Every medical malpractice case starts with a health care provider who has made a mistake — either by not doing something that should have been done, or by doing something that should not have been done. When this mistake directly results in a bad outcome, and that bad outcome entails significant damages, there’s a solid foundation for a medical malpractice case.
If you’re in a situation that meets the core requirements for a medical malpractice claim, knowing how to choose a medical malpractice attorney is essential.
At Negretti & Associates, we handle medical malpractice cases in Arizona, California, and Colorado. To help everyone get better idea of how to choose a medical malpractice attorney, we would like to answer some of the questions that are frequently raised by medical malpractice victims. If you have additional questions, we’d be happy to hear from you.
What Qualifies an Attorney to Be a Good Medical Malpractice Lawyer?
Three things qualify an attorney to be a medical malpractice lawyer: Experience, experience, and more experience. While there are lawyers who are certified specialists in personal injury and wrongful death — a list of Arizona lawyers who meet this criteria can be found here — there is no sub-specialty in medical malpractice.
With that said, you need to look for someone who has experience handling medical malpractice cases. As you interview lawyers, it’s important to ask about examples of malpractice cases they’ve managed, how long they’ve handled these cases, and what kinds of results they’ve achieved.
Here are some sample questions you can ask when you interview a medical malpractice attorney:
- How many medical malpractice cases have you handled?
- What sort of results can we expect?
- What the average amount of time to resolve a medical malpractice claim?
- How much does it typically cost to pursue a medical malpractice claim?
- What is the likelihood of success in the medical malpractice claims that you have handled?
Keep in mind that medical malpractice cases are not like typical personal injury cases. For example, when you file a lawsuit for medical malpractice, you need to have an expert certify that the case is subject to expert opinion testimony. In Arizona, for example, this is codified under A.R.S. §12-2602.
How Do You Know that You Have a Viable Medical Malpractice Case?
Medical malpractice cases are complex. To truly understand whether you have a viable claim, you need to consult with an experienced medical malpractice attorney.
An experienced medical malpractice attorney will look for the following four legal elements to prove your claim:
- A professional duty owed to you, the patient.
- A breach of that professional duty.
- Injury caused by that breach.
- Resulting damages to you.
If an experienced medical malpractice attorney believes that these four elements can be satisfied, they may accept representation on your case.
Before taking with an attorney, it’s absolutely critical that you are informed about your unique situation and have gathered all of your medical records for review. At Negretti & Associates, this is one of the consistent problems that we run into when evaluating medical malpractice claims. A potential client will come to us without any of the medical records and simply want to tell us their story. We cannot evaluate the viability of a case without records.
Medical records are the key to unlocking the four elements described above. Without the medical records it may be hard for a medical malpractice attorney to properly review your case.
What Are the Chances of Winning a Medical Malpractice Lawsuit?
Lawsuits are not an exact science. Therefore, there are no guarantees on how your case will turn out.
Be wary of any attorney who says that you should “win” your case. Even when the medical malpractice is apparent, the outcome can still be uncertain. Reaching an outcome can be a long and grueling road.
Years ago at our firm, we had a case involving a breast augmentation that was performed incorrectly. At face value, it was apparent that the surgeon had made a significant error. However, it took almost two years of litigation before the surgeon would concede his error and agree to resolve the case.
What Do Malpractice Lawyers Look for in a Case?
As discussed, medical malpractice cases are extremely challenging. Not only is it hard to connect the dots to prove the medical malpractice, but you must also convince a jury of your peers that the medical mistake could have been avoided. As the plaintiff filing the case, you automatically face a headwind, because people tend to favor doctors and, more often than not, side with them.
For these and other reasons, the costs of pursuing a medical malpractice case can be astronomical. This is why most medical malpractice attorneys look for cases involving catastrophic damages.
“Damages in medical negligence cases need to be significant,” attorney John Ager said in a Negretti & Associates Legal Beagle podcast. “Very significant means in the $250,000 to $300,000 range — probably just to start, under most circumstances.”
While you may have a viable medical malpractice claim, if the damages are not sufficient, it may not make sense to pursue it. The costs of the case could overwhelm the amount you’d receive in recovery. You wouldn’t want to end up owing more money that you actually receive in compensation.
Are Malpractice Cases Typically Settled, or Do They Usually Go to Trial?
In Arizona, for example, the doctor that you are pursuing needs to consent to resolve the claim against him or her through some sort of settlement. If they do not consent, the insurance company that covers the doctor cannot resolve the claim through settlement. This is true even in situations where the malpractice is obvious and the insurance company wants to resolve the claim. Without the doctor’s consent, you could be forced to go to trial.
Going to trial can take two to three years. The increased cost and delay in resolving a malpractice claim can be extremely frustrating to people. It is better to know that up front than to be surprised years later.
Have a Question? Call Negretti & Associates
If you are wondering how to choose a medical malpractice attorney in Arizona, California, or Colorado, Negretti & Associates would be happy to discuss your questions and see if we can help with your case.