Thinking of calling a lawyer with your potential medical malpractice claim – how should you prepare?

I ask Google at least 3 or 4 questions a day. I ask for advice on pronunciation, recipes, geography and more. Last week my husband asked Google whether the new Jungle Book movie was appropriate for a 4 year old (the answer, in case you are wondering, is no. it is not.)

It therefore occurs to me that many families who have been harmed by medical malpractice would start their searches for information online. It is also true (almost universally) that hiring a lawyer and investigating a potential lawsuit is new ground for most of our potential clients. Thankfully, they have not had to endure a health tragedy before, caused by a preventable mistake.

So in the interest of sharing information, I wanted to share the following information on what you are likely to experience when calling a law-firm about a potential case. Hope this helps. 

  • Payment: Medical Malpractice lawyers should work on a contingency fee basis, not hourly. This means your communication including a first call and meeting, should be free. Costs of the case (record costs, court reporters, experts etc.) are handled differently according to state law, and individual attorneys offices. In Virginia,  attorneys cannot loan their client’s money which means client’s are legally responsible for the costs in their cases. At the end of the case, you will owe the attorney a % of your recovery AND costs. The contingency fee is 20-25% in cases against the VA, and most typically 40% in all other Medical malpractice cases. 
  • What do you need when you first call? Most offices will have an intake paralegal who gathers all of your relevant information. When you first call, you will likely need to your calendar to schedule a phone or in person appointment (as they often can’t take the 30-45 minute call right then) and the following information:
    • date of incident
    • location of incident
    • health care providers involved
    • your work history and health history
      • information about you physically, including recent health conditions, weight, height, etc. 
      • information about you professionally – did you miss work, if so, how much?
    • how you paid for the medical care (insurance, Medicare, Medicaid)
    • family details: married? kids?
    • Criminal history – have you ever been convicted of a crime involving lying, cheating or stealing?
    • past lawsuits?
    • Social media presence
  • Intake call: Could take up to 1 hour to speak with the intake paralegal. 
  • Timeline of response – how long before I know whether the lawyer will take my case? In our office, all three of the lawyers discuss the merits of your case before it is accepted or turned down. Our first response could take up to a week. If we want to request records and review them, that could take weeks – and sometimes, a few months?
  • When to call? Every state has a different deadline for filing malpractice cases. The sooner you call the better. 
  • If I have a case, how long will it take to resolve? In Virginia, you should expect 1-2 years before your case resolves. 
  • How should I research the attorney? Online is a great place to start. Ask the attorney if they have handled cases like yours in the past and if so, when. Meet the attorney. Ask questions. You should feel comfortable with your attorney, and they should feel comfortable with you. 

So sorry you find yourself needing a medical malpractice attorney. No one ever wants to be in that position. 

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Lauren Ellerman

In 2011, Lauren Ellerman was named "Young Lawyer of the Year" by the Roanoke Bar Association for her work in the community. To speak with Lauren about your personal injury case, contact her at lellerman@frithlawfirm.com.