Victims of medical malpractice can use several strategies to ensure they find an attorney that can meet their specific needs. Finding the right medical malpractice attorney can make the process of recovering damages for injuries caused by medical negligence a little easier.
What Should I Look for When Hiring a Medical Malpractice Attorney?
Each year in the United States, patients file over 80,000 medical malpractice cases. The actual number of malpractice incidents is likely much higher. Suing for medical mistakes is a vital step for patients facing high medical expenses after an injury. When patients suffer injuries due to medical negligence, they have to determine the best steps to take following the injury. A good medical malpractice attorney can help victims sort through their options and understand the process and likely outcome of a medical malpractice suit.
Hiring the right medical malpractice attorney is important for victims seeking to recover damages. However, many victims do not know how to find the best medical malpractice lawyers. While each victim needs to find a lawyer that meets his or her specific needs, there are certain qualities victims should look for in any attorney they consider hiring. Victims should look for:
The Attorney’s Medical Malpractice Experience
Many attorneys may list medical malpractice as one of their practice areas. However, not all attorneys who list it as a practice area have extensive experience in malpractice. Victims looking for an attorney can usually determine the attorney’s experience level by looking at his or her autobiographical information. Victims can find out how long an attorney has been practicing law and whether he or she ever worked in a medical career. Many lawyers also include a sample of their cases and verdicts on their website. Although lawyers’ websites usually do not include their entire litigation history, they can give victims an idea of the type of malpractice case the attorneys have handled and how successful they have been. Victims can look for information about:
- What percentage of the attorney’s practice is devoted to medical malpractice.
- How many medical malpractice cases had the attorney handled during the previous three years.
- How much experience the attorney or firm has with the victim’s specific type of case, such as misdiagnoses, medication errors, nursing negligence, or surgical mistakes.
The Attorney’s Reviews
People can gain insights from reviews from attorneys’ former clients. Victims of medical malpractice can find reviews of attorneys in several different places, including reviews on Google or directly from the attorney’s website. Most lawyers can persuade their satisfied clients to leave a review. Victims should be cautious if a lawyer does not have any reviews.
The Attorney’s Billing Structure
Most attorneys should have some information about billing and fees included on their website. Although they may not have an exact hourly rate listed on the website, they may indicate whether they bill by the hour or work on a contingency fee. A contingency fee is when an attorney does not charge for their work but retains a portion of the award if he or she wins the case. However, even when an attorney’s website advertises that clients do not pay unless they win, victims should be aware that there are often fees and expenses that they are responsible for during the duration of the case.
The Attorney’s Qualifications
Victims should search for a potential attorney’s bar memberships, professional affiliations, board certifications, awards, and other valuable credentials. Attorneys may also have additional accolades such as recognition by The National Trial Lawyers or certification by the American Board of Professional Liability Attorneys. Even if an attorney does not list this information on his or her website, victims should easily find this information in other places.
Any Attorney Guarantees
Victims should be wary if an attorney guarantees an outcome. If attorneys promise they will win or recover a certain amount of money, victims should probably look elsewhere. No attorney can predict the future and attorneys who try may have unrealistic expectations or be desperate for clients.
Using Local Resources to Hire a Medical Malpractice Lawyer in Indiana
Victims can also use more localized resources to find a medical malpractice attorney closer to where they live. Although internet searches can provide valuable information, people in the local community can provide more specific information. For example, victims looking for medical malpractice lawyers in Valparaiso can ask friends and family in the area if they have any recommendations. If the victim knows people that have been through a medical malpractice suit, they can tell the victim about their experience and whether they would recommend their attorney. Close friends and family of the victim might be willing to be more truthful and go into more detail about their attorney than a stranger.
Victims may also be able to ask a doctor if he or she could recommend a lawyer. Victims may know a doctor personally who could help. Also, the doctor providing follow-up care for the victims’ medical malpractice injuries may have a recommendation. A doctor or lawyer has probably formed professional relationships with medical malpractice attorneys throughout his or her career. He or she should be able to provide victims with useful information and recommendations.
Victims may not have any personal connections to people who can recommend a local medical malpractice attorney. If not, they can also check with the Illinois State Bar Association or the Clerk of Court in their county. A state’s bar association usually has a list of attorneys that practice in each area and can refer victims to attorneys near them. Victims can also talk to the Clerk of Court at their county’s courthouse. The court has clerks that schedule hearings, files pleadings for cases, and communicate with lawyers every day. They know the attorneys who regularly appear in court for medical malpractice cases. They can usually provide a list of names of medical malpractice attorneys when asked.
Steps to Take When Hiring a Malpractice Lawyer
Once victims have a list of potential attorneys they would like to consider hiring, they should interview each attorney. Even with strong recommendations, victims cannot know if an attorney is a right fit without an interview. They should compile a list of questions they would like to ask the attorneys to see if they will meet the victims’ needs. Some questions the victims might want to ask are:
Who Will be Handling the Case?
Victims should determine whether the lawyer they are interviewing will be the main person handling the case or if other people at the firm will do most of the work. Many firms have experienced paralegals and employees that work on a case before it goes to trial. Having paralegals work on cases is common. However, victims looking to hire an attorney should know who they will be working with on a regular basis. If victims do not feel comfortable with this arrangement, they should look for an attorney who will handle their case personally.
How Often Should Victims Expect Updates?
Victims should know how often they will receive updates on their case. Should they expect to be contacted every week or every two weeks? Will the attorney call or should victims call the lawyer to receive updates. Knowing what to expect will help victims feel the lawyer is meeting their needs. Also, victims and attorneys can agree about how often the victims would like to be updated. If the victims feel like an attorney cannot provide the level of attention they need, they can hire a different attorney.
What Resources does the Attorney Have to Handle the Case?
Victims should determine what resources the attorney has available to him or her. Does the attorney work alone or in a large firm with other attorneys and paralegals that can share the workload? Does the attorney have a network of contacts and expert witnesses that can consult on the case? Each case is unique and may require different resources. However, victims should determine whether the attorney they are interviewing has the resources to handle their specific case.
What Are the Attorney’s Billing Practices?
Victims should ask the attorneys how they bill their clients. Do the attorneys bill by the hour or work on a contingency fee. If the attorney works on a contingency fee, what percentage of any potential recovery will he or she keep? Further, are victims responsible for paying expenses such as expert witness fees and filing costs? If the victims are responsible for the expenses, will they come out of any potential settlement or will victims be required to pay them as they arise? Victims should be clear on financial arrangements before they hire an attorney.
Once victims have interviewed the attorneys, they should weigh which one they want to hire. However, victims should also think about whether they are comfortable with the lawyer and the people in his or her office. Victims will likely spend a good deal of time with their attorney and his or her staff and provide them with a lot of personal information. If they do not feel they mesh with the attorney, they may want to look elsewhere.
Asking for References When Hiring a Medical Malpractice Lawyer
Another important step victims should take when interviewing lawyers is asking them for references. Attorneys should be able to provide at least a few former clients who are willing to speak to victims looking to hire the lawyer for their medical malpractice case. References should be able to give victims insight into how the attorney handles cases and what the victims can expect.
Getting Free Consultations to Determine Which Medical Malpractice Lawyer to Hire
Victims should also make sure they receive a free consultation from the attorney. A lawyer should review the facts of the medical malpractice case and discuss the timeline of events, evidence, and other relevant details. He or she can explain the strengths and weaknesses of the victims’ case and discuss the type of damages they can expect to recover. Victims need to have reasonable expectations and a clear understanding of what to expect before moving forward with their case.
Deciding which medical malpractice attorney to hire is an important decision. Victims can make their search easier by following these steps.