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10 Things You Absolutely Need to Know to Start a Lawsuit

Gerry Oginski
NY Medical Malpractice & Personal Injury Trial Lawyer
1. Lawsuits seek to compensate you for your injuries. a. They compensate you for: i. Your lost wages, and your future lost wages, ii. Your medical expenses, both past and future, and iii. Your pain and the suffering it caused in the past, and for the future 2. Lawsuits do not directly seek to harm anyone’s reputation. 3. A doctor who is sued will not lose their medical license if the lawsuit is successful. 4. A lawsuit attempts to compensate the injured victim, and at the same time, try to ensure that the same type of bad treatment is not repeated in another patient. 5. “A lawsuit is not a lottery.” a. This phrase is often used by defense attorneys during jury selection to remind jurors that their job is not simply to allow the injured victim to ‘hit it big’ and award huge amounts of unjustified money. b. A more realistic approach to a lawsuit is for reasonable, full and fair compensation to allow you to recover all of your past and future expenses, and all of your past and future pain and suffering compensation. 6. You don’t have to pay any money upfront to an attorney to handle your case. There is no ‘hourly fee’. a. Medical Malpractice and injury cases are generally handled on contingency. b. That means that the attorney fee depends upon you winning your case. If you lose, the attorney loses as well, and receives no fee. c. The expenses that the attorney pays to prosecute your case are technically supposed to be repaid by the client in the event the case is lost. However, as a personal matter, I have never asked a client to reimburse me for my expenses if I lose a case. It just doesn’t make sense to do so, and in my personal opinion, it’s bad business. However, some attorneys do require this, so make sure you ask first before you make your decision. 7. Not every attorney has the same experience. a. Ask your attorney how many years they’ve been in practice, b. Ask the attorney what percentage of medical malpractice or accident cases he handles compared to other types of cases, c. Ask whether he/she tries cases in the Supreme Court (it’s the trial level court for New York, d. Ask whether he’s ever lost a case; i. If he tries cases, and claims he’s never lost a case…I’d suggest either that the attorney is not being accurate, or simply only accepts clear-cut cases that he cannot lose- that’s extremely rare. ii. The majority of trial attorneys will have lost a case from time to time. Unfortunately, it’s the nature of the beast. e. Ask whether the attorney you meet with will be the one handling your case on a day to day basis. If not, who will be your attorney? Whom will you call with questions? How quickly will the attorney call me back? How often can you expect to receive correspondence from the attorney about the status of your case? 8. A lawsuit takes time to come to a conclusion. a. The average time is 2-3 years from start to finish. 9. How often do I have to come into the attorney’s office during this time? a. Once to meet the attorney in an initial meeting, b. Once to sign documents that start your lawsuit (often this can be done by mail), c. Once to have your deposition (where you are asked questions by the other side’s attorney), d. At least once to prepare you for trial, and sometimes two or three additional times to prepare you. 10. As in life, there are no guarantees to winning. However, with good experienced counsel and thorough preparation, you stand a much better chance of being fully informed about your prospects and achieving a good result.