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What is a Medical Malpractice Attorney?

Article Details
  • Written By: Charity Delich
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 01 November 2018
  • Copyright Protected:
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    Conjecture Corporation
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Medical malpractice lawsuits generally surface when a patient alleges that a health care provider, such as a doctor, nurse, or hospital, fails to competently treat the patient, resulting in personal injury to – or wrongful death of – the patient. The law governing medical malpractice can be complex, and most of these cases require the assistance of attorneys who are knowledgeable about malpractice laws. A medical malpractice attorney is a lawyer who specializes in medical negligence law. They can represent either patients or health care providers. A medical malpractice attorney is sometimes referred to as a personal injury lawyer.

When an injured patient presents a medical malpractice attorney with a potential case, the attorney’s first step is to evaluate whether the case is likely to be successful at trial. If the patient is unlikely to recover damages, the attorney generally will not take the case. If the attorney accepts the case, he or she usually prepares any paperwork needed to file the case with a court that has jurisdiction to hear the suit. This paperwork may include a complaint and summons, documents that are served on a defendant in order to start a lawsuit in many jurisdictions.

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Before trial, a medical malpractice attorney usually develops a theory of his or her client’s case. This is true for the attorney representing the patient as well as for the lawyer representing the health care provider. The attorney is also charged with investigating all of the facts and circumstances surrounding the case. In most medical malpractice suits, this frequently means that the attorney must hire a professional investigator to track down necessary information. An attorney may also employ a medical expert to render an opinion at trial on whether the health care provider acted in a negligent manner when caring for the patient.

In many cases, a medical malpractice attorney does not actually try the case in front of a court. Instead, the case is settled outside of court, and the attorney is responsible for negotiating the terms of the settlement with the other side. If a case goes to trial, the attorney represents his or her client in court. During trial, the attorney performs tasks like selecting the jury, giving an opening statement, introducing evidence and testimony, and making a closing argument.

Usually, a medical malpractice attorney who represents a patient works on a contingency fee basis. This means that the patient does not pay a fee unless the attorney recovers a monetary judgment. The attorney’s fee is generally a pre-negotiated percentage of the total judgment. On the other hand, a medical malpractice attorney who represents a health care provider generally works on an hourly fee basis, and is often hired by the health care professional or provider’s insurance company.

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