If you’re thinking about hiring an attorney to file a lawsuit against a doctor, hospital, or other health care provider, you or someone you love may have been the victim of medical malpractice or medical negligence. There may be lasting scars or complications, loss of income, and other injuries. How you choose a lawyer to represent you in your case is critical.
Most people think a lawyer is a lawyer, and that any attorney in Michigan can handle a medical malpractice claim in our state. While medical malpractice is a type of personal injury, many personal injury attorneys simply don’t have the experience or resources to properly pursue a medical malpractice action for you.
If you were having seizures, would you go to a dermatologist for treatment? Or if you were having a heart attack, would you see an orthopedic surgeon? Both doctors went to medical school and obtained professional licenses, but their training, knowledge, experience, and tools are substantially different – and you want them to use those specialized resources to treat your unique condition.
While doctors take certain tests and exams so they can be “board certified” in a particular specialty, there really isn’t a similar designation for medical malpractice attorneys, which can make it harder to know if an attorney is truly qualified to take on your case. In fact, according to rules governing lawyers in Michigan, attorneys practicing in the state cannot advertise or market themselves as “specialists” in any one area of law – making it even more difficult for you to find a lawyer.
So just how do you find a medical malpractice attorney for your case? First and foremost, don’t simply rely on billboard and television ads you routinely see. Many people take this route, and sometimes it works out, but your investigation process must also include asking a host of questions:
- Does the attorney only handle medical malpractice cases, or does he also handle other matters such as divorces, real estate transactions, wills and trusts, and so on?
- Does the attorney focus her practice on any one area of medical malpractice, i.e. birth injury, dental malpractice, surgical errors, etc.?
- How long has the attorney focused his practice exclusively in the area of medical malpractice?
- How many medical malpractice cases has the lawyer pursued? When was the last one? What were the results? How many times has she gone to trial, and did she handle the trial herself?
- Has the attorney handled a case similar to yours?
- Does the attorney understand medicine, especially the type of medical treatment or practice in your case? How will he find medical experts necessary to pursue your case in court?
- What is the attorney’s current caseload? Will you be one among hundreds of clients?
- Will the attorney personally handle your case or pass it off to an associate or even another law firm?
- Does the law firm have a team of nurses and paralegals on staff to assist with your case?
- Will you actually speak with the attorney when you call, or will you have to navigate through various people and call systems?
- What is the attorney’s reputation among attorneys that defend doctors and hospitals in medical malpractice cases?
- Has the lawyer ever been disciplined by the State Bar of Michigan or elsewhere?
If an attorney tells you during your initial interview that you definitely have a case or that your case is worth a certain amount, be cautious! Even the most experienced medical malpractice attorney cannot know at that early stage if you will prevail or the amount of damages that you might receive without first obtaining your medical records and having them reviewed by medical experts. If and only if an expert reasonably believes that you were the victim of medical malpractice can the attorney begin to determine what your case may be worth.
Lastly, brace yourself for the fact that a medical malpractice case is a long and difficult process. Make sure you choose an attorney with whom you connect, is responsive to you, and whom you feel you can trust.