Evaluating the Case
The first step we take in evaluating a medical malpractice case is to speak with you and find out what happened. If, based on that history, we feel that the case should be investigated further, the second stage is for us to request the medical records that will allow us to evaluate whether the care was negligent and, if so, whether the negligent care caused damage or injury.
If, after reviewing the medical records, we still feel that the case has potential merit, we will send the records to experts in appropriate medical fields to provide an opinion as to whether the care was negligent and, if so, whether it caused the injury or damage complained of. If those experts support the case and you have suffered significant damages or injury as a result of the negligent care, we will usually recommend that you proceed with a lawsuit. Often we will recommend that an attempt be made to settle the case before filing the lawsuit.
The Discovery Stage
After we have filed and served the lawsuit on your behalf, we enter what is known as the "discovery"stage of the case.
The court rules allow for the parties to submit written discovery requests to the opposing party.These are questions and/or requests for information or documents relevant to the case.
The rules also allow the parties to take the deposition of the opposing party and other potential witnesses in the case, including family members, treating healthcare providers and, for cases that are proceeding in Washington State, expert witnesses who will testify in the case.
During this phase of the case, we will continue to work with our expert witnesses to develop the various parts of your case. We will also work with the defense attorney to find out if they are interested in discussing a settlement of the case.
Many cases settle before trial, although of course there are no guarantees. Although cases can settle at any time, the majority of cases that settle do so after the discovery stage of the case and before trial.
We will work with the defense lawyers throughout your case to explore whether the defendant has an interest in settlement. We will work with you to put together a settlement demand. Sometimes we will negotiate directly with the defense attorney on your behalf and sometimes we will work with a mediator to assist in settling the case. It will be your decision whether to accept any money offered by way of settlement. We will advise and assist you throughout this process. We will also help you to understand what net amount you will receive in the event you consider accepting an offer.
If the case does not settle, we will prepare the case for trial. This will involve putting together the medical records and other documents we will want to refer to at trial, working with the experts who will testify and helping you to understand what to expect at trial. We likely will also want to meet with family members and other friends and coworkers who will testify as witnesses at trial.
As a general rule, you should be present in court throughout the trial. The length of the trial will depend on the complexity of the issues and the number of witnesses who will testify on both sides.
The costs associated with a case will generally increase significantly as we prepare for and proceed to trial. This is because one of the most expensive parts of a medical malpractice case are the expert witness fees. As our experts review depositions and discovery, prepare for their testimony, and thereafter travel to court and testify in the courtroom, the fees increase.
At trial, the Plaintiff presents the case first. We will select a jury, make an opening statement and then present testimony from our witnesses. The defense attorney will have the right to cross examine our witnesses.
The defense will then present their case after which the plaintiff will have the opportunity to present any rebuttal evidence.
At the conclusion of all the evidence, both sides make closing arguments. The jury will then deliberate and decide which party will prevail.
Throughout the case, the Judge presides over and controls the proceedings and rules on evidential issues.