Can You Sue for Medical Malpractice Without a Lawyer?
No, you can’t. It’s basically impossible for most people to sue for medical malpractice without a lawyer. And the only people who could even theoretically do it lawyers who are themselves victims of medical malpractice know it’s a terrible idea, so they hire other lawyers to represent them.
Here’s an overview of why you can’t sue for medical malpractice without a lawyer, and why you can feel confident in hiring a skilled medical malpractice attorney today.
What is medical malpractice?
Medical malpractice refers to an act or omission by a doctor or health care professional during the treatment of a patient that deviates from the appropriate standard of care and causes harm to the patient. Most instances of medical malpractice arise out of mistakes made by medical providers. But not all medical errors constitute malpractice. Only those slip-ups in giving care that fall below the minimum acceptable standard for the provider’s area of practice and geographic location qualify.
For example, it might constitute malpractice for a cardiologist at a top city research hospital to miss the telltale signs of a patient’s potentially fatal heart condition. But it might not necessarily amount to malpractice for a small town family doctor to commit the same error with the same patient.
Context and circumstances matter for medical malpractice cases, making it especially important to have an attorney on your side who understands medicine and medical protocols and procedures someone who can spot malpractice and explain why it was more than just a doctor’s reasonable mistake.
Common Types of Medical Malpractice
A recent study found that when it comes to medical mistakes, high error rates that result in devastating consequences are more likely to occur in operating rooms, intensive care units, and emergency departments. These errors are also often linked to new procedures, the severity of the medical condition being treated, and the urgency of a procedure.
However, while medical malpractice can and does happen in novel or emergency settings, it also commonly occurs in a wide variety of less intense, everyday medical practice situations.
It can constitute medical malpractice for a medical provider to, for example:
- Fail to or or inaccurately diagnose a condition
- Fail to or inadequate treat a condition
- Conduct an unneeded surgery or procedure
- Make a harmful, preventable error during a surgery or procedure
- Leave a foreign object in a patient’s body after surgery
- Conduct surgery on the wrong part of a patient’s body
- Provide a patient with the wrong type or dosage of medication
- Select the wrong medical device or implant for a patient
- Fail to provide proper follow-up care
- Discharge a patient prematurely or without appropriate instructions for care
- Fail to check in with a patient after treatment
- Fail to order or conduct appropriate labs, scans, or other tests
- Fail to read, understand, or act in accordance with results of labs, scans, or other tests
- Fail to take, document, or pay attention to a patient’s medical history
Some of these mishaps, such as leaving foreign objects in a surgery patient, constitute so-called never events that almost always amount to medical malpractice. But most of them fall somewhere short of crossing a bright line, and only get revealed as medical malpractice when you examine them in their context.
Again, this is why it’s so important to have an experienced medical malpractice lawyer on your side. Telling the difference between innocent mistakes and medical malpractice let alone proving it is rarely easy or straightforward. It takes a skilled, seasoned lawyer to handle the job.
What a Medical Malpractice Lawyer Can Do?
An experienced medical malpractice attorney can handle every step in the process of getting you compensation for your losses. The right attorney takes care of everything, so that you can focus on healing rather than worrying about legal matters. Here are just some of the services a knowledgeable medical malpractice lawyer provides.
Evaluating Whether Medical Malpractice Occurred
As mentioned several times already, one of the most valuable services a medical malpractice lawyer provides is the all-important initial evaluation of whether what happened to you or your loved one constituted medical malpractice.
With your permission, a lawyer can obtain and review your medical records, investigate the circumstances, and reach an initial conclusion about whether the care you received satisfied minimum medical standards.
In conducting this analysis, an experienced medical malpractice lawyer can draw on years of experience and, when necessary, the opinions of a network of medical experts who can review your case.
Calculating Your Damages
If medical malpractice occurred, a lawyer can also calculate the full range of damages you suffered.
As the victim of malpractice, you may have the right to receive payment a wide variety of losses caused by a medical provider’s misconduct, including:
- The money paid to the provider who committed malpractice
- The cost of medical care to treat the injuries or health consequences of malpractice
- Income or job benefits you did not earn or accrue while healing from injuries caused by malpractice
- Earning opportunities and job benefits you will not have in the future because of the injuries caused by malpractice
- The physical pain caused by your medical condition or treatments for it
- The emotional distress caused by being a victim of medical malpractice
- Your diminished quality of life, loss of independence, or inconvenience
If a medical provider’s malpractice led to the death of your loved one, you may similarly have the right to receive compensation for wrongful death.
A skilled medical malpractice lawyer may secure you payment for:
- Loss of your loved one’s income, services, inheritance, or financial support
- Loss of your loved one’s companionship, guidance, society, or consortium
- Your loved one’s pain and suffering before death
- Certain expenses your loved one incurred before death
- Funeral and burial costs
If a medical provider’s actions rose to the level of extreme, wanton, or malicious misconduct, a court may also award you punitive damages.
Medical malpractice lawyers examine the details of a case to identify the maximum amount their clients can rightfully claim. Then they set about seeking that payment from anyone who deserves to be held accountable.
