What makes a good malpractice case?
It would be difficult to simply make a list of the types of malpractice cases that are good or bad. Each case is unique and needs to be considered on its own particular merits and facts. But there are certain issues your lawyer will have to work through before deciding if he can accept your case. Since malpractice cases are so expensive and time consuming to pursue, one of the first questions your lawyer will need to address is whether the case is economically justifiable. A lawyer may spend as much as $50,000 to $100,000 in out-of-pocket expenses plus two to three years’ time on a single malpractice case. If a potential case only involves a temporary misdiagnosis of a medical condition, and the correct diagnosis was eventually made with no significant permanent injuries, then that probably is not a good case to pursue. No lawyer would want to risk two years of his time and $75,000 of his money on the possibility that he might recover $25,000 for his client. No client would reasonably want to pursue that type of case either. Legitimate small damage malpractice claims may be inappropriate law suits because the cost to the lawyer, and the potential benefit to the client, simply do not justify a lengthy, expensive legal battle.
Assuming the damages are serious enough to justify bringing suit, the lawyer must also determine if there is liability, i.e. did the action or inaction fall below the professional standard of care. He will most likely have to hire one or more doctors as expert witnesses to testify on this issue. Usually at least one expert will be hired before the suit is filed and additional experts are often hired before the case proceeds to trial. These experts will also help establish that the negligent conduct was the actual cause of the injuries complained of. Sometimes this is obvious, and sometimes not. For example, in cases involving negligent delay in the diagnosis of breast cancer, it may be easy to establish that the defendant misread a mammogram, but very hard to establish that the patient would have survived if only the cancer had been diagnosed six months earlier. Complicated medical questions arise such as what type of breast cancer was this? What size was it? What was the cancer cell doubling time? How far had it already spread when the misdiagnosis occurred? This issue of whether the alleged negligence actually caused any injury to the patient, or if so, then how much injury was caused by the negligence and how much was caused by the preexisting medical condition, is the main focus of many malpractice cases.
In Georgia lawyers are required to attach an affidavit from an expert witness at the time of filing the lawsuit in court, stating that the facts justify the claim.
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This site contains only general information and is not intended to constitute specific legal advice or establish an attorney/client relationship. Malpractice laws are constantly changing. If you think you may have a malpractice case you should promptly contact a lawyer experienced in handling malpractice cases.
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