The legal process involves painstaking attention to detail as it unfolds over a considerable amount of time. Here are all the stages of a medical malpractice case.
Before the Case
While lawsuits take time to develop, organize, and present, they all start somewhere. The first stages of a medical malpractice case begin far before it even becomes a case.
The Malpractice Incident
Every case comes from some precipitating incident. In medical malpractice cases, these incidents involve an act of malpractice toward a patient while under a physician’s care. Physicians are not the only medical professionals who are at risk for a malpractice lawsuit. CRNAs, dentists, PAs, chiropractors, and podiatrists—all of these medical professionals and more could become involved in a malpractice case. This occurs because of the direct contact with a patient.
Any time you interact with or treat a person under your care, you perform a medical service that could harm them if done improperly. Though it may sound a bit apocalyptic, no medical professional is safe from malpractice claims because the services they provide deal with life and death situations. Healing is a tricky business, and one that few know how to perform well—that is why your patient chose your services in the first place. They feel entitled to press malpractice charges because they feel that their treatment did not match their expected care standard.
Insurers and Lawyers
When a patient files a claim, you will receive a notice from the patient and their attorney. This legal document notifies you of their intention and details the incident in question. At this point, you will need to contact your insurer and figure out a plan moving forward. If you don’t have malpractice insurance for healthcare professionals, our team at Baxter & Associates may be able to help.
During the discussion with an insurance agent, you will figure out the financial and legal responsibilities you bear in the situation. Your insurer may also help you find legal counsel whose cost fits within the parameters of your policy. A lawyer will then take over the day-to-day tasks concerning the case.
Consultation With a Lawyer
A lawyer can only work with what they know, so you must set up an initial consultation. In this conversation, you must relay all you can remember about the incident. You should bring along copies of the medical records for the patient’s visit and the lawsuit notice.
Before the consultation, you should set aside time to recall and record all you can remember about the incident. What treatment did you provide? Who was in the room with you? How did the patient interact with you, and what did they say? What kind of follow-up did you perform? You must interrogate yourself and come up with as much detail as possible. Only with all this information in hand can a lawyer make the best decisions going forward.
Research and Preparation
The next activities after you consult with your lawyer have to do with research and preparation. Both sides of the case must coordinate and share relevant information.
While the initial consultation allows you to share all relevant information and details with your lawyer, it does not fully encompass the situation. There will be more data to gather and testimonies to hear. So, your lawyer will embark on a journey of investigation, turning over every stone and collecting all relevant information. Throughout the investigation process, your attorney may ask for more documents from you, so prepare yourself for any incoming requests.
Discovery is an interesting part of the legal process. Both sides of the case need information that only the other party holds. Discovery is the unique opportunity for a transfer of relevant information to bolster their case and deepen their understanding of past events. The plaintiff and defendant will request documents from each other during this time.
Discovery involves more than trading hard copies of records. There is also a meeting where each party cross-examines the other. As the medical professional, you will attend a deposition where the plaintiff’s lawyers will question you under oath. The plaintiff will not be there, just their lawyers. The same thing will happen for the plaintiff, so your lawyers can better understand the patient’s situation. You must answer the lawyer’s questions about the treatment, errors, and issues that arose during the past event.
Meetings and Decisions
The last stages of medical malpractice cases have to do with meetings in offices and courtrooms. The culmination of these conversations will lead to final decisions and a closed case.
After both sides have the information they need from each other, the case can move one step closer to resolution. One of the most critical steps is negotiation. You and your attorney will decide on reasonable compensation that matches the patient’s claim, typically in the form of a financial settlement. The plaintiff will explain their number and expectations, giving you the chance to negotiate in return.
At this point, you have two options. On the one hand, you can accept their offer or the number you agreed upon and settle the case right then and there. On the other hand, you may believe the plaintiff is asking for an unreasonable amount, and you might choose not to budge. In this case, your suit would go to trial.
If your case goes to trial, you leave the fate of your case in the hands of a jury. The trial will include presentations and arguments before a jury of your peers. The lawyers will hash out their thoughts while pulling witnesses and experts in to testify. Should the jury decide the plaintiff deserves compensation, you must award money damages to the other party.
Knowing the stages of a medical malpractice case can help you better prepare yourself for your malpractice lawsuit. Though every medical professional works in a slightly different capacity, it never hurts to have protection from financial and vocational risks. If you need medical malpractice insurance, reach out to us at Baxter & Associates. Our team is ready and available to answer any questions you have about malpractice insurance and malpractice cases.