Finding a qualified lawyer is critical to the success of a medical malpractice case, especially compared with more straightfoward personal injury cases (like those arising from a minor car accident). But medical malpractice is a relatively rare specialty. If you think you have a legitimate medical malpractice case, how do you find the right lawyer?
Perhaps the best way to find a good medical malpractice lawyer is to ask a lawyer who you already know and trust to recommend one. Most lawyers have long contacts lists, gleaned from years of litigation and lawyer-to-lawyer networking. If you don’t know any lawyers, but have a close friend or relative that has used a lawyer, ask the friend or relative to ask the lawyer for a recommendation. Most lawyers will be happy to help.
Almost all state and local bar associations have lawyer referral services that connect prospective clients with qualified lawyers. Most bar associations require lawyers who want to be listed in a specialty such as medical malpractice to demonstrate a specified level of experience in that field. In order to be connected with a lawyer, simply call or email the bar association and ask to be referred to a qualified lawyer. Start by doing an online search for "bar association" in your city or state.
Many web sites (including this one) have a method for connecting prospective clients with lawyers by specialty. You can utilize a "chat" feature or submit an email request—along with some general information about your case—to have qualified, local lawyers give you a call.
When you're considering a medical malpractice lawyer, the most important issues are the lawyer’s experience in medical malpractice cases and whether you and the lawyer are a good fit for on another.
When hiring a medical malpractice lawyer, you want to find a lawyer who has significant experience in medical malpractice. That doesn't mean the lawyer needs to have handled medical malpractice cases exclusively, but a significant percentage of the lawyer's caseload should probably be devoted to medical malpractice.
You certainly want to start off by asking the lawyer about his or her experience in medical malpractice cases. What kinds of medical malpractice cases has the lawyer handled? For how many years has the lawyer been handling these cases? How many have settled? How big have the lawyer’s medical malpractice settlements been?
How many medical malpractice trials has the lawyer had? How many medical malpractice trials has the lawyer won? Remember that medical malpractice cases are difficult to win, and most trials end up with a defense verdict. So you shouldn’t expect that the lawyer will have won most of his or her medical malpractice trials.
Almost every medical malpractice case will require a medical expert witness to prove that the defendant health care provider's action or inaction rose to the level of medical negligence. If you have a medical malpractice case and cannot find a qualified medical expert witness to give an opinion that the defendant was negligent, your case will almost surely be dismissed.
Experienced medical malpractice lawyers know how to find a medical expert in any specialty. Some work with medical expert witness services, and others are so experienced that they literally have the names and phone numbers of numerous doctors in almost every specialty. You want an answer that shows that the lawyer knows what he or she is doing.
This can be almost as important as the lawyer’s competency and experience. If you and the lawyer can't seem to get along, that's a red flag.
In order to figure out whether you and a lawyer are going to be a good fit, you need to assess yourself and the lawyer. Are you the type of person who will just turn the case over to the lawyer? Or do you think you’ll want to hear from the lawyer frequently with updates and a chance to give your own input? Knowing who you are and what you expect will help you decide what type of lawyer is the best fit for you.
Lawyers come in all types, just as people do. There are curt, brusque lawyers, and there are warm, friendly, touchy-feely lawyers. They might all be equally effective at getting money for their clients, but they all might have totally different kinds of relationships with their clients. It’s up to you to figure out what kind of attorney-client relationship you want.
Medical malpractice cases can be very expensive to litigate. Once you've found some candidates, you'll want to discuss the fee arrangement in detail. See the next page to get an understanding of how these contingency fee structures work.
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