Finding a qualified and experienced lawyer is critical in a medical malpractice case, much more so than in a standard personal injury case -- like those arising from car accidents or slip and fall mishaps. But medical malpractice is a relatively rare specialty; not many lawyers spend a lot of their time handling these kinds of cases. If you think that you may have a medical malpractice case, how do you find an experienced, qualified medical malpractice lawyer? Read on to learn more.
Ask a Lawyer You Trust for a Recommendation
The best way to find a good, experienced medical malpractice lawyer is to ask a lawyer who you know and trust to recommend one. Even if your lawyer has never handled a personal injury or malpractice case, he/she still will know how to find a good malpractice lawyer through contacts and lawyer-to-lawyer networking. If you don’t have a lawyer or 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.
Call Your State or Local Bar Association
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, you simply call the bar association and ask to be referred to a qualified lawyer.
Use the Internet to Do Your Own Research
Many web sites (including this one) have listings of lawyers by specialty. You can browse the lawyer listings and contact directly any lawyers that you would like to speak with. Alternatively, you can submit an email request to have that lawyer give you a call.
What to Ask the Lawyer
When you hire a medical malpractice lawyer, the most important things that you want to figure out are the lawyer’s experience in medical malpractice cases and whether you and the lawyer are a good fit for each other.
How Experienced is the Lawyer?
When hiring a medical malpractice lawyer, you want to find a lawyer who has significant experience in medical malpractice. He/she does not have to do medical malpractice exclusively, but a significant percentage of his/her caseload should be devoted to medical malpractice.
You certainly want to start off by asking the lawyer about his/her experience in medical malpractice cases. How many 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? Asking about medical malpractice trials is partially a trick question. Remember that most medical malpractice trials end up with a defense verdict. So you shouldn’t expect that the lawyer will have won most of his/her medical malpractice trials. But you should certainly be cautious about hiring a lawyer who has never won a medical malpractice trial.
How Will the Lawyer Find Medical Experts?
Almost every medical malpractice case will require a medical expert witness to prove that the defendant health care provider was negligent. 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.
All experienced medical malpractice lawyers know how to find a medical expert in any specialty. If you ask the lawyer how he/she finds medical experts and he/she just says something like, "Oh, I’ll just look around and find one,” that is probably not the lawyer for you. Some medical malpractice lawyers 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/she is doing.
Are You and the Lawyer a Good Fit?
This can be almost as important as the lawyer’s competency and experience. If you can't stand your lawyer, or if you and the lawyer just can’t along, then you are going to have a terrible experience with your medical malpractice claim.
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 with instructions for him/her to call you when it’s over? Or do you think that you’ll want to hear from the lawyer frequently with updates and advice? Knowing who you are and what you think that you will want from a lawyer 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 relationship you will want with your lawyer.