistance in case preparation. These individuals should include nurses, paralegals, and legal assistants. Your attorney should have access to independent medical, scientific, economic and vocational experts to understand and prove the merits of your case. As you’re doing your homework and interviewing candidates to represent you for your medical malpractice case, also ask about these support players and what role they play. It is important that a medical malpractice attorney has access to the necessary resources to prove your case.
How do I know if my medical malpractice lawyer has a proven history of success?
An attorney’s body of work is the best proof he or she has been successful in pursuing medical malpractice cases in the past. Therefore, ask about previous cases, especially those that are similar to yours. Find out about the lawyer’s win-loss record and verdict amounts.
Why should I ask about incidents of misconduct?
Certain types of misconduct can affect an attorney’s licensing, such as censure, suspension or revocation. Attorneys must adhere to the rules of professional ethics, which prohibit practices like double-billing, co-mingling of client assets and releasing confidential information. A lawyer in such a position cannot legally represent you in court, so continue your search elsewhere.
Will I have to deposit a retainer fee upfront?
Most reputable medical malpractice firms don’t usually charge a fee at the beginning of the case. Instead, the lawyers are paid with a percentage of the money recovered for you if you win the case. This fee structure is known as a “contingency arrangement.” The percentage should always be explained to you before you agree to hire a law firm and a written agreement for legal services will be signed by you and an attorney on behalf of the law firm. There are also costs involved with preparation of your case and they are paid out of the compensation you receive. These expenses include filing fees, court reporters, copying medical records and other necessary services. You might also need to rely on expert witnesses to support your case, and these individuals are paid from your fund.
Now that you have the answers to many of your questions, you have the information you need to find the best medical malpractice lawyer to handle your case. The most important point is to understand that you’re at a disadvantage if you don’t have a qualified, experienced attorney on your side. Insurance companies don’t have your best interests in mind and will attempt to pressure you into a low-ball settlement to protect their bottom line. Plus, if your case goes to court, you don’t have the knowledge of personal injury laws and the legal remedies to win a fair verdict in your case.
Only trust your case to the best medical malpractice lawyers, professionals who have the right experience, expertise and a history of success in handling these matters. Your injuries affect many aspects of your life beyond the pain and suffering, and you deserve monetary recovery for your losses. When you hire a top medical malpractice lawyer, you increase your chances of obtaining the compensation you deserve to make you whole again.