If you have an injury or sustained damages you think are the result of a medical practitioner’s negligence, it could be medical malpractice. But how do you know for sure? Understanding whether you have a viable malpractice claim might be confusing. Each case is different and knowing how the system works is challenging, even for those well-versed in other legal areas.
You can, however, get free legal help to determine if you should even consider pursuing a medical malpractice claim. This step is called a consultation. Its sole focus is for an attorney to determine whether your specific situation is likely to result in a successful claim. If so, then you could potentially receive a significant cash settlement for your pain and suffering.
How to Prepare for Your Malpractice Claim Consultation
A consultation isn’t a full meeting. It’s more like an interview to gather basic facts and assess whether or not you and the attorney communicate well and want to work together, should the attorney see potential in your case.
The primary focus for the attorney will be learning the facts of the case. They will want to hear your explanation of what happened and why you think your doctor or other medical professional was negligent. They’ll also want to examine any documents related to your case. This includes hospital records but also any police reports, bills, witness statements, and more.
Questions Your Medical Malpractice Attorney Will Ask You
Answering an attorney’s questions as fully and accurately as possible is imperative during a consultation. You want the attorney to know everything that matters so they can make as informed a decision as possible.
Some of the questions an attorney may ask about your potential malpractice claim during your consultation include:
- When, where, and how did your injury occur?
- Who was present? Have any of those witnesses communicated with you in any way?
- What was happening at the time when you received your injury? For example: Were there unusual or extenuating circumstances?
- How has this affected your life? You’ll need to give details about how your injury affects your employment, family life, finances, and your emotional as well as mental well-being.
- Have you talked to an insurance company? Did anyone document these conversations in some way? What did you discuss?
- Why do you want to pursue a claim? Do you really think the doctor or other professionals who treated you were negligent?
- What else should the attorney know? Have you either filed prior claims or had other legal issues in the past? These aren’t moral judgments; an attorney simply needs to know your story in order to best represent you.
It’s important to be able to talk to your potential attorney about your case and the circumstances around it. It’s also just as important to provide the attorney with all relevant documents you have. These documents can help with details and give an attorney a broader picture of your potential case.
Now is the time to lay everything out for the attorney, even if you think something might impede your ability to have a successful malpractice claim. If there’s even a small chance that a detail or document might be important, disclose it to your attorney during your consultation.
Questions You Should Ask Your Medical Malpractice Lawyer
The attorney will ask questions during the consultation, and so should you. Here are a few to start with you may find especially helpful:
- Do you specialize in medical malpractice claims? Can you tell me about your track record?
- How long will my case take to resolve? What will I need to do? How does the process work?
- Do you think this might be a successful case? Do you think we might settle or go to court?
- How do you get paid? Can I afford you?
- What are the next steps if we move forward? How do you communicate with me?
- Do I really need a lawyer, or can I do this myself?
- What should I do if the doctor/hospital/insurance company contacts me? Should I talk to them? Should I take their offer?
Understanding how the process works and what your attorney thinks they can do for you is important. It’s also important to know whether or not you feel comfortable with an attorney, if you can talk to them, and if they seem dedicated to your case.
Malpractice Claim Requirements Vary by State
Different states impose different requirements on medical malpractice claims. These requirements vary significantly from state to state. Some have no requirements. Others might require that you notify the medical professional of your intention to sue. Some are so restrictive that they require that you hire an independent doctor to evaluate your case and determine if there was negligence before you can pursue a legal claim.
Be sure to ask your potential attorney to explain your state’s requirements to you so you fully understand them. You can also read more about your state’s specific merit rules before your initial consultation.
Medical Malpractice Attorneys and Money
Finances and fees should be discussed early in the process, and it’s no secret that legal fees can sometimes be high. Medical malpractice lawyers typically work on contingency. This means pay nothing out of pocket, and you only pay a fee if and when your claim is successful.
Medical malpractice cases can be complicated, and each situation is unique. Talking to a qualified attorney can help you decide how to proceed. Learn more about how our attorneys work and if one can help you pursue your malpractice claim.
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Lisa Allen is a writer and editor who lives in suburban Kansas City. She holds MFAs in Creative Nonfiction and Poetry, both from the Solstice Low-Residency Program in Creative Writing at Pine Manor College. Prior to becoming a writer, Lisa worked as a paralegal, where she specialized in real estate in and around Chicago.