May 31, 2019

6 Characteristics of the Best Law Firms for Medical Malpractice Cases

Trying to find the best law firm to handle your medical malpractice case can sometimes feel like searching for a needle in a haystack. Many medical malpractice lawyers are advertising on every possible outlet but separating the ones who care from the ones who will treat your case like just another number is challenging. The best law firms for medical malpractice cases often take some time and research to find.

When you decide to pursue a medical malpractice case against a healthcare provider or hospital, your decision is also likely fueled by emotion: physical and emotional pain, anger, sadness, and uncertainty about the future. Medical malpractice and preventable errors change lives, ruin lives, and prematurely end lives.

It’s important to keep your emotions in check initially and do some careful research. You want to make sure you have documented all possible evidence on your side, and that you are choosing the best medical malpractice lawyers for your case.

Determine if you’re a victim of medical malpractice

Your interviews with attorneys can help to determine if your case has enough evidence to proceed, but first, you need to assess whether you or a loved one have been a victim of malpractice.

In general, there are three criteria that need to be met for your case to be defined as medical malpractice. First, the healthcare provider has violated the standard of care set out for patients by the law.

Second, the injury or death was caused by negligence or preventable error. It’s not enough that a procedure did not go well, or that there were complications; the injury or death must be a direct result of negligent actions or decisions on behalf of the healthcare provider.

Finally, the damages must be significant. These include substantial medical bills, potential future care, and pain and suffering. The amount must be worth litigating. Unfortunately, if you experienced malpractice as a result of negligence but the experience was minor, and you recovered quickly, your case likely won’t be picked up by an attorney. The worse the injury and resulting complications are, including death or possible death, the stronger your case may be.

Be aggressive in your search

Do not be guarded when you are searching for the right attorney to represent your case. You want someone who is experienced, knowledgeable about the law and medical matters, and who will be honest with you about your case throughout the entirety of the process. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, or to advocate for yourself or your loved one.

Between 25,000-120,000 people are victims of medical malpractice each year in the United States. Many of these cases never get brought forward to a lawyer, and even fewer end up going to trial. Cases may be settled out of court, or not brought forward due to a lack of evidence. Medical malpractice claim statistics also vary widely by state. This is why it’s crucial to choose a medical attorney who is experienced in sorting out the important facts of your case, and who has a team of experts and paralegals behind them to dig, and to verify.

There are several fundamental characteristics you should look for in a law firm who will represent you in moving your case forward and help you navigate the complex legal system.

1. Has referrals

It may sound simplistic but start researching the law firms that are referred to you. Like many businesses and services, sometimes one of the best characteristics of a medical malpractice lawyer comes from someone who has used the law firm before. Never underestimate the power of word-of-mouth referrals. People who have successfully had their cases litigated or settled by these law firms are your best sources of information about the lawyers and their practices.

Another kind of referral can come from other lawyers. If you know a lawyer, or already use a lawyer for business or personal matters, your lawyer may be able to suggest the best law firm to handle your malpractice case. Sometimes, they know more inside information, including reputations, quality of experts, and integrity.

While you can always look at online reviews, keep in mind that experiences can be skewed and emotional. If you can find online reviews that seem to give a fair and balanced assessment of the reviewer’s experience with the law firm, then those reviews should carry more weight than others that seem more emotionally charged. There are several online services in which clients can rate their lawyers beyond the standard Google reviews.

2. Has plenty of information on their website

Nowadays, most law firms maintain an online presence with information about the kinds of cases they litigate, and the number of lawyers on staff who are experts in each field. You should be able to easily navigate to information about that law firm’s medical malpractice section, which may give a light overview of the process of litigating medical malpractice cases. Many of your questions may be answered before you even pick up the phone to contact them.

Likewise, you should be able to navigate to the legal team members’ biographies and see who is the leading expert in medical malpractice cases. When you’re looking at these biographies, take note of how many years they have been working with medical malpractice victims. Longevity of experience in the medical malpractice field is important but having a team of paralegals with expertise in the medical field is equally important for younger lawyers.

Once you’ve narrowed down to a few law firms, research the attorney’s standings with the state and local bar associations. If they’ve ever been reprimanded, censured, or had their license suspended, steer clear.

3. Has medical knowledge

Not only must your attorney be adept at navigating through the legal system and utilizing the laws of your state, but they must also be knowledgeable about the medical field. In order to understand the ins and outs of your case, including reading through medical records and bills, they must be able to understand what went wrong, and why.

Most lawyers specializing in medical malpractice will have plenty of knowledge in this area. In some states, such as in Michigan, lawyers are also required to have the case evaluated by a doctor or team of doctors first to establish that malpractice occurred. It is helpful if these doctors are utilized for questions and expertise throughout the case, and if they are kept on retainer for trial.

