You were injured by a doctor.
Here in New York.
He was careless.
Now, you're paying the price.
Your injuries are significant and disabling.
You can't do many of the activities you used to do.
Your family is encouraging you to sue your once-trusted doctor.
You've never sued anyone before.
You have guilt.
Guilt that if you sue, your doctor might lose his license to practice medicine.
Guilt that if he doesn't lose his license, that your lawsuit might somehow cause him to lose business.
Guilt that your lawsuit might generate publicity causing him embarassment in the community.
You're just not sure yet.
Also, you don't know an attorney.
You dont' know someone who could recommend a trusted medical malpractice attorney.
You've never had to hire an attorney before.
You've never had to enter the civil side of the legal system before or any side for that matter.
As your visiting nurse helps you five days a week for hours on end, you wonder how you'll pay your bills.
You wonder how you'll put food on the table for your family.
You wonder why you're sitting at home recuperating and your colleagues, friends and family are out working earning a living.
You wonder how you'll raise your kids if you can't do many activities with them.
These thoughts are common in patients who suffer significant injury at the hands of a careless doctor or hospital staff.
You feel isolated.
You feel alone.
It feels like there is no one in the world who has gone through what you are going through.
You feel there is no one to turn to who can listen to you.
You realize there must be other people who've gone through similar situations.
You just don't know where to find them.
One evening, while talking to your spouse, you get angry.
For absolutely no reason.
You start lashing out and getting into an argument.
You've developed a short fuse.
Little things tick you off.
Your spouse finds it difficult to talk to you anymore.
Your kids don't want to be near you since you are constantly yelling at them.
This creates a vicious cycle.
You second-guess yourself about why you are always angry now.
Your doctors are telling you that you are frustrated.
You are taking out your frustration and inability to do your daily activities on your family.
That makes you feel even worse.
They are the last people you want to hurt.
As you lay in bed each night wondering how you got to be where you are, you begin thinking about the treatment you received from your doctor and the hospital staff.
The more you think about it, the angrier you get about the treatment you received.
You finally reach the conclusion that one or more of your doctors did something to cause your horrible injuries.
You finally decide to look for an attorney to help you learn whether you have a valid case.
You finally decide to try and obtain compensation for all the harms, losses and injuries you received on that fateful day.
You ask your spouse to begin searching online for the right attorney.
She does a Google search.
She types in “Find me the best New York medical malpractice attorney.”
The results are promising.
Except there's one problem.
There are tons of results.
How is she going to evaluate each of those results to see which one is right for you and your case?
She starts clicking on one website result after the other.
She starts reading articles and attorney websites and results attorneys have achieved.
She starts watching YouTube videos that explain how the legal process works for medical malpractice cases in New York.
She starts looking at the experience level of different lawyers and law firms.
Some of these firms are small firms. Some are large.
Some are on Long Island. Some are in New York City.
She doesn't know whether you are better off with a small firm or large firm.
She doesn't know whether an attorney who has 30 years of trial experience is better than an attorney with 20 years of trial experience.
She doesn't know if an attorney who is able to obtain a $5 million verdict is better than an attorney who is able to generate a $3 million settlement.
She doesn't know how often these attorneys and law firms communicate with you.
Nor does she know how often they keep you up-to-date on your case.
These websites don't explain what these attorneys can do for you.
Instead, most of them talk about themselves and their awards.
It's always "ME, ME, ME. Hey, look at how great I am..."
Your biggest concern is how to distinguish between similar attorneys with similar credentials and experience.
Let's say you're considering three different law firms.
In each firm, the senior trial attorneys have 25 years of trial experience.
They're each licensed to practice law in New York.
They each have many million dollar verdicts under their belt.
They each have million dollars settlements under their belt as well.
One firm has a very fancy office in a fancy building in New York City.
Another firm is on Long Island.
Their website says they can visit you if you can't come to them.
One of the attorneys appears on the TV news often as a commentator.
The other firm is a solo attorney.
You wonder how a solo attorney can compete with a big law firm and lots of attorneys.
Your concerns are all valid.
You should know that many injured victims are referred to a lawyer by a trusted friend or family member.
Someone, somehow knows someone who knows a good attorney.
However, the majority of the population has never needed a medical malpractice attorney.
Nor do they know someone who has used a trusted trial attorney who handles these cases here in NY on a day-to-day basis.
As you search for the right attorney, your challenge will be to distinguish one lawyer from the other.
Even if you're not searching online and are searching in the Yellow Pages or on TV or the radio or magazines for the right attorney for you, here are a few tips that will help you distinguish one attorney from another...
You will find attorneys proclaiming they have many years of experience handling the exact type of case that you have.
You will find attorneys who gleefully tell you about their amazing results in similar cases.
The fact that one attorney achieved a $10 million verdict and another attorney achieved a $5 million verdict and another achieved a $6.2 million verdict should not be the deciding factor for which attorney you hire.
That's because no attorney can guarantee you a particular result.
