Most people do not regularly need the services of an attorney, so when the need for legal help arises, the search can seem overwhelming. What questions should you ask to make sure the medical malpractice lawyer you hire is right for your case and your family’s needs?
We at Hodes Milman have compiled relevant information for medical malpractice cases, along with key questions to ask that can help you make a confident decision in choosing a law firm. Relevant experience matters, but so does the demeanor of the attorney and their willingness to go all the way through a trial if that is what your case requires.
If you need to speak with an attorney right away, call our Orange County offices directly at (949) 640-8222 or contact us online. Your communications are 100% confidential, and we are ready to answer your questions and potentially begin representing you right away. Read on for more information on how to evaluate attorneys before hiring the one that’s right for you.
How Do I Hire the Best Medical Malpractice Lawyer Near Me?
The best medical malpractice attorney for you and your situation can be found by asking key questions while searching for local lawyers:
- Have they won previous cases like yours in the region? An attorney’s website may list case results that show the amounts won and describe the circumstances of each case. Look for medical malpractice cases similar to your situation, and note if they were won in your city, county, or state.
- Were other local clients satisfied with their lawsuits? By searching online or looking for a Testimonials page, you can hear honest reviews from real people the law firm may have helped.
- Are they nearby, accessible, and respectful? When you send in information through a contact form or call directly, you should receive clear information in a professional manner. If you visit an attorney’s office in person, you should be met with respect. If an attorney or their office is dismissive of your worries or impatient with your questions, they are likely not the best lawyer for you.
- Are they willing to investigate and go to trial? Ask about whether your lawyer has recent trial experience, or if they are prepared to go to trial should your case need that effort. While many cases are able to settle in timely out-of-court negotiations, you want to make sure your lawyer is willing to argue your case before a judge or jury if that is the best chance you have to fully recover your losses.
- Do they offer contingency payment arrangements? If a law firm works on contingency fees, that means you do not have to pay upfront to secure their legal services. At Hodes Milman, we understand that our clients may be going through financial hardships after medical malpractice — we invest our time, work, and resources upfront, and are only paid if we secure a win for you.
In addition to asking the above questions, the best attorney for your family is one that feels right. When you get off the phone with your attorney or receive an email from their office, you should feel assured that your case is in competent, caring hands.
What Is the Highest Medical Malpractice Settlement?
Medical malpractice injury awards can go as high as multi-million dollar amounts. The top largest medical malpractice settlements and verdicts include:
- $74.5 million for a birth injury that caused cerebral palsy, an amount that was increased because the hospital illegally falsified medical records in an attempt to cover up the negligence.
- $58.6 Million for infant brain damage when a doctor failed to order a necessary C-section delivery. The child’s injuries require life-long care.
- $38.5 million for an ethics violation when a stroke patient was anesthetized for an unnecessary procedure, which caused the patient to lapse into a coma for four years. The doctor later admitted he prescribed the procedure to increase his own pay.
Settlement amounts are agreed upon pre-trial or during a trial before a verdict is reached. The top medical malpractice verdicts can be far higher, such as a $216.7 million verdict from 2006 for a patient whose stroke was misdiagnosed as a sinus infection. That sum was made up of $116.7 million in compensation for the injuries, as well as another $100.1 million in punitive or “punishment” damages for the shocking negligence in the case.
Securing a fair settlement lets you move on with your life as soon as possible. However, your medical malpractice attorney should be prepared to go to trial with your case if the other side will not agree to a fair offer. Judges and juries have the ability to order significantly higher verdict payouts, money that can secure life-long care and a dignified future.
Which Element of Malpractice Is Hardest to Prove?
Of the four elements of proof in medical malpractice, the second element is generally the most challenging, as your lawyer must work to secure difficult-to-find evidence at that stage. For instance, if a surgeon failed to sterilize equipment before a procedure, there may be no record of that inaction. A lawyer must investigate to find out: did one of the other team members observe this? Did they report it or is there a cover-up? Your case could hinge on such answers.
In medical malpractice and other forms of personal injury cases, the elements of proof are known as the four Ds:
- Duty of care: In medical malpractice cases, there is often a clear duty of care owed from a doctor, nurse, or surgeon to their patients because it is the core responsibility of their job, and something they knowingly agreed to do.
- Dereliction (breach or violation) of duty: This is often a simple yes-or-no distinction, as in did your healthcare provider meet the standard of care, or not? The challenge comes in finding and securing proof of inaction or mistake. This involves answering questions like: Was the patient monitored appropriately? Were they given the proper treatment in the amounts and intervals needed? Was their surgery done on the correct limb, and if not, who was responsible for such a serious mistake?
- Direct causal link: Once it is established that you did not receive the proper care, a lawyer shows the direct link between the physician’s mistake or failure and your injury. For example, if a hospital pharmacy dispenses the wrong medication, causing severe side effects, your attorney can argue that your injuries would never have occured but for their error.
- Damages: Damages are the monetary sum of what your injuries cost. These can be proven by receipts for money spent or pay stubs showing lost wages. Non-economic costs like physical pain, psychological anguish, and quality of life losses can also be calculated by your attorney.
In medical malpractice cases, the duty of care is can be proven by noting that doctors and nurses swear some form of the classical Hippocratic Oath. This formally begins their medical career with a statement affirming their obligations to ensure proper conduct, and a commitment to “do no harm.”
Negligence is difficult to prove in general. The best lawyer is the one who has the ability to apply the law to the facts and prove the case using the evidence they’ve skillfully gathered.
Contact Experienced Orange County Medical Malpractice Lawyers
Patients put an enormous amount of trust in doctors, surgeons, nurses, and medical administrators. When you need emergency treatment, a diagnosis, or surgery, your life is often literally in another person’s hands. In fact, critical judgments can be made on your behalf while you are unconscious. There is no room for error when the stakes are life and death.
By filing a medical malpractice lawsuit, you may be able to secure closure for your family. A settlement or verdict could mean the funds for proper care and rehabilitation, as well as punishment for those who acted irresponsibly or even criminally. Your decision to file a claim could help remove dangerous individuals from the medical field and protect future patients just like you.
Please note that there are deadlines associated with medical malpractice cases known as statutes of limitations. In California, the limit is three years from the date the injury occurred. For this reason, the best attorney for you is the lawyer who is fully prepared with relevant experience to file your case before the deadline expires, and see it though to the end.