Nobody ever wants to be in the position of having to consider filing a medical malpractice claim. When you go to the doctor, you rely on them to exercise the highest standard of care. You choose your doctor trusting that they will not be negligent or outright incompetent. But mistakes happen. Poor judgment calls happen. Medical malpractice laws exist to protect patients from negligent or incompetent healthcare professionals. If you think you may have been the victim of medical malpractice, don’t delay. Contact an experienced medical malpractice attorney to learn more about your rights.
Defining Medical Malpractice
What qualifies as malpractice? Is it as simple as a doctor making a mistake? What about other health care professionals? To what standards do we hold professionals who provide medical care? When it comes to malpractice, the answer is not always simple. For example, you can’t hold a doctor liable if a widely accepted treatment has no effect on you or has unintended consequences. On the other hand, if the doctor did not check your records to rule out potential drug interactions or performed experimental treatment without your consent, you may have a case.
The law does not outline specific cases but rather defines medical malpractice as a provider’s failure to act in a manner that is consistent with how experienced professionals in their field would act, given similar circumstances. The most common examples of medical malpractice include:
- Missed, inaccurate, or delayed diagnosis;
- Birth injuries;
- Improper prescription management; and
- Surgical errors.
How to Choose a Medical Malpractice Attorney
What makes a good medical malpractice attorney? Experience? Tenacity? Trustworthiness? Check. Check. And check. A good medical malpractice attorney is all of the above. Medical malpractice claims involve sensitive information. You want someone you can open up to and trust with your most intimate information. You must feel comfortable knowing your attorney will aggressively fight for your rights. So, how do you find that person?
Start With Personal Referrals
Personal referrals are always a good place to start your search for anything, but particularly legal professionals. Attorney-client relationships are complex. They require trust, patience, and understanding. When you get a personal recommendation, it can be a good indication that that attorney has developed a good working relationship with the person giving the recommendation.
While personal recommendations are a great place to start, it’s not always easy to find someone you know who has filed a medical malpractice claim. It’s harder to find someone who has experience with a medical malpractice attorney than, say, a personal injury attorney or family law attorney. It can be helpful to ask friends and family if they know anyone who might be able to give you a recommendation. You can also ask other legal professionals whether they know anyone they would recommend. If you are unable to find a personal reference, the Nebraska State Bar’s Find a Lawyer service lets you search for lawyers based on their area of expertise.
Research the Lawyer’s Experience
Experience is important. You don’t want a lawyer who is fresh out of law school but it will also do you no good to hire a defense attorney with 20 years of criminal law experience under their belt. When you file a medical malpractice claim, it is absolutely essential to hire an attorney with medical malpractice experience, preferably several years of experience.
You can find out approximately how much experience an attorney has by looking up their name in the Nebraska State Bar Attorney Directory. If the attorney is licensed in the state, the directory will tell you when the lawyer first got their license and whether the lawyer has ever been subject to professional disciplinary action. When you find an attorney you are interested in, a good look at their professional website should give you an indication of how much malpractice experience they have.
Check Online Reviews
Online attorney review sites like AVVO and Super Lawyers exist to allow current or former clients to provide feedback to help other potential clients. These sites are a great way to get a feel for how responsive the attorney is, their demeanor, and any potential billing concerns. While these sites are great at bringing up potential issues, don’t base your entire decision on online reviews. Many factors could make positive and negative reviews unreliable. However, you should keep any complaints in mind when you go to interview potential attorneys in case you have additional concerns.
Interview Potential Candidates
When it comes to finding a good attorney, it’s always a good idea to shop around. It’s important to find an attorney with whom you feel comfortable and who you can rely on to do a good job. When researching potential attorneys, make a list of your top candidates. Then set up a meeting with these individuals. Many attorneys offer free consultations, so this is a good way to get to know the attorneys better.
Prepare a list of questions before you interview potential candidates. Questions you should ask include:
- Do you work solely on medical malpractice cases? If not, what percentage of your cases are medical malpractice claims?
- Do you have a medical background? What makes you especially suited for handling a medical malpractice suit?
- What resources do you have available to you? Do you have a private investigator? Do you have a medical expert on staff?
- What’s your availability? How much time do you have to devote to the case? How accessible will you be?
- How do you handle payment? What are your rates?
Finding a medical malpractice attorney is a personal experience and one you should not take lightly. However, if you think that you may have a medical malpractice claim, start your search right away. The law only allows you two years from the date of your injury to file a lawsuit and your attorney needs enough time to build a case before filing. If you have any further questions, contact a licensed legal professional.