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Evaluating Potential Defendants in Personal Injury Cases

By: Attorney Andrew M. Rockman

"Personal injury" comes in many forms, and sometimes it comes with complications to the original injury caused by the malpractice of the doctor treating that injury. Clients frequently feel more anger at the physician or hospital than they do toward the individual who caused the original injury.

As attorneys, we have to evaluate the potential claim of our personal injury client against those whose conduct had an impact on the seriousness of the final injury. The injury attorney considers the conduct of the doctors or medical care providers who contributed to the final personal injury; however, in evaluating the client’s personal injury, the attorney also must decide how provable the claim is against each potential defendant, and whether there is a downside to making a claim against everyone who might have responsibility for any portion of the client's injury.

This decision involves the strength of the case against any one defendant, both as to his or her fault and the ability to connect that fault to all or a portion of the overall injury. The earlier in the chain of causation a defendant falls, usually the easier it is to prove his/her responsibility for the full injury, as that defendant set everything in motion, including the need for the involvement of the doctor who may have malpracticed while providing care.

Given the many excuses doctors can offer for a bad result, it is often preferable to consider whether a suit against any specific doctor is beneficial to the client, if the original accident or injury causing event is more easily proven. This is especially so if there is no need to evaluate the spread of responsibility to make available to the client adequate insurance coverage to fully compensate them for all that happened.

Whether there is one defendant or five, the injured plaintiff can rightly only collect for his or her personal injuries once. There is no increase in value created by more than one defendant. There is only an increase in the time, expense, and risk to the plaintiff, if a doctor is made a defendant on grounds the jury finds unsupported.

Injury attorneys have to decide the best and most economical way to obtain full compensation for the client, without overspending on expenses involved in proving the case and reducing the amount of money that the client eventually receives.

Engaging a full service law firm like Pellettieri Rabstein & Altman, which has different attorneys focusing on different areas of personal injury, provides clients with the benefit of analysis of all claims so that the proper path to recovery is chosen and presented. However complicated the path to the final injury or damage, whether from an accident, improper diagnosis, delayed treatment, improper medication or incorrectly performed surgery, the decision must be made as to which claim against which potential defendant will most effectively protect our client.

Attorney Andrew Rockman is a partner who has been representing injured plaintiffs in medical malpractice cases in New Jersey for more than thirty years. He can be reached at 609 520 0900.

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