Just because an attorney achieved a great result on that case doesn't mean he can do the same for you.
You'd like to think so, but that's not how it works.
Also, those large verdicts represent the amount a jury decided the injured victim was to receive.
It does not mean that the injured patient or injured victim walked away with that amount of money.
I have yet to find an attorney's website that details exactly how much money their client actually received after a jury gave them a multimillion dollar verdict.
No attorney does it.
Is it a secret?
Maybe they don't share that with the public because they want to promote the great big verdict they obtained rather than tell the world about the actual amount their client walked away with. I don't know.
I'm just guessing here.
You rarely find an attorney's website that explains in detail what happens after a large jury verdict is rendered.
You rarely hear about an attorney talk about the post-trial motions by the defense to immediately throw out this big jury verdict.
There are some instances where a judge will throw out the jury's verdict.
Did you know that if the judge throws out the verdict, an attorney can still talk about obtaining a multi-million dollar verdict, since it is a fact?
What they may not have disclosed on their website is that the verdict was later thrown out.
Would that matter to you when deciding to hire an attorney?
You should also know that attorneys often don't discuss the details of what happens after a large jury verdict.
They don't talk about how the defense does everything in their power to get that verdict either thrown out or significantly reduced.
The defense often claims that the verdict is against the weight of the evidence presented at trial.
We learn in law school a fancy Latin term for this.
It's called "Judgment non-obstante verdicto."
All that means is that they want a judgment in their favor notwithstanding the fact that a jury ruled against them.
Sounds a bit like Hillary supporters who are protesting Trump's election.
They want Trump thrown out as President-elect despite the fact that he was duly elected President by the people of the United States.
Getting back to the tips to help you select the right attorney...
Even if the trial judge agrees with the defense attorney and significantly reduces your jury verdict, the defense will often appeal that decision and ask the Appellate Court to either throw your case out or reduce your verdict even further.
You rarely hear an attorney discussing those details on his website.
Keep in mind that as I go through these various tips I'm not saying that these attorneys are not good at what they do.
I am not saying these attorneys are not worthy of you speaking to them.
Nor am I saying that these attorneys are not the right ones for you.
Instead, I simply want you to be aware of how attorneys present and market themselves to the general public.
By learning this information you will have a better understanding that will allow you to make an educated decision about which attorney is right for you.
Make sure you ask each attorney how much their client actually walked away with after getting a big jury verdict.
That means after post-trial motions.
That means after appeals.
That means after the attorney's expenses were repaid to their law firm.
That means after their attorney's fee was calculated.
That means after all medical liens including Medicare and Medicaid were repaid.
"How much did your client actually walk away after that huge jury verdict?"
The answer will surprise you.
Ask yourself why don't they publicize that amount?
Another important question you need to ask each attorney “Tell me about the last case that you lost at trial.”
You will rarely, if ever, see any lawyer's website that discusses the cases they lost at trial.
Very few attorneys willingly and openly want to discuss the cases they have lost.
I've written articles and created videos about cases I've lost.
There's a reason and I'll share it with you in a moment.
You might ask why attorney's don't talk about the cases they lost at trial.
I'll tell you why.
They want to give the impression that they only won.
They don't want to give the impression that they're human and may have lost a case here and there.
They have a fear.
A fear that a potential new client will view them as not qualified.
You should know that any attorney who has been in practice for years and tries cases on a regular basis will, from time to time, lose at trial.
It's a fact.
The reason is that when you go to trial and take a verdict, you don't know what the end result is going to be.
You can have the best case in the world.
You can have the best medical experts support your case.
You can have all the facts lined up on your side.
And then, for whatever reason, the jury may not like your client or your case.
You will find on my website that I've written a number of articles describing various cases I have lost at trial over the years. (Thankfully it has not been many.)
Of the many thousands of visitors I get to my website each month, I get comments from people who thank me for being straightforward not only about the cases I have won but also about the few cases I lost.
You should know that an attorney who loses a case does not mean he is not a good attorney.
The reality is that you can still be an excellent attorney and lose a case.
It happens to the best of us.
Maybe the jury didn't like you.
Maybe the jury didn't like the facts.
Maybe the jury liked the defense's experts or attorney better.
There could be lots of reasons why an attorney lost a case.
It doesn't mean he's a bad attorney.
When you ask each attorney whether they ever lost a case, pay close attention to their reaction.
I guarantee you they will be surprised by such a question.
Some trial attorneys fear that disclosing they lost a case, means they are not worthy of your trust.
There is an inherent fear that if they disclose a weakness to you, you will not want to hire them.
I have found that by disclosing a weakness, my clients actually trust me more.
They recognize that not every case is winnable.
They recognize that there are risks of going to trial and taking a verdict.
They appreciate honesty.
They appreciate telling it like it is without pulling punches.
I have found that my clients much prefer to hear the truth rather than sugarcoating it or having an attorney make false promises to them giving them hope.
Let's chat about experience for a moment.