Determining Who Has Liability
Another critical task for medical malpractice lawyers involves identifying every party who may have liability to you for the harm you’ve suffered. Seasoned lawyers know that the key to securing full, fair compensation for your losses is often to seek damages from multiple individual or corporate healthcare providers and their malpractice insurers.
The parties with liability could include, for example:
- Medical doctors
- Physical and occupational therapists
- Mental health care professionals
- Pharmacists and pharmaceutical companies
- Urgent care centers
- Surgical or lab technicians
- Non-traditional medical treatment centers
It’s rare (if ever) safe to assume that only the medical professional who treated you has liability to you for damages. Multiple parties can share that liability but it takes the know-how and insight of an experienced medical malpractice lawyer to find them and make them pay.
Navigating Special Legal Procedures for Medical Malpractice Cases
In the past several decades, lobbyists for the medical and insurance industries have succeeded in convincing state legislatures that an epidemic of frivolous medical malpractice claims made it necessary to implement special court procedures to protect providers and weed out baseless cases. Today, as a result of those lobbying efforts, many states place extra hurdles in the path of medical malpractice claimants, making it far more difficult and complex to pursue a personal injury case against a medical provider than, say, a negligent motorist.
Depending on where you live, filing a medical malpractice claim may require, for example:
- Giving advance notice of a claim to the provider within a certain period of time after suffering a harmful medical treatment outcome.
- Engaging in pre-lawsuit settlement negotiations with the provider.
- Submitting a claim first to a panel of medical experts for review and approval before you can move forward.
- Filling a certificate of merit attesting to a medical expert’s belief that the claim is valid.
- Meeting a statute of limitations deadline that’s shorter than for other types of personal injury lawsuits.
- Following special discovery or settlement procedures after filing the lawsuit.
Medical malpractice lawyers strongly dispute the characterization of any lawsuits they file on behalf of injured patients as frivolous. But they’ve also learned to live with and navigate through the extra steps it takes to hold a provider liable for medical malpractice in the states where they practice law. To avoid costly mistakes, it’s critical to hire an attorney who knows which of those rules apply in your medical malpractice case.
Handling Insurance Companies for You
If there’s one aspect of the healthcare system in the United States that just about everyone hates, it’s dealing with insurance. It’s hard enough to navigate the insurance bureaucracy when you’ve received the quality of care you hoped for. Trying to do it after a medical provider has committed malpractice takes the frustration and stress to a whole different level.
Hiring a medical malpractice lawyer relieves you of that burden. Once you have a lawyer on your side, harassing phone calls from insurance adjusters stop and you no longer have to worry about spending hours talking to a call center representative who doesn’t understand your situation. Lawyers handle all dealings with insurance related to their clients’ injuries.
In medical malpractice cases, a lawyer is especially valuable in forcing the at-fault provider’s medical malpractice insurer to pay your damages. A lawyer can negotiate directly with the insurer or through a defense lawyer, seeking a fair settlement of your claim. And a lawyer can advise you about whether to accept or reject a settlement offer. (The final decision is always yours to make.)
Taking Your Case to Court
When necessary, a medical malpractice lawyer can also take your case to court to present it to a judge or jury.
Winning a medical malpractice case in the courtroom is a special skill. It requires a lawyer to have a complete mastery of the law, the ability to explain complicated medical topics to jurors in language they’ll understand, and an intimate familiarity with medical science sufficient to be able to cross-examine a doctor or medical expert. And the lawyer needs to have the staff and financial resources to support those functions through a trial that can last a week or more.
Simply put, only ever trust a lawyer with significant experience and a long track record of top-dollar results in medical malpractice cases to represent you in court. No one else can give you the quality legal representation you deserve after a provider’s medical malpractice harms you or your loved one.
You Can Afford a Top Medical Malpractice Lawyer
People sometimes hesitate to talk to a medical malpractice lawyer because they worry about the cost. That’s an understandable concern, but it’s also misplaced. Hiring a top medical malpractice lawyer usually won’t cost you a penny upfront, and you’ll pay nothing unless you win.
All reputable medical malpractice lawyers offer a fee case review to people in your situation. A skilled legal professional will meet with you in-person, by video, or over the phone to talk about what happened to you and whether you have a viable medical malpractice claim. You’ll never have to pay for this consultation, even if you decide not to hire the lawyer.
Any lawyer you do choose to hire will almost certainly agree to represent you on a contingent fee basis. That’s when a lawyer works for you in exchange for a percentage of any money recovered on your behalf. You don’t pay anything upfront or as a case proceeds. The lawyer only gets paid if you get paid.
So, don’t lose sleep about paying for a top medical malpractice lawyer. No matter what your financial circumstances are in the wake of a medical malpractice incident, a lawyer will want to represent you if you have a valid claim to make.
Contact an Experienced Medical Malpractice Lawyer Today for a Free Case Review
Here’s the bottom line: you absolutely need a lawyer to sue for medical malpractice. And hiring one won’t cost you a penny. So don’t delay. Contact a personal injury law firm in Bronx today for a free case review.