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When you’ve sustained injuries due to the negligence or recklessness of a physician, you have a claim for medical malpractice and might be entitled to compensation for your losses. While many legal dramas on TV might show the theatrics of the courtroom, the truth is that many medical malpractice cases are settled before filing a lawsuit even becomes necessary. In order to initiate the conversation about settling a case, a demand letter for medical malpractice is the first step.
Your medical malpractice demand letter is where you lay out all of the details of your injuries and assert the reasons that you should recover monetary damages. The purpose of the document is to summarize the encounter with the physician, describe your injuries, and explain how they’ve impacted your life. You’ll also need to state the amount you’re seeking as compensation to make you whole. Keep in mind that you’re likely to be dealing with the insurer that represents the physician, and not the healthcare professional. These insurance companies are in business to make a profit, so they’re not looking out for your best interests. This is why you should consider hiring an experienced attorney to represent you in settlement negotiations.
In addition, you should understand that a medical malpractice demand letter isn’t like the correspondence you usually write to friends, family or in a business capacity. An effective demand letter is clear and purposeful in its intent, and follows a basic formula.
Keep in mind some general considerations.
Before you get started writing, you should appreciate the qualities that separate a good demand letter from a bad one. A good one is well written and clearly states its purpose. It will summarize all of the evidence to supports your claim, from the injuries you suffered to your losses. The letter also needs to tie in causation; in other words, you need to establish that it was the conduct of the healthcare professional that was the direct cause of your injuries. It shouldn’t be threatening in tone, but rather firm in stating your intentions.
A poorly written demand letter is short and leaves out the facts that show why you’re entitled to compensation. It might also omit details about the monetary amount you’re seeking or be unclear on other details.
Start off with a proper heading.
At the outset, you want to identify yourself and provide some basic information. If you’ve been injured as a result of medical malpractice, you’ll need a way for an insurance company or opposing party to link you to your claim. In the heading you want to include your name, date of birth, the date of the incident and the name of the party responsible for your losses.
Summarize all of the relevant facts.
The next step in writing a demand letter for medical malpractice is to lay out the details about the incident that led to your injuries. It’s important to be clear and concise on your points, listing any and all of the facts surrounding your encounter with the healthcare professionals responsible for your injuries. Include basic information, such as the dates, times of day and other details that lay out your case. Also, identify by name all of the personnel who visited with you or provided treatment of any kind. As best you can, try to state your summary of the factual details chronologically to make it easy for the reader to understand. Finish your statement by drawing the conclusion that the acts or omissions by the named healthcare professionals are the reason that you suffered injuries.
Go into detail about your injuries.
It’s essential that you list all of the injuries you suffered as a result of negligence, recklessness or other wrongdoing in your medical malpractice demand letter. Start off by describing the most severe or painful injuries that you sustained, and then move on to those that are more minor. However, if it makes more sense to list your injuries chronologically, describe them in the order that you experienced them. At this point, you don’t need to cover the treatments and procedures that were required as part of your care. You should also identify any injuries you suffered that are long term or chronic in nature.
Explain your treatments and ongoing care.
As a result of your injuries due to medical malpractice, you have likely been treated by a number of physicians, specialists and healthcare providers. Of course, the medical records related to your care could be available if necessary, but you don’t need to supply these as part of your demand letter: The insurer or opposing party just needs to understand what you’re going through as far as treatment and ongoing care.
It’s critical that you’re absolutely honest about the procedures you undergo throughout the healing process. Because the insurance company may be granted access to the medical records related to your care, you don’t want to be caught making false statements. Doing to can affect your credibility and work against you in any settlement negotiations, so it’s best to state treatment generally or eliminate certain material if you’re unsure.
Mention the intangible damages that impact your life.
Once you mention the physical injuries you’ve suffered and identified your course of treatment in your demand letter for medical malpractice, you need to discuss the intangible losses. These are damages that you can’t put a number on by providing a receipt or formula for figuring out; rather, you need to put into words the ways your injuries have affected you on a personal level.
Pain, suffering and emotional distress are typical intangible losses that you should mention in your medical malpractice demand letter. These must be directly related to the negligence or recklessness that was demonstrated by your healthcare provider during the subject patient encounter.
It’s important to state the impact on your life, even the most minute details. More significant intangible damages might be an inability to return to work, which resulted in lost wages. These losses can be formidable, especially if you’re out of work for several months. Even missing out on a family vacation or being unable to drive should be mentioned here. If medication was prescribed as a result of a medical malpractice incident and it affects your daily routine, state it here. You might even have strained relationships with family members or friends, and these should be listed as well.
As you’re listing your intangible damages, make sure to relate that these are undesired effects of medical malpractice that have resulted in pain and suffering beyond the physical nature of your injuries.
Include any other evidence discovered during your investigation.
Chances are you’ve uncovered other information that can support your case since the medical malpractice incident. If you’ve spoken to witnesses and they’re willing to testify or be available for deposition, identify them by name. You should also give a summary of what events or circumstances this potential witness experienced, so that the insurance company or opposing party has an idea of what they have to say. There may be other documents, aside from medical records, that you might also list in your demand letter for medical malpractice. Give a general synopsis and explain how these impact your case.
List your damages and dollar amounts.
Here, you want to itemize each of your injuries, tangible losses and intangible damages with a short description. Insert a table if the list is long, as you want to emphasize how substantially the medical malpractice incident has impacted your life. At minimum, you should include the following:
- Medical bills and costs of treatment;
- Any out-of-pocket costs you’ve expended as a direct result of your injuries;
- The amount of lost wages if you’ve been unable to work; and,
- Pain and suffering you’ve experienced.
Depending on the circumstances of your case, other details you might consider adding are the strained relationships with loved ones forced to care for you and the amount you need to expend to for transportation.
Describe how medical malpractice was the cause of your damages.
After stating the details regarding your injuries and other losses, you still need to connect the dots to demonstrate that the cause was due to negligence of the physician. You must correlate the facts to the actions of the healthcare professional, clearly and concisely delineating how your injuries were a result of his or her wrongdoing. It might help to engage in an exercise before you actually write your demand letter for medical malpractice. Refer to your list of damages and dollar amounts, and then jot down the specific conduct that caused each of them.
Close with an attention-grabbing demand.
Finish off your medical malpractice demand letter by stating how and why you’re entitled to compensation for your losses. Summarize all of the facts and other evidentiary details that prove your injuries, outline your course of treatment and establish a claim for other damages. You’ll need to tie in the physician’s conduct that rises to the level of malpractice and assert that it was his or her negligence that caused your injuries.
Depending on the circumstances of your case, there may be additional matters you need to address in your demand letter for medical malpractice. Due to the complexity of these cases, it’s smart to retain an attorney to represent your interests in dealing with an insurance company or the responsible party. If this demand letter doesn’t result in a fair and reasonable settlement for your losses, it might be necessary to file a lawsuit in court. A knowledgeable lawyer with experience in medical malpractice cases can get you the compensation you deserve.