Your First Meeting With a Medical Malpractice Lawyer

Here's what to expect at (and how to prepare for) your initial consultation with a medical malpractice attorney.

Updated by , J.D. · University of San Francisco School of Law

If you think you have a medical malpractice case, the first order of business is usually finding a medical malpractice lawyer who will represent you and will make sure you get the best possible outcome. Most lawyers will be happy to meet with you to discuss your situation and your potential case (free of charge), but it's important to make sure you're well prepared for this initial consultation. In this article, we'll explain what to expect when meeting with a medical malpractice lawyer for the first time.

The Lawyer Needs Details of What Happened

Be prepared to do a lot of talking at your initial consultation. The lawyer needs to know everything about your potential medical malpractice case, and will want a lot of details.

Any legal case must be based on the facts, and medical malpractice lawsuits are no exception. It's best to prepare beforehand so that you can give the lawyer all necessary facts. That means:

  • make a list of all of health care providers you've treated with for the condition underlying your claim
  • summarize your relevant medical treatment in writing (in not more than a couple of pages)
  • gather relevant correspondence and documents to bring to the lawyer's office
  • make a list of questions to ask the lawyer, and
  • decide what you are ultimately looking for in a medical malpractice lawyer.

Let's look at these things in a little more detail.

Make a List of All Your Health Care Providers

Medical malpractice plaintiffs generally have seen a lot of different health care providers, from doctors to hospitals to different kinds of therapists to diagnostic test centers. A medical malpractice lawyer will ultimately need to request medical records from every single health care provider you saw for the condition. The best way to help the lawyer with this task is to make comprehensive a list of who you've seen.

Summarize Your Relevant Medical Treatment in Writing

You don't need to write a twenty page essay on this, but you should be able to summarize the main points of your treatment in a couple of pages.

You want to focus on when your condition first arose, who you saw for the condition, what happened, what you think the health care provider did wrong in treating you, and who you saw to try to correct the problem. Preparing a short crib sheet will help you keep your treatment straight when answering the lawyer's questions about what happened.

Gather Relevant Correspondence and Documents

Relevant documents in any malpractice case include the following:

  • any medical records and letters from doctors that you might happen to have in your possession
  • medical bills
  • photographs of your condition, if relevant
  • the name, contact information, and policy number for your health insurer
  • any correspondence that you may have had with any insurers involved in your claim (including the health care provider's liability or professional malpractice insurer), and
  • proof of your lost earnings, such as tax records or pay stubs.

Bring these documents to your meeting if you have them. Your lawyer can certainly get all of this information through investigation, but there's no need to reinvent the wheel.

Make a List of Questions to Ask

There will undoubtedly be things you want to ask the lawyer. Write your questions down beforehand so you don't forget anything. A prospective medical malpractice client might want to touch on:

  • how many medical malpractice cases the lawyer has handled
  • whether the lawyer specializes in medical malpractice
  • how long the lawyer has been handling medical malpractice cases
  • how many medical malpractice lawsuits the lawyer has tried
  • how many medical malpractice trials the lawyer has won
  • the chances of settling the case
  • how long it might be until the lawyer is prepared to make a settlement demand, and
  • whether the lawyer will be prepared to file a medical malpractice lawsuit if no reasonable settlement offer comes from the other side.

Keep in mind that there are some things a lawyer probably won't be able to tell you at this first meeting—for example, what the weaknesses in your case are, or how much your medical malpractice case is worth. A good lawyer will want to investigate your case and gather all pertinent information before speaking to issues like those. If a lawyer tells you at your first meeting that you've got a great case and it's worth a million dollars, you probably want to keep shopping around.

Decide What You're Looking For In a Lawyer

Do you think you're going to need a lawyer who will tell you what 's going on with your case at every turn? Or do you just want to turn everything over to the lawyer and have them call you when there's a fair settlement offer?

All lawyers are different. Some great lawyers do not have good social skills. They might be brusque with their clients in private, but fantastic in front of a jury. Other lawyers might be great hand-holders, but only average lawyers. You have to decide what's important to you. Get tips on finding the right lawyer for your medical malpractice case.

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