When you or a loved one have been the victim of medical malpractice, it is crucial that you find a medical malpractice lawyer that you trust and that will help you get justice and compensation.
A good medical malpractice attorney understands the nuances within this specific area of the law, the complex medical issues that often pervade these cases, and how medical providers and institutions deliver medical services to patients. The attorney will be able to retain appropriate expert witnesses to support your claim, guide you on the evidence that is needed to present a successful claim, negotiate with insurers and healthcare providers, and advise you on the possible range of compensation for settlement. More importantly, if a reasonable settlement cannot be obtained, a good medical malpractice attorney will advise you of that and must be willing to try the case so that a jury can award fair and just compensation for your injuries and damages. In other words, an experienced medical malpractice attorney will have the skills, experience, and knowledge to advocate for you in settlement negotiations or at trial so that you have the best chance at getting fair compensation for the injuries that you have suffered at the hands of healthcare professionals.
The attorneys at Morris James are dedicated to giving you a voice in the complex system of justice, and to getting you the answers and the compensation that you deserve. Call us today at 302.655.2599 or contact us online for a free consultation.
In this article, our attorneys discuss some of the steps that you should take when you are choosing a medical malpractice attorney. It can take months or even years to settle or win a medical malpractice claim, and it is important that you find a lawyer with whom you feel comfortable working, and who has the skills and drive to fight for maximum compensation for you.
When you are looking for any service provider, whether it is a mechanic, house painter, or medical malpractice attorney, it is always helpful to start with personal referrals from people you trust. Your friends, family, work colleagues, or even online communities may be able to recommend a medical malpractice lawyer. They can also provide valuable insight into which attorneys they found particularly helpful during their own cases and why.
Another good source for referrals are attorneys or other professionals. Perhaps you work with an attorney for business, estate planning, or other legal matters who can recommend a medical malpractice attorney. Some physicians or others working in the healthcare field work with medical malpractice lawyers, and they can refer you to an attorney who practices in this area.
A personal referral should not be your only factor in choosing a medical malpractice lawyer, however. You should consider how knowledgeable the person making the referral is by asking for more information about the lawyer. That will help you find out if the recommended attorney is a suitable fit for you and your case. Most importantly, you should do your own research.
In addition to seeking referrals from trusted sources, you should research the medical malpractice lawyers that you are considering. Online sources can make it easy to find out a lot about a lawyer, but they can also be unreliable or lead to information overload. Online resources include:
- The lawyer’s website
On the lawyer’s website, consider how they describe their practice. If they handle a lot of medical malpractice cases, it should be obvious on their website. If it is not, then they may not have the experience to handle your case. Medical malpractice is very complex, and you should consider whether the attorneys practice in this area of law only occasionally or whether they spend most of their professional time working on medical malpractice cases. Does the website give you any information about the lawyer’s past successes in medical malpractice cases, any honors that they have been awarded, or any discussion on how long they have been handling these types of cases?
- Your state bar association website
Your state bar association keeps a database of attorneys who are licensed in the state, which is usually available online. You can search this database to find attorneys in your area and to check an attorney’s disciplinary record. Your state bar association may also have a lawyer referral service that will provide you with a list of attorneys who hold themselves out as medical malpractice lawyers.
- Legal organizations like Martindale-Hubbell
Legal organizations may provide more information about where an attorney practices, what areas of the law they practice in, any awards that they have been given, and reviews by clients or other lawyers. Often the information on these sites is provided by the attorney or the attorney’s firm, so it can be out of date and should be checked. With regard to legal awards, some awards mean more than others, so it is useful to find out more about any awards that are important to your choice of lawyer.
- Online reviews such as Google and Yelp
Online reviews are hugely popular when searching for any service, but they should be used with care. Unfortunately, someone who has had a bad experience with a product or service is much more likely to go to the effort of posting an online review. Also, lawyers are very limited in how they can respond to a negative review because of their duty of confidentiality to their clients, and many lawyers are advised not to respond at all. However, online reviews can still be useful if they help to paint a bigger picture of the lawyer or law firm.
Once you have shortlisted a few medical malpractice attorneys, you should speak to each of them individually to find out more about them and their practice.
You can call a medical malpractice lawyer or contact them online to set up an initial meeting. Most medical malpractice attorneys will offer a free initial consultation appointment to find out more about you and your potential medical malpractice case. It is also an opportunity for you to get to know the lawyer and decide whether or not he or she is right for you, as that attorney will be representing you throughout the entire process.
You should bring with you to the first appointment any documents or other evidence that you have gathered about your medical malpractice claim, and be prepared to discuss what has happened to you or your loved one. It can be difficult to talk about everything that you have been through, but an experienced medical malpractice attorney should be able to guide you calmly through the relevant parts of your story.
You will also have questions for the lawyer during your first meeting. Ask about the attorney’s experience handling similar cases, whether your case will be handled primarily by that attorney or delegated to more junior attorneys or paralegal staff, the firm’s fee policy, and any other questions you may have about your case. Many medical malpractice attorneys, including the attorneys at Morris James, work on a contingency fee basis, which means that you only pay their fees if you win or recover any compensation. However, you should confirm this and ask if or when you are responsible for paying other out-of-pocket costs, such as court filing fees and expert witness fees.
You do not have to commit to a lawyer at your first appointment. Hopefully, you will have initial consultations with a few attorneys, and after you have met or spoken with each of them, you can decide which one is best for you. However, do keep in mind that there are legal deadlines (for example, a statute of limitations) for a bringing a medical malpractice claim, and you could lose your right to bring a claim if you wait too long. Typically, you have two years from the date of the injury to file a claim, but there may be exceptions that apply to your specific case, so you should ask the lawyers about these deadlines.
After you have chosen a medical malpractice attorney, the attorney will send you an engagement letter for signature, which sets out in writing the legal arrangement between you and your attorney. It should give you information about how attorneys’ fees and other costs will be charged, and who you can contact about your case. Some law firms will ask for an advance against fees or costs, which is returned to you if it is not used.
You will then begin the process of working through your claim with your attorney. Your attorney will gather information and evidence, from you and other sources, and begin contacting other parties in the case on your behalf. Your attorney should keep you informed throughout the claim, and you should always be the ultimate decision maker in your own case. Our medical malpractice attorneys at Morris James maintain close relationships with our clients. We understand that it is hard to trust another professional after your experience, and we aim to earn and keep your trust every step of the way.
At Morris James, our attorneys have been standing up for victims since we opened our doors in 1932. If you have other questions about medical malpractice claims, you may find answers in our Medical Malpractice FAQs, or you can contact us online or at 302.655.2599 to learn more.