Seven Steps to Take If You Suspect Medical Malpractice
Most people expect to receive competent, professional medical care when they go to the doctor for diagnosis and/or treatment of their symptoms. They rarely think about the possibility of getting hurt due to medical malpractice. That is why it can be so unnerving and confusing when you suspect that a doctor may have failed to live up to your expectations.
The steps that you take after you develop a suspicion that you (or a family member) has suffered harm due to medical malpractice will play an important role when it comes to seeking just compensation. While every patient’s situation is different, our Roanoke medical malpractice attorneys believe that taking these seven steps should point most people in the right direction:
1. See Another Doctor as Soon as Possible
You need to focus on your health above everything else. So, if you continue to experience the same symptoms after a doctor diagnosed you, or if you suffer complications after surgery or other treatment, you should see another doctor without delay. If you wait to seek a second medical opinion, you could potentially put your health in jeopardy.
When you see another doctor, you should be open and honest about what has happened. You should discuss your initial symptoms, the diagnosis and treatment that you received and what you have experienced since. The doctor will review your medical records and, in all likelihood, order additional testing. You should never hesitate to ask the doctor about your condition.
2. Don’t Discuss Your Case With The Suspected Negligent Doctor
If you believe that a doctor has provided negligent care and treatment, you may be tempted to contact him or her in person or by phone, text, e-mail or a letter. It’s a completely understandable response. You may demand answers or simply want to express your anger about what has happened to you.
However, if you discuss your situation with the doctor, you may only end up hurting your ability to recover full and fair compensation through a medical malpractice claim. First, you may say something that a doctor and his or her insurance company will try to use against you. Second, and perhaps more importantly, your contact with the doctor may trigger the running of the statute of limitations, or the time period that you have in which to file a lawsuit.
3. Avoid Talking About Your Case On Social Media
The suspected negligent doctor is not the only one with whom you should avoid discussing your case. Until you meet with a lawyer, you should also refrain from speaking with anyone from the hospital or clinic or from the doctor’s malpractice insurance provider. Again, they may try to use anything you say against you.
For the same reason, you should avoid discussing your medical malpractice case on social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. In fact, you should consider staying away from social media altogether until your case concludes. A malpractice insurer may take a seemingly unrelated photo or message that you post and use it out of context.
4. Get Copies of Your Medical Records
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) protects the privacy of your medical records and enhances your ability to gain access to those records. Under this federal law, you have the right to ask for a copy of your medical records from your medical care provider. In most cases, the provider must honor your request within 30 days. You can also ask that the provider refrain from sharing your records with a specific party.
As you move forward with your medical malpractice claim, your medical records will play an important role. They will contain information that includes your symptoms, tests, diagnosis, medication and other treatment you received. You can share these records with your lawyer. Of course, if you have any trouble getting your medical records, your lawyer will help you.
5. Gather Other Relevant Documents
In addition to your medical records, you should try to track down and hold on to other documents that could help with your claim. A few examples are:
Pay stubs, W-2 forms and income tax records (showing income lost due to your injury or illness and the effect on your earning ability)
Family photos or videos (showing how you enjoyed life before your injury or illness)
Receipts of any other related expenses (such as transportation costs, caregiver costs or modifications to your car or home).
You may also need to get copies of a birth certificate (showing your relationship to a loved one harmed by malpractice), death certificate or documents establishing that you are the administrator of a loved one’s estate. Again, if you have any problems getting these documents, your lawyer will assist you.
6. Write Down What Happened To You
While your memory is still fresh, you should write down everything that you can recall about your initial symptoms, diagnosis and treatment. You may want to jot down the names of nurses, staff members, relatives, friends or co-workers who could serve as potential witnesses. As you move forward, you should keep a journal that documents the effect of the doctor’s negligence on your health, work, relationships and other aspects of your life.
7. Discuss Your Case With an Experienced Medical Malpractice Attorney
The most important step that you will take if you suspect that you or a loved one is a victim of medical malpractice is to consult with an experienced attorney. At Lichtenstein Law Group PLC, we try to make the process as smooth and comfortable as possible by offering free and confidential consultations that carry no obligations to work with our law firm.
A lawyer should listen closely to your story and review your medical records and other information you provide. The lawyer should also answer all of your questions, explain your rights and options and give you an idea of what to expect as you move forward. If you agree to work together, the lawyer should also discuss how you will be billed. For instance, at our law firm, we will charge no costs or fees unless we recover compensation for you.
Our Roanoke Medical Malpractice Lawyers Are Ready to Help You
The medical malpractice attorneys of Lichtenstein Law Group PLC are master litigators who can put more than 100 years of combined legal experience on your side. We have the capacity and resources to thoroughly investigate your case and to pursue just compensation for you through negotiation and settlement or by taking your case to trial. Contact us today to learn more and schedule your free consultation through our offices in Roanoke or Charlottesville.
John E. Lichtenstein is a founding member of Lichtenstein Law Group, PLC, with more than three decades of experience as a trial lawyer. A graduate of the University of Virginia School of Law, John has successfully resolved hundreds of cases on behalf of his clients, including some of the largest jury verdicts and settlements in Virginia history. He has also served his profession, including serving as President of the Virginia Trial Lawyers Association in 2015-2016 and as Chair of the Virginia State Bar Criminal Law Section in 2007-2008.