Before you can claim the compensation you deserve after a malpractice-related injury, you need to know how to find a good malpractice lawyer.
Medical malpractice cases are complex and can take years to complete. You need a lawyer by your side who understands the unique challenges and is prepared to meet them. One way to ensure that you get the right representation is to ask the right questions.
By asking the following questions during your initial consultation, you can determine if you’ve found the right lawyer for the job:
- How much time do we have to work with?
- What background do you have with malpractice cases?
- What background do you have with my specific injury?
- What resources does your firm have to cover the costs of the case?
- Is a settlement or trial more likely in my case?
- How many cases have you taken to trial?
Let’s look at each of these questions, why they matter, and what answers you want to hear.
How much time do we have to work with?
You should start your consultation by asking your lawyer how much time you have available to file your claim. This is an essential question because strict statutes of limitations apply in medical malpractice cases. If you don’t seek justice soon, you may lose your chance.
In some states in the US, the time limit for filing a claim is as short as a single year from the injury date. The extent of some injuries resulting from malpractice may not even be apparent until months after they occur, so it’s unwise to wait, even if you’re not in a lot of pain.
Your lawyer will be able to provide you with the time limits on filing a claim in your state. Use that answer to determine if you have time to continue researching your options or if you should make a strong decision right now.
What background do you have with malpractice cases?
You should ask your lawyer what experience they or their firm have with malpractice cases. The answer they give matters because you need a lawyer who is highly experienced with these types of cases.
Malpractice law is complex, and filing a successful claim often involves a significant amount of proof. Even understanding the evidence involved in these cases can require a medical background or access to medical professionals.
Furthermore, these cases are often fought against lawyers hired by national insurers who have significant resources. The lawyers employed by malpractice insurers will have a lot of experience, so make sure that your lawyer has the background to keep up.
What background do you have with my specific injury?
You should ask your lawyer what experience they have litigating cases that involve injuries like yours. On its own, malpractice law is different from other types of law. However, there are also significant differences between the most common types of personal injuries.
Due to the special factors involved, you may be able to find lawyers in your area who focus on all of the following types of medical malpractice negligence:
- Misdiagnosis (or delayed diagnosis)
- Birth defects
- Spinal injuries
- Surgical errors
- Medical product liability
- And many more
If possible, try to find a lawyer who has experience with the category that most closely matches your injury.
What resources does your firm have to cover the costs of the case?
You should ask your lawyer what resources they have to pursue your case and who is responsible for covering expenses until the trial is complete. These are important questions because the costs of malpractice cases can be immense.
Even law firms that work on contingency may not cover all the necessary expenses for their clients. You will need to negotiate what will be covered, and some smaller firms may simply not have the resources to cover every cost.
The resources needed to complete a malpractice court case include:
- Court filing fees
- Administrative fees
- Lawyer fees
- Expert witness fees
These costs can easily exceed $50,000 before the lawyers have even been paid.
Is a settlement or trial more likely in my case?
You should ask your lawyer whether they believe your case is more likely to end in a settlement or a trial and which one they would prefer. The best answer depends on what you’re hoping to get out of your claim, though the choice isn’t always yours.
Resolving your claim through a settlement means that your lawyer was able to come to an agreement with the opposing party. You won’t have to spend as much time in a courtroom. In most cases, settlements are also resolved far more quickly than trials.
Resolving your claim through a trial means that you have the best chance at maximizing your award. Most insurance companies that settle do so because they suspect that they’ll pay more at trial. On the other hand, if you lose at trial, you won’t get anything.
How many cases have you taken to trial?
You should ask your lawyer how many cases they’ve successfully taken to trial over their career. This is not only a good indication of their experience; it’s a good indication of whether or not they’ll try to seek a settlement even if a trial is in your best interest.
It’s rarely a good sign if your lawyer has taken very few cases to trial. If they have taken many cases to trial, you can consider the rate at which they are successful.
Start your journey to justice by asking the right questions
Before you can get compensation for your personal injury, you need to choose a lawyer who can help you. Before you can choose a great lawyer, you need to ask the right questions. Use the questions you’ve learned here to find someone qualified to help you get the compensation you deserve.