Time is of the Essence: Preparing Your Medical Malpractice Claim

By: Attorney Christopher A. DeAngelo

"The sun has not caught me in bed in fifty years." -Thomas Jefferson

Medical malpractice is an unfortunate part of life that often has devastating effects on those afflicted. To make matters worse, medical malpractice cases are some of the most time-consuming and expensive cases to pursue, and victims need more help than in most other types of injury claims. While a skilled medical malpractice attorney can navigate the ins and outs of the labyrinth that is the medical malpractice lawsuit, there is a lot that you could and should do before you meet with an attorney that will pay dividends in pursuing your claim.

1. Start Early – Once you know or should know that you were the victim of malpractice, you only have two (2) years in which to file a lawsuit (Statute of Limitations). Unlike many other types of cases, medical malpractice can take a significant amount of time just in the investigation stage before it is clear whether there is a pursuable cause of action. Waiting until mere months or even weeks before your Statute of Limitations expires can severely prejudice your or your attorney's ability to conduct a thorough investigation.

2. Know Your Time Limits – If a follow-up doctor has been critical of what the first doctor did, you might then have a stronger basis to suspect malpractice. Although rarely would a subsequent treator want to be involved in malpractice litigation, for many reasons, that criticism might qualify as the first triggering event that should lead you to an attorney, as it also might be the start of the Statute of Limitations calendar. There might be other facts that could set that calendar running and consulting with an experienced medical malpractice attorney will let you know how much time you might have within which to bring a proper claim.

3. Gather Your Medical Records – No matter how experienced the attorney or how detailed your memory, a medical malpractice attorney would almost never recommend beginning an investigation without reviewing all of the relevant medical records. While your attorney can request the records her/himself, it is faster and more prudent to have your medical records before you even meet with an attorney. Having the records ahead of time allows your attorney to hit the ground running with the investigation, rather than waiting until all the records are received.

4. Tell a Story – Medical records by themselves may not paint the entire picture. Your attorney will need to know events as you remember them to paint a better picture of what happened. S/he will likely ask you for a typed narrative explaining the sequence of events from the beginning to the present, including any comments from follow-up doctors, and the reasons you believe you may have been victimized by malpractice. This is something that you can type between scheduling an appointment to see the attorney and the actual meeting. Coming in with your medical records and a narrative that explains what you know will significantly help your attorney in the investigation and allows her/him to respond more quickly to your questions and decide upon the proper direction of the investigation.

5. Never Fear – Don't be afraid to ask questions. Meeting with an attorney to discuss your medical malpractice claim should not be an overwhelming experience, especially if you can provide the medical records and outline of what happened. Your attorney should be experienced with these types of claims and is on your side to direct you through all that must be done. It is through her/his experience that you should try to calmly evaluate whether or not you have a supportable claim that is worth pursuing.

Your attorney is there to help you, and by following these simple steps, you can go a long way in helping your attorney help you, as well as, saving precious time. Call 1-800-432-LAWS to speak with a skilled and experienced medical malpractice attorney, who can answer all your questions about your rights.

About the Author
Christopher DeAngelo is a medical malpractice attorney with the New Jersey law firm, Pellettieri, Rabstein and Altman. He can be reached at 609-520-0900.

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