Some of the most difficult cases to prosecute are medical malpractice and nursing home malpractice cases. The Virginia General Assembly have put in place some significant legal hurdles, which favor the medical profession in some way but result in the attorney carefully evaluating these cases early in the process. This is not always a bad thing. It does require you to do a full evaluation of the case at the outset. Under Virginia law you cannot serve a doctor or other health care provider with a malpractice suit unless you have a written opinion from an expert practicing the same specialty stating that the person or institution you are suing breached the standard of care and is guilty of malpractice. When you serve a suit you will be immediately asked to provide a copy of the written opinion. We will generally attach the opinion letter as an exhibit to the suit.
With this caveat in mind, what should you do if you think that you or someone you love has suffered injury as a result of the malpractice of a health care provider?
The first step is to get the complete medical record of all treatment of the condition, which leads to the malpractice claim. The health care providers by law must provide you the records if requested. They can charge you for the copies but they have to give them to you. The records are needed in order for the attorney to properly evaluate the claim. The attorney will also need to provide a complete copy of your records to potential expert witnesses. You will be able to get a quicker evaluation if you can provide the records at the initial consultation. The attorney can immediately engage the potential expert much quicker.
There is a limitation period for bringing a malpractice claim, which must be kept in mind. If the claim is not brought within that period it will be dismissed. Sometimes it takes months to secure an expert particularly when our office has to get the medical records as they have not been provided by the client.
The other difficulty on malpractice cases, which must be kept in mind, is that not every bad result is the result of malpractice. When you read the authorization for surgery there are a number of disclaimers which spell out potential complications. Bad results and complications can occur in many cases where the health care providers have done everything correctly.
Malpractice cases are winnable, but in order to have your best chance at success, you need to seek legal help early in the process, and get the complete medical records together as soon as possible.