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6 Questions to Ask Before Suing Your Doctor

Michael Becker

Trust is at the very core of a doctor-patient relationship and when this trust is broken, it can be devastating. In essence, any medical negligence is a breach of the patient’s trust, faith, and confidence – trust that the doctor will perform their duties to the best of their abilities and in accordance with standard practice.

Anyone who has been the victim of careless treatment will tell you that the decision to file a lawsuit for medical negligence is not an easy one. If you believe you didn’t receive the proper medical care, there should be an investigation.  To help you sort through some of the conflicting thoughts you may be having, here are 6 questions to ask before suing your doctor:

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Who is responsible?

Medical negligence lawsuits can be complicated. Identifying the real culprit is not always easy. For example, if a patient suffers adverse affects from a drug, who is to blame – the manufacturer of the drug or the doctor who prescribed it? If a surgeon botches up a routine procedure, who is responsible – the surgeon or the hospital that hired him? If the wrong person is sued or not joined in the litigation, problems will ensue.

How strong is the evidence?

In a court of law, you will need to prove that a medical professional or hospital has committed malpractice. Only hard evidence in the form of accurate medical records will be accepted to establish negligence. However strongly you may feel that the doctor did not perform their duty, unless you can prove it, you don’t have a case.  It is a good idea to seek professional help. Further reading about medical records is available in this article.

When should I file a lawsuit?

You cannot wait indefinitely to commence legal action. Timing is vital as every state in the United States has a timeframe within which legal redress must be initiated. It is a very painful situation when a patient or family find out that even though they have strong evidence of medical negligence, they will be denied compensation because time has run out. In the state of Ohio, for example, the statute of limitations places a time limit of 1 year from the date of the event that gave rise to the claim for an adult. If, however, you underwent a surgery but did not find out about negligence until later, you may have 1 year from the time you learned of the injury.  Children injured often have a much longer statute of limitations than an adult.

What will the lawsuit cost?

Litigation is expensive, and the longer a lawsuit lasts, the more it is going to cost. This is why choosing a medical malpractice firm with resources and a solid reputation is so important. The court is a disinterested observer and will rely purely on evidence. Your attorney can help you carefully weigh the risks and benefits of a lawsuit or consider other options such as pre-suit settlement.

Am I emotionally prepared?

Medical malpractice lawsuits can be long drawn out and exhausting.  The lawsuit will likely be an emotional rollercoaster. Remember, a large healthcare organization will pull out all the stops to protect their reputation.

Do I need an attorney who specializes in medical malpractice?

Medical negligence can be difficult to prove and requires specialized knowledge of both medicine and the law. Because the law varies from state to state, choosing a law firm that specializes in medical malpractice is critical. You will benefit greatly from the knowledge of a lawyer who already knows the field. Choose a law firm that has experience in your kind of circumstances. A good malpractice attorney can help you answer the first five questions in this article.

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