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Questions to Ask When Hiring a Malpractice Lawyer

If you believe you have suffered injuries at the hand of a doctor, the thought of hiring a medical malpractice lawyer may be overwhelming. How can you know which lawyer is right for you? This article discusses how to screen medical malpractice attorneys to find the best one to represent you.

There are three basic steps to hiring a malpractice lawyer or any other kind of person injury lawyer:

  • Start a list of names of qualified malpractice attorneys who could handle your case.
  • Schedule a meeting, called an initial consultation, with several attorneys to discuss your case. This meeting is an important step to learn about their qualifications, as well as get feedback about how strong a case you may have.
  • Based on what you learn from your initial consultations, hire the malpractice attorney with whom you feel most comfortable.

Questions to Ask Malpractice Lawyers

Before meeting with any attorney, you'll want to make a list of all the questions you'd like answered during your initial consultations. You'll also want to bring in a summary of the circumstances that surround your incident to get feedback regarding your case. The questions you ask will be both about the lawyer and his or her assessment of your case.

You'll also want to bring a pad of paper and a pen to take notes during your conservations, so you don't forget anything.

The Medical Malpractice Lawyer's Background & Experience

You should kick the meeting off with questions about the medical malpractice lawyer's education and professional background. Some questions to ask are:

  • Which law school did you attend, and when did you graduate?
  • From where did you get your undergraduate degree?
  • Do you belong to any professional organizations? If so, which?
  • How long have you practiced malpractice law?
  • Does your practice consist primarily of medical malpractice cases, or do you try other types of cases as well?
  • On average, how many medical malpractice victims to you represent each year?
  • How many medical malpractice lawsuits do you settle each year? How many of them do you take to trial each year?
  • Have you handled many cases like my own?

Assessment of Your Medical Malpractice Case

Spend some time describing your injuries and why you think a medical professional caused them. Then ask the malpractice attorneys you interview for their opinion of your potential case. You might want to ask:

  • What is your assessment of my medical malpractice case?
  • How much money might it realistically bring in case of a settlement or judgment?
  • Which factors work in favor of my case? Which work against me?
  • How likely is it that I would have to go to trial?
  • What about arbitration or mediation? Are those methods of alternative dispute resolution an option for me?
  • How long do you see my case taking from start to completion?

Legal Philosophy & Style

To get a better handle on your expectations of the medical malpractice lawyer, it's a good idea to discuss his or her approach and style in practicing law. Some relevant questions include:

  • How would you describe your philosophy or approach to practicing medical malpractice law?
  • What is your approach to handling medical malpractice cases?
  • What is your style in handling clients? Do you ask me to make decisions, or will you tell me what I should do?

Case Management

Lawyers have different management styles when it comes to handling their cases. To find out how your potential lawyers will oversee your case, consider asking:

  • Will you personally manage my case, or will it be handed to another attorney to manage?
  • Will you handle negotiations and court appearances?
  • Will you be my day-to-day contact?
  • Will other attorneys or experts work on my case? What will they do?
  • Can you tell me about medical expert witnesses you might use on my case?
  • How often will you provide progress reports? What will be included in those reports?
  • What is the best way to communicate with you? How quickly do you respond?

Legal Fees

How much your medical malpractice case will cost you in legal fees is one area you do not want to neglect. Questions to ask include:

  • Do you charge a contingency fee, that is, will you take a percentage of any settlement or award I receive, or do I pay you an hourly rate?
  • If you charge an hourly rate, what is it? Will I also be paying hourly rates for other attorneys and paralegals working on the case?
  • If we do not settle or win the case, will I owe you any money?
  • Do you charge a retainer fee up front?
  • What other expenses will I have to pay? Can you estimate their total?
  • Can you show me some examples of how much money I would take home after legal fees and expenses if we settle? If we win in court?

Wrapping up Your Meeting

Before you shake hands and say good-bye, ask your prospective lawyer if there was anything important you didn't cover during the meeting. Is there anything he or she could add before you make your decision about which lawyer to hire? You can also ask for names of past clients to use as references.

After the meeting has ended, but before too much time has passed, take a moment to write down some notes about the meeting and any impressions you had. What did you like and dislike? Was there anything memorable about the meeting? How comfortable would you be with this attorney representing you?

Hiring a Medical Malpractice Lawyer

Once you've met with all the malpractice attorneys you wanted to interview, it's time to select one. Reflect on your meetings and consider if one shone above the rest. If there was, your selection process should be easy. However, if you're torn between several candidates, consider the objective criteria presented in the answers to the above questions. Then ask yourself again, in which attorney do you place the most confidence?

Once you've found the best malpractice attorney for your case, you're ready to begin your legal process.