Expert Insights on Finding a Medical Malpractice Lawyer and Filing a Claim

What kind of lawyer do I need to file a medical malpractice claim?

Medical negligence is frighteningly common. In fact, research has shown that medical errors are one of the leading causes of death in the United States. If you are the victim of a medical error by a healthcare provider, you need to find a specialized medical malpractice lawyer.

What is a medical malpractice attorney?

A medical malpractice lawyer is someone who represents the victims of medical negligence and has experience litigating claims that arise out of the negligence of a healthcare provider. A medical malpractice attorney not only has experience in the courtroom litigating a case in a civil trial, but also is experienced negotiating with medical malpractice insurance carriers to obtain a settlement prior to trial.

If you are the victim of a medical error by a healthcare provider, you need to find a medical negligence lawyer who is experienced in and capable of presenting complex medical evidence to a judge or jury in a way that someone without a medical degree can understand. Thus, a medical malpractice attorney needs to not only be familiar with the law and legal requirements for filing a medical malpractice claim, but also needs to be well-versed in understanding the medicine behind your claim. They will work in consultation with medical experts to present the necessary evidence at trial required to prove your medical malpractice claim.  

What constitutes medical malpractice?

Medical malpractice is professional negligence by a health care provider that results in a civil (and sometimes even criminal) claim.

There are four elements of a medical malpractice claim:

  • A duty of care is owed by the health care provider to a patient
  • The health care provider fails to fulfill their obligations by providing services that are below the standard of care.  This means the care they provided is not at the level that a similarly-trained professional would have offered under the same circumstances.
  • The health care provider’s services directly caused the patient to experience harm. 
  • The patient incurred damages as a result of this harm. 

Medical malpractice or medical negligence takes many forms including failure to diagnose, botched treatment, delayed diagnosis, failure to get informed consent, wrong-site surgeries, medication errors, birth injuries and negligent omissions such as failing to order a specific test or to deliver your medical results in a timely manner.

When is medical malpractice criminal?

In most cases, medical malpractice results in a civil claim but not a criminal case.  This is because most doctors try to protect the health of their patients and do not intentionally act to harm their patients.  However, in rare instances, a medical malpractice case warrants a criminal charge.  If the district attorney or prosecutor can prove that the health care provider has intentionally caused harm or acted recklessly then the state can file criminal charges.  For example, if a health care provider is practicing beyond the scope of their license or performs a surgery under the influence of alcohol or drugs this could amount to criminal charges.

When do I file a medical malpractice claim?

If you are the victim of a medical error by a healthcare provider, you need to understand that there is a statute of limitations that governs how long you have to file a civil lawsuit.  In North Carolina, you typically have 3 years from the date of the medical negligence to file your claim.  If the negligence results in a death, then you only have 2 years from the alleged negligence to file your claim.

How Do I Find A Medical Malpractice Attorney?

There are a number of lawyers that specialize in medical malpractice cases. The trick is to find one that is reputable, honest, and competent. A few suggestions for finding and identifying one include the following:

  1. Ask people you trust for referrals.  If you have worked with a lawyer on any legal matters before, they can be a great reference and you should start by asking them for referrals.  The lawyers that you already know and trust may have colleagues they can point you to who excel in the field of medical malpractice. Friends, family and others in your network may also know of lawyers who have successfully handled medical negligence claims. Finally, you can also consult professional groups or organizations, including the state bar association for a list of medical malpractice attorneys.
  2. Make sure you hire a lawyer who has handled medical malpractice cases before.  Medical malpractice cases involve complex issues that an experienced lawyer who