You want to hire a lawyer.
To represent you in a case against your doctor.
You want to sue him.
For medical malpractice.
For his medical errors.
For all the medical mistakes he made while treating you.
For the injuries you suffered because of those mistakes.
You search for the best attorney for you.
One who has lots of experience handling the exact type of case you have.
One who has tried many cases.
One who has gotten good results in the past.
One who appears helpful and aggressive at the same time.
You watch his videos.
You read his articles.
You read his online reviews.
You decide THIS is the attorney for YOU!
You feel a bond with him.
You feel like he could definitely help you.
And you've never even met him before.
You call his office to schedule an appointment.
Before inviting you into his office, this lawyer asks you some questions on the phone.
He asks you just four questions.
You want to tell him your entire story.
You want to get it off your chest.
You want to know if you have a good case.
You want to know if he'll take your case.
You know that you have a good case.
You just know it.
As you start to explain what happened, the attorney politely cuts you off.
"I don't need any details yet," he tells you.
"I just need you to answer these four questions," he says cryptically.
"Ok," you say, wondering what questions he's going to ask you.
"When did this happen?" he asks simply.
"That's easy. It happened one year ago.
"Great. Where did this happen?" he asks.
"It happened in New York City at the hospital on 98th Street and Madison Avenue," you say.
"What injuries do you have now as a result of whatever was done wrong?" he asks.
That stops you for a moment.
You were all set to tell this attorney everything that the hospital staff did wrong.
You were prepared to tell him what your doctor did wrong.
You were about to tell him about how you were mistreated.
Instead, he only wants to know what injuries you have NOW.
You think about it for a moment and then begin to answer.
When you're done answering, he then asks his final question.
"Has any doctor confirmed your belief that something was done wrong?" he inquires.
Again, you pause and begin to think.
"Actually, yes. One doctor criticized the care that I received. He said..."
The attorney listens carefully on the phone.
Then, he makes a decision.
"Ok, let's set up an appointment for you to come into my office to discuss this matter in more detail," he says.
You arrive at his office a few days later.
You're invited into his conference room where your attorney greets you warmly.
He spends an hour asking you questions, listening patiently to your answers.
By the end of your conversation, you want to sign up with him.
You want him as your attorney.
He knows a lot about your type of case.
He knows a lot about medical malpractice cases.
You get along well with him.
BUT...did you know that even though you came into his office to hire him, the attorney was deciding whether to ALLOW you to hire him? He was deciding whether to hire YOU as a client.
You see, a really good trial attorney is highly selective about which cases he accepts.
A really good trial lawyer is very selective about the type of client he accepts.
A case like this will take two to three years to resolve one way or another.
Either by settlement or verdict or a judge throwing your case out.
That means you'll be together for a long time.
Your attorney wants to make sure you're a nice person.
He wants to make sure he can get along with you for the next few years.
Personally, I want to make sure that my new clients are not jerks.
I want to make sure they're not demanding and obnoxious.
I want to make sure that they're respectful of me and my staff.
If I know at the outset that you are just nasty and obnoxious to my staff and to me, then I will politely tell you that I cannot work with you and you need to seek out a different attorney.
It doesn't matter how good your case is.
It doesn't matter what type of case you have.
I have made the decision not to work with clients who are obnoxious and nasty.
Let's say for the moment that I like you and the facts of your case.
Let's say that you want to hire me as your attorney.
I need to do a full investigation to determine if you actually have a valid case.
I need to get all your medical records.
I need to review and evaluate your records.
I then need to have a board-certified medical expert review your records.
My medical expert has to determine if your doctor:
(1) Violated the basic standards of good medical care,
(2) Whether that improper medical care was a cause of your injuries and
(3) Whether your injuries are significant and/or permanent.
If my expert confirms that you do have a valid case, THEN AND ONLY THEN am I permitted by law to start a lawsuit on your behalf.
Now let's get back to the title of this article.
What documents can you be expected to sign once you determine that I'm the right attorney for you and I determine that you're the right client for me?
THE RETAINER COMES FIRST
No, I don't mean what you get after your braces come off at the orthodontist.
My kids got retainers after their braces were taken off.
No, no, no.
This retainer is a document that means you hire me to be your lawyer.
You are retaining me as your attorney.
You need to sign this in order for me to start working on your matter.
This document spells out my obligations to you.
It spells out the attorney's fee in this specific type of case.
It explains what I will do for you.
It explains how I will pay the expenses on your case in order to evaluate it and then to prosecute your case.
It explains how that money will be repaid to me and my firm if we are successful and get you a positive result.
It also explains what happens if we are not successful.
You will be required to sign this before we get started representing you.
You will receive a copy of this for your file.
AUTHORIZATION FORMS COME SECOND
Second, I will have you sign permission slips that allow me to get your medical records.
These permission slips have a fancy name for them.
We call them authorizations.
HIPPA compliant authorizations.
That's just a fancy acronym that means these permission slips are compliant with the rules governing the release of a patient's medical records.
These permission slips will be sent to your treating doctors and hospitals where you received treatment.
If you have a valid case and we file suit on your behalf, these permission slips will also need to be sent to the attorneys who represent the doctor and the hospital.
CLIENT COOPERATION AGREEMENT
When you come into my office, you likely believe that you are there to decide whether to hire me as your attorney.
But, my job is also to decide whether I will allow you to become my client.
My job is to determine if you have an open mind and are willing to listen to my legal advice.
My job is to decide if you are willing to make educated decisions based upon my legal advice.
If you know better, then maybe I'm not the right lawyer for you.
If you question every decision and antagonize me, then maybe I'm not the right one for you.
If you suspect that all lawyers collude with their opponents to screw over their clients then your paranoia will not be for me.
One document you can expect to sign will be a client cooperation agreement.
It's really a common sense document.
It basically says 'You agree to cooperate with me in prosecuting your case'.
You agree to provide documents within a reasonable time frame.
You agree to return my calls within a reasonable time frame.
You agree to notify my office if your phone number or address change.
You agree to listen to my advice and make decisions based upon sound legal advice and not what your neighbor told you or what a relative who had a lawsuit told you to do.
Now you know the three types of documents you can be expected to sign when you come into an experienced medical malpractice attorney's office to hire him.
To learn how an attorney in New York evaluates your malpractice case, I invite you to watch the video series below...