When you or a loved one comes under the care of a medical professional, you trust that they will be treated with the utmost care. Unfortunately, medical professionals sometimes fall short of this ideal and make mistakes which harm their patients. Medical malpractice refers to when a health care provider provides treatment which falls below the accepted standards of practice in the medical community and leads to injury or death of a patient.
If you believe that medical malpractice has occurred, you will want to contact an experienced medical malpractice attorney as soon as possible. The unfortunate reality, however, is that medical malpractice cases are costly and time-consuming to pursue and most attorneys will not accept cases where there is clear malpractice but no substantial damage. You should not take it personally if an attorney refuses to accept your case; you may need to speak to several attorneys before finding one who will accept your case. If several lawyers have refused to accept your case, you may have to simply give up and move on with your life.
If a lawyer does accept your case and files suit, here's what happens next:
First, an Affidavit of Merit must be filed with the court. The Affidavit of Merit is a document endorsed by a doctor in the same specialty as the doctor being sued which says that it is probable that the defendant doctor departed from the accepted standards of his specialty. The accepted standards of a specialty may be in writing from some recognized authority, or they may simply be common practice, things which virtually everybody does. The doctor who provides the Affidavit of Merit will be your expert in the case through trial.
At this point, discovery ensues. This is the time when the parties in the case exchange their versions of the facts. During discovery, each party may demand that their opponent answer sets of questions known as interrogatories, and depositions may be taken.
The defendant in a medical malpractice case will obtain the opinion of a doctor who says that the defendant did not deviate from accepted standards. At trial a jury will decide which expert they believe. If the plaintiff wins, they can get money for lost wages and expenses related to their injury (economic damages) or for the physical and psychological harm of the injury itself, such as lost vision or reduced enjoyment of life (non-economic damages). In cases where the defendant doctor has been particularly reckless, the court may also award punitive damages to the plaintiff in order to punish the doctor for their wrongdoing.
If you or a loved one has suffered at the hands of a health care provider, you should obtain the opinion of an experienced medical malpractice attorney as soon as possible. My partner and I have a combined total of almost 80 years of experience handling medical malpractice cases and can get you the money you deserve for your suffering. You can contact me via email, by calling (908) 232-2040, or by visiting my firm's website.