Starting a Medical Malpractice Case: First Steps
Medical malpractice cases are generally sought by patients who have been harmed or injured due to poor medical treatment or mistaken diagnosis from a medical provider such as a doctor, nurse, technician, hospital or medical worker. Typically, the measure of whether a medical provider was “negligent,” or failed to provide proper care, turns on whether the patient would have received the same standard of care from another medical provider under similar circumstances.
While the majority of health care providers aim to exercise the highest standard of care for all patents, there are times when things can go gravely wrong. If you or a loved one has experienced poor medical care, misdiagnosis, lack of consent, or breach of doctor-patient confidentiality that has resulted in harm or injury, you may be entitled to medical malpractice recovery.
Below are some basic first steps in bringing a medical malpractice case.
Contact the Medical Professional Involved
The first step to starting a medical malpractice case is contacting the doctor or medical professional who works with you before you actually file the claim. Your goal is to get an understanding of what may have gone wrong and allow your doctor to determine whether it's something that can be remedied.
In most cases, medical providers are willing to perform services (sometimes free of charge) to correct a problem or provide a solution.
Contact the Relevant Medical Licensing Board
If contacting the medical professional doesn't help the situation, you may wish to contact the licensing board that governs medical licenses. While licensing boards typically can't order the professional to compensate you, they can issue warnings or discipline to the practitioner and may be able to provide you with guidance about your next steps.
Know How Long You Have to File a Claim
When deciding whether to file a medical malpractice claim, it's important to find out how much time you have to legally bring the claim. All civil claims, including medical malpractice cases, have time limits as to when they must be filed. These limits, called “statutes of limitations,” require you to file your claim within a certain time period from when the injury occurred, or risk waiving your rights to recover money for your injuries.
Check the statutes of limitation in your particular state to ensure the time period for filing your claim does not run out. You can also learn about specific state laws on our medical malpractice legal answers page.
Get a Medical Assessment to Confirm Your Case Has Merit
A growing number of states require patients to file a “certificate of merit” before starting a medical malpractice case to determine that the injuries you suffered resulted from a health care professional's negligence.
To file a certificate of merit you must first contact an expert, usually another physician. This expert will review your medical records and certify that the original health care provider deviated from accepted medical practices, which resulted in your injuries. The attorney that you hire will now file the certificate of merit, which confirms that you spoke with a medical expert and that your action has merit.
Consider an Out-of-Court Settlement
Medical malpractice cases can be timely and costly, which is why most such cases are settled out of court. In addition, because medical malpractice insurance companies reject a significantly large portion of medical malpractice claims, it may be in your best interest to settle out-of-court or risk having no case at all. Keep in mind, however, that if you believe you have a strong case, then you should seek a larger settlement.
Starting a Medical Malpractice Case? Get Help From an Attorney
Finding a qualified medical malpractice attorney can mean the difference between receiving compensation for your injuries and walking away empty-handed. An experienced attorney will be able to discuss the strengths and weaknesses of your case and advise you on a course of action moving forward. Begin by using FindLaw's attorney directory to contact a medical malpractice attorney today.
Contact a qualified medical malpractice attorney to make sure your rights are protected.