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Questions to Ask When Selecting a Medical Malpractice Attorney

After being injured by a doctor's mistake and before hiring a medical malpractice attorney, interview one or more attorneys to determine which one has the necessary skills and best experience to handle your case.

Such an interview, called an initial consultation, will help you find the lawyer best equipped to represent you. If you've never hired a lawyer before, you may not know what exactly to ask. This article offers a number of questions that are appropriate to ask a medical malpractice attorney.

Evaluating a Medical Malpractice Attorney

As you start the interview process, it will probably not be difficult to tell which lawyer is a good fit for you and your medical malpractice case. You're looking for an attorney who answers your questions openly and honestly, who is patient in explaining the law and how it applies to your case, and who has experience in representing clients like you. In short, you'll want to hire the one with whom you feel most comfortable and in whom you have the most confidence.

This article suggests numerous questions you could ask of a medical malpractice attorney. You should not feel compelled to ask every last one of them, but instead use them as a guide to hone in on those areas that are most important to you. And you may certainly feel free to add questions of your own.

The Medical Malpractice Attorney's Background & Experience

A good launching point for the interview is to ask the medical malpractice attorney about his or her education, experience, and professional background. Some possible questions include:

  • Which law school did you attend, and when did you graduate?
  • From which school did you get your undergraduate degree?
  • How long have you practiced medical malpractice law?
  • Do you belong to any bar associations or professional organizations? If so, which ones?
  • How similar is my case to other medical malpractice cases you have tried?
  • Does your practice consist solely of representing medical malpractice victims, or do you take other types of cases as well?
  • On average, how many physician malpractice lawsuits do you settle each year? How many cases do you take to trial each year?

Legal Philosophy & Style

You will get some insight into how your case might proceed if you ask questions about the attorney's philosophy, approach, and style when it comes to practicing law. Here are some questions to pose;

  • How would you describe your philosophy or approach to practicing medical malpractice law?
  • What is your approach to handling cases that involve a doctor's negligence or other health care professionals' malpractice?
  • What is your style when working with clients? Will you ask me to make decisions or will you tell me what I should do?
  • Do you prefer to settle or go to trial?

Assessment of Your Medical Malpractice Case

Describe the medical incident in which you believe a doctor or other medical provider caused you harm by not providing a reasonable standard of care. This is your chance to get some honest feedback about the circumstances in your case and whether it is as strong as you believe. Some relevant questions to ask are:

  • What is your assessment of my medical malpractice case?
  • What factors work in my favor? Which work against me?
  • How likely is it that we would go all the way to trial? What are my chances of settling before trial?
  • Are other types of dispute resolution, such as arbitration or mediation, an option for me?
  • What kinds of medical expert witnesses would you hire for my case?
  • How long do you think it would take to complete my case if we went to trial? If we settled?

Case Management

If you're comfortable with what you've learned about the medical malpractice attorney you are interviewing up to this point, it's important to find out how your lawsuit will be managed. Appropriate questions to ask include:

  • Will other attorneys in your firm also be working on my case? What work will they do?
  • Will you personally manage my case, or will another attorney manage it?
  • Will you handle negotiations and court appearances?
  • Will you be my day-to-day contact? If not, then who?
  • Will you provide progress reports? How often? What will be included in them?
  • What is the best way to reach you? How quickly to you typically respond to messages or emails?

Legal Fees

Communicating up front about legal fees is critical to you and your expectations on what kind of monetary award you may receive. Some questions to ask are:

  • Do you work on contingency? That is, will you take a percentage of any settlement or court award as payment? Or, do you charge an hourly rate? If you charge by the hour, what is that rate?
  • Will other members of your firm, including other attorneys or paralegals, charge me an hourly rate? If so, at what rate?
  • If we do not get a settlement or win the case at trial, will I have to pay you any money?
  • Do you charge a retainer fee?
  • What other expenses will I have to pay? Can you give me a ballpark figure for them?
  • Can you show me some examples of how much money I would take home after legal fees and expenses if we were to settle the case? If we decide to go to trial?

Finishing the Meeting

As you wrap up the interview with each medical malpractice attorney, ask them if there is anything they would like to add before you leave. This gives the lawyers an opportunity to touch on any points you didn't cover and also make one last pitch for your business.

If you are torn between several, you should ask the attorneys for previous clients you can use as references. Contact these clients. The information they provide might help one rise to the top.

Selecting a Medical Malpractice Attorney

Now that you have met with several attorneys, it's time to hire one. If one doesn't stand clearly taller than all the rest, consider each one's:

  • Education, legal skills, and professional experience
  • Legal philosophy and style
  • Case assessment and proposed strategy for handling your case
  • Legal fees and expenses
  • Estimated award amount

You should ask yourself with which attorney you feel most comfortable, and whether you have confidence in his or her advice and judgment.

Once you've found an attorney who meets all these criteria, then you're now ready to hire one and move forward with your medical malpractice lawsuit.