Medical and Legal Malpractice
Malpractice is defined as negligence or carelessness on the part of a professional person, for example, a doctor or lawyer. Malpractice is the failure to provide the quality and kind of service that another professional would provide under the same circumstances and consistent with generally accepted standards of care. In all likelihood, if you believe you may have a malpractice claim, you may lack the background to evaluate the medical or legal services which you have received. As soon as you realize that you may have a malpractice claim, you should promptly consult with an attorney so that your claim can be investigated and evaluated to determine whether it has merit. During the investigation or evaluation of your malpractice claim, your attorney will need to obtain and review the medical records or legal records in question. You will probably be asked to sign written authorizations for the release of these records. Your attorney might also need to retain the services of an expert witness to assist him in the review and evaluation of your malpractice claim.
After fully investigating and evaluating your malpractice claim, the attorney will advise you whether or not your claim is one which you should pursue. If the attorney believes that your claim should be pursued, the attorney will most often agree to represent you in a malpractice lawsuit on a contingency fee basis. In a contingency agreement, the attorney accepts as a fee a percentage of any financial recovery which you may receive either by settlement or by court judgment. Additionally, you should expect to be asked to advance money which the attorney will hold in a special bank account on your behalf and out of which the attorney will pay expenses for such times as investigators, expert witnesses, costs in obtaining copies of records, and other types of out-of pocket expenses. You should discuss these matters with your attorney at the beginning of your attorney/client relationship so that you clearly understand the terms of your agreement. Your attorney should prepare and both of you should sign a contract of representation which confirms the terms and conditions of your representation and your fee agreement.
There are time limits for the filing of malpractice lawsuits. Your attorney will be able to advise you about these rather complex time limitations and any exceptions to them. Malpractice lawsuits should never be filed frivolously, or to avoid an honest debt for professional services. You should be aware that a less than ideal result does not necessarily mean that malpractice has occurred. Indeed, you may have obtained the best possible result under the circumstances of your case or, despite the result, the services or treatment rendered may have been reasonable.
As a general rule, it is a good practice to seek legal advice immediately after you suspect that you may have been a victim of professional malpractice. Although malpractice cases can be complicated, an attorney can assist you in determining whether you have a valid claim.