What motivates a person to seek damages against a physician or hospital? I’ve often wondered, yet grateful that it wasn’t something that I’ve had to pursue personally. However, not long ago a dear friend of mine passed away after undergoing brain surgery for something that turned out to be medically misdiagnosed and therefore was thought to be unnecessary in hindsight. Tragically she left behind four young children that greatly needed her and a husband that seriously contemplated a medical malpractice lawsuit.
When To Find an Attorney
In reality, seeking malpractice isn’t always about such tragic circumstances, nor are they typically about those sensationalized cases often seen on so-called “news” sites on the internet. Sure, one may see attention-grabbing headlines splashed across those sites that read “doctor amputates wrong leg!” or “patient feels scalpel due to inefficient anesthesia”. But in reality they are often not nearly as dramatic.
According to a local attorney that at one time specialized in medical malpractice law, the most common impetus to seeking a medical malpractice lawyer is medical bills. In other words, something terrible may have occurred but the client seeking advice is doing so because they feel that receipt of the medical bills on top of the personal pain and suffering adds “insult to injury”.
The question that all medical malpractice suits are based on is “did the doctor’s conduct (or hospital or medical professional in question) fall below the care of the acting physicians within that community and did that conduct cause the injury?” Keeping that in mind, it’s the attorney’s goal, to prove that the above question is valid and in fact true thereby warrants a lawsuit.
Starting Your Search Correctly
Therefore, if you find yourself in search for a medical malpractice attorney, there are several ways to do so and more importantly, factors that you should consider in the process. As with many things, personal referrals are initially a great way to get a name, but realistically it may not be enough. Research and education are paramount in finding a good attorney. Although the average person may not know the proper law lingo, armed with some key questions, an attorney can be found!
The attorney I spoke to recommends asking the following key questions:
- Has the attorney tried to completion recently a similar but preferably the same kind of case?
- What is their success rate?
- Will the attorney advance costs on the case?
- Does the law firm have medical professions to review the case in house or do they have to be sent out? *This point is a cost containment issue for the firm.
- What is the percentage of case loads done in medical malpractice?
- Does the attorney or firm give or receive financial “kick backs” or “fee splitting”? (This is a sign of an unethical attorney)
How to Tell if you Have a Case
I was also told that due to the complexity and cost involved with medical malpractice litigation, the success rates are generally “poor”. However, certain types of cases have a higher propensity for success if they have what he called “the oh my God” factor. Basically, if an attorney is presented with a case that literally causes he or she to blurt out the above words (or even think it), according to my source, “it’s a pretty safe bet that it can be tried successfully in court”. Additionally, though we are often bombarded with the idea that our society is “lawsuit happy” and that cases are filed frivolously every day, I learned that more cases are turned away than are accepted. Attorney’s base their acceptance of a case on several components.
For example, if a lawsuit is filed on contingent fees (they do not receive payment until the case is won) the damages sought must be significantly higher than the cost of litigation. Simply put, the potential outcome must be 2 to 3 times higher than what the actual medical bills and cost to pursue the lawsuit are. If they are not, the case outcome would not be enough to justify the risks and cost involved. The attorney will estimate the amount of time, money and effort needed to file a lawsuit before accepting. Because cases vary and have their own subtle nuances, a good attorney will not accept a case that they deem “frivolous” especially considering that all insurance companies have limits or “caps” as to what they will pay out regardless of “pain and suffering”.
Finally, I recommend looking into referral services like juryverdictsnw.com or the Oregon State Bar referral service. Some referral services may charge a nominal fee like $35 while others may provide information at no cost. Services like these are great, but should not replace professional recommendations by attorneys; names of those that they trust and respect. To get this information you’ll need to make phone calls, send emails or write letters. It is also highly recommended that while looking for an attorney, check credentials! Some of this information can be simply found via the internet. Lastly, using rating services like Martindale-Hubble can be helpful if looking for peer reviews. My contact did caution the use of sites like this simply because the criteria can be subjective and skewed, but still recommended them as resources.
In the end, there is not a dollar figure high enough that will make restitution for the pain and suffering a family or loved one has endured but the compensation sought is meant to improve the life of the litigant in general, not replace whatever was lost or irreparably damaged. Daunting though it may be or as devastating as the reason might have been, finding a good medical malpractice attorney is possible through utilization of available resources, research and perseverance.
- License: Creative Commons image source
Fuller Law Firm specializes in Medical Malpractice lawsuits in Seattle Washington and the surrounding areas. Visit our website today for more information.