4. Is open and honest about your case during the interview

It’s a good idea to narrow your list to 5 or 6 potential law firms and to interview with them, either in person or over the phone. Prepare a list of questions beforehand to ask them, along with a narrative of relevant and important details about your case.

The attorney you speak with should carefully weigh the details of your case along with the evidence: whether you bring that evidence with you or discuss the kinds of evidence you can produce. The attorney should not seem overly eager to jump into your case without knowing the details first. This is a clear warning sign that this lawyer may take risks that can lose your case.

Additionally, lawyers that will take your case by the hour are usually not lawyers who think your case is winnable. Most lawyers specializing in medical malpractice will take your case on a contingency-fee, meaning their fees and expenses will be subtracted from your settlement if you win. This also means your lawyer will be more motivated to win your case since they won’t be paid if they don’t.

Some questions you should ask of the medical attorneys you interview include:

  • How many medical malpractice cases have you litigated, and how many of those have you successfully won?
  • Have you litigated cases with injuries similar to mine before? How many? How many have you won?
  • What are some of the reasons why you’ve lost cases with injuries similar to mine?
  • Will you be representing me, or will another attorney be handling my case? If so, may I meet and speak with them before I make a decision?
  • How will I receive information and updates about my case? If I request an update, how long should I expect before someone returns my call or email?
  • Do you see any potential holes in my case that could cause the case not to move forward?
  • If I have the option to move forward with a trial instead of settling, would you support my choice to go to trial? (Likewise, would you support my choice to settle instead of going to trial, if that is my choice?)
  • Do you have experts to assess cases like mine, such as doctors? Can these experts be used at a trial?
  • How long will this all take, and what should I expect from you and your legal team along the way?
  • What is your legal strategy at a trial?
  • What is the percentage of your contingency fee?
  • If I dislike how you are handling my case, what are my options for exiting our contract?

These questions should give you a good sense about the attorney and their approach to litigating cases and handling clients. You should be able to narrow down your list significantly after these interviews.

If after you’ve described your case an attorney or firm says they can’t take it on, find out why. This may help you in finding evidence or documentation that will bolster your case to move it forward, or it will help you understand why your case may not move forward.

Only 2.9% of medical malpractice victims actually file claims. This is often due to weak, missing, unverifiable, or unclear evidence, so be prepared to have your case rejected: but do seek a few opinions first before giving up.

5. Has a good strategy, especially at trial

The best law firms for medical malpractice cases have attorneys who are driven, energetic, and motivated to win your case. You don’t want someone who is going to drop the ball on keeping you informed, or who lacks energy when it comes to bringing your case forward to the court.

You also want your attorneys to be sympathetic to your needs and concerns, especially if you are having difficulty with your health and mobility because of the malpractice errors. Likely, you will need to go into the law office often to meet and discuss paperwork, sign forms, and look over medical records. If you can choose a lawyer close to your home or work, that is great. If mobility is a problem, many attorneys are willing to utilize technology such as video conferencing for meetings. Others will have paralegals or associate lawyers drop off paperwork to you to sign if getting to the office is too painful.

If you have lost a loved one because of medical malpractice, it’s important to choose an attorney who will channel your emotions into energy to win your case. Righteous indignation is not a bad emotion for your attorney to display when talking about the death of your loved one to members of the court or the hospital’s legal team. Your attorney should empathize with your situation, and advocate for you and your loved one.

6. Is someone you can rely on and trust

You should never be afraid to ask your lawyer a question or email them with a thought or idea. They should also take the pressure off you for the duration of the case. They should be the ones to handle inquiries from the hospital’s legal team or insurance company. They should be your resource for information, and they should be open to hearing from you, too. If you second-guess reaching out to your attorney, it’s going to complicate your communication, which can cause you to lose your case.

Your attorney should also be someone who you can trust. You can ask them to explain their reasoning for certain decisions and suggestions, but ultimately, you need to be able to trust their advice. They know the legal system and the ins and outs of medical malpractice cases better than you do. If you find yourself unable to trust them, ask about the process for exiting your contract.

Final thoughts

Medical malpractice cases are complicated and complex legal battles. You need someone with expertise and empathy, along with energy and ethics. Take your time researching and interviewing medical attorneys before choosing a law firm, but also beware there may be a time limit on filing your claim. If you are a victim of medical malpractice, don’t delay in starting your search for justice today.

At Cochran, Kroll & Associates, P.C. our legal team will fight for your rights if you believe you or a loved one are a victim of malpractice. Please call our firm at 1-866-MICH LAW (1-866-642-4529) for a no obligation case evaluation. We never charge a fee unless we win.

Ms. Barry is studying Communications at the University of Pennsylvania. She has won multiple awards both for her persuasive and creative writing and has written extensively on the topics of medical malpractice law, personal and birth injury law, product liability law. When she’s not researching and writing about these topics, she edits a literary magazine and tutors students at Penn’s writing center.

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