posted in Personal Injury on November 18, 2019
Trust does not come easily to most people. It must be earned and nurtured in order to maintain optimal trusting relationships. So often does someone let you down, that it’s just easier to leave trust at the door and live life as a skeptic.
One area of life that people seem to be more flexible with their trust is within the medical profession. Doctors are often chosen randomly, sometimes by referral, but often the relationship is built on false trust. The patient trusts the doctor will perform at high standards and treat them correctly, but the patient usually knows nothing of this doctor’s past or professional relationship. Most times this relationship works out well – patients are treated and sent on their way. Other times, things don’t quite go as planned and malpractice is committed. Then what? What should the patient do next? These steps should be followed in order to best begin a medical malpractice suit.
When medical malpractice is committed, the first action the patient should take is to obtain their medical records. These can be obtained by contacting the medical records department of the hospital they attended, or by reaching out to the doctor’s office specifically. You have a right to view and obtain your medical records under any circumstances, so when debating to follow through with a medical malpractice suit, you should obtain these medical records immediately.
Next, it’s time to find a lawyer. Some patients might try to follow through on their case on their own, which is called pro se, but it’s not advisable. There are many moving parts and costs involved with a medical malpractice case, and it is best to go to an experienced attorney. This attorney can also obtain your medical records if you provide them with authorizations to obtain medical records on your behalf. This helps because the attorney will often cover the cost of medical record copies. Experienced medical malpractice attorneys will often work on a contingency basis, meaning they will only charge you their fees if they win the case. It also means that they likely will cover many of the costs of finding an expert witness, instead of having the patient pay out of pocket.
Expert witnesses are key to winning a medical malpractice suit. When a doctor commits malpractice, a similar doctor must review medical records in order to testify that that doctor has in fact acted outside of the standard of care. The attorney should be tasked with finding a suitable medical expert witness. Expert witnesses charge high fees for their work, and an attorney working on a contingency basis will often cover those costs for their client. Most expert witnesses will charge an hourly rate and a retainer, so these fees add up quickly. If your case goes to trial, most experts will charge a flat rate to appear and testify. If a patient is attempting to try their case pro se, they would be responsible for paying these rates upfront. It’s rare to find a doctor willing to work on a contingency basis as this type of work takes them away from their practices. So they will often request retainers and payment upfront in order to make up for time lost tending to their own patients.
Once a medical expert witness is chosen, they will review your medical records to find areas of malpractice. Sometimes, they will not be able to find any wrongdoings, and the case ends there. You have the option to have another expert witness review your files, but the client would need to pay and locate another doctor in a similar specialty. If the doctor does find malpractice, many states require them to write a report to submit to the court. These reports vary in length, and the attorney will review it in order to make sure it complies with court and state regulations.
Once a report is submitted, chances are a significant amount of time will go by before anything else is done. Eventually, most states will call for a deposition of the patient and medical expert witness. This gives the opposing side the chance to ask any questions and detail each person’s account of the events. Some states do not require this and instead go straight to trial. Trials are held in front of juries who decide if the doctor committed malpractice after hearing all of the evidence.
Pursuing a medical malpractice case is a lengthy and expensive process that should be undertaken by an attorney at all costs. Patients wishing to go pro se should highly consider working with Gina Corena & Associates instead to see that their case is given the best chance of winning. Call us today at (702) 680-1111.
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