In law, experience matters.
There's a significant difference between an attorney who is six months out of law school and trying his first medical malpractice case compared to an attorney who's been doing it for 25 years with a long history of successes.
Assuming each of the attorneys you are considering to hire has significant experience, you now need to see what they teach you on their websites.
Do these lawyers and law firms take the time to explain how your type of case works?
Do they have consumer-oriented books that they wrote to help you understand the legal process from start to finish?
Do they provide you with helpful and instructional videos explaining how medical malpractice cases work?
Have they written helpful articles and blog posts and FAQ's and answers to educate you so you can become a better informed consumer?
If they have not, ask yourself “Why not?”
Let's move on to testimonials.
They are useful but there are problems with focusing only on the testimonials.
You know that before you make a big purchase, you want honset opinions of other people who have purchased the same exact item.
You want to know what other liked and what they didn't.
You want to see if there are negative reviews to make sure you're buying the right thing.
You're looking for both positive and negative reviews.
When you look at reviews and testimonials on attorney websites, you're going to be surprised.
Well, maybe not.
Let's go back for a moment to why attorneys don't want to tell the world about the case they lost.
Fear that a new client will think they're not a good or a great attorney.
All because of one case they lost.
When you search attorney websites for that perfect attorney for you, you'll begin to notice something remarkable.
All the testimonials on attorney's websites are favorable.
Every single one.
Every smiling client.
Every happy client.
Every client who won their case.
"I'm so happy with this lawyer..."
"This was the best law firm!"
And that's great.
It's great that these lawyers can get clients who willingly agree to post their names, their towns and the amount of money they obtained using their services.
You should know that most injured victims who go through a medical malpractice lawsuit and are ultimately successful in obtaining money as compensation, rarely want to leave testimonials for an attorney.
They rarely want to leave online reviews either.
Because they don't want their friends and family members to know they sued this respected doctor.
They don't want the social backlash of people in their community knowing they had to bring a lawsuit against this doctor whom so many trust.
They also don't want their friends and family members to know how much money they received for fear that people will start knocking on their door asking for money.
The same is often true for reviews and testimonials that you find on Google or Yelp for a particular attorney or law firm.
Just as I have yet to find an attorney in New York talk about the cases they lost, I have also yet to find a single attorney post a client review or testimonial that was bad.
Think about that.
Surely there had to have been a dissatisfied client over the years.
Surely the client who lost their case was not happy with the outcome.
Why aren't these lawyers publicizing the reviews and testimonials of clients who were not happy?
I'll tell you why.
Fear that a new potential client will think this is not a good law firm.
Fear that a client only wants to go where the past clients have been happy.
Nobody wants to hire an attorney where there were unhappy clients.
Same is true for a restaurant that got bad reviews.
The restaurant would be empty.
But maybe there's a reason the place got bad reviews.
Maybe the food was really bad.
I have been in practice more than 28 years now handling medical malpractice cases, accident cases and wrongful death cases and I have yet to see any attorney in New York put a testimonial from a dissatisfied client on their website.
It just doesn't happen.
No attorney that I know is willing to risk putting a damaging testimonial on their own website that they control.
They think that by putting on such harmful information it will turn away potential clients looking to hire them.
Just as I told you to ask each attorney if they ever lost a case, you should ask each attorney whether they have ever had a dissatisfied client.
The response you get will be eye-opening.
You should know that if an attorney has been in practice for many years, it is inevitable that they will have a client who has been unhappy with their services.
A client might have been unhappy with the way the firm communicated with them and failed to keep them up-to-date on a regular basis.
Maybe the attorney did not return their phone calls in a timely manner.
Maybe the attorney didn't e-mail them in a timely manner.
Maybe the attorney didn't send them copies of their legal documents for their own file.
Maybe a client was dissatisfied with the settlement amount or the settlement offer.
There could be many reasons why a client might be dissatisfied.
You should know that when a client leaves a review on sites like Google or yelp or Apple, the majority of those reviews are going to be favorable.
Dissatisfied clients are hesitant to leave publicly posted negative reviews for fear that the attorney or the law firm might turn around and sue them for libel or slander.
Even though one could argue this is protected speech assuming it is factually accurate, many people just don't want to put their necks out there and run the potential risk that they will be sued for leaving a negative review.
As you scour online reviews for a lawyer or law firm, just keep this in the back of your mind wondering if there have ever been any dissatisfied clients.
Let's talk for a moment about where the attorney's office is located.
When considering the location of your attorney, you must always ask yourself whether location is a significant factor in your choice.
Keep in mind that you will not have to go to attorney's office more than a few times over the course of your lawsuit.
Typically, you will need to meet with an attorney in their office on the first meeting, assuming you are able to travel to their office.
If you cannot travel, most attorneys will come to you at your home.
After the initial consultation, the next time you would need to go into your attorney's office would be after your lawsuit has been started and now it is time for you to be questioned by the defense attorney in a pretrial question and answer session known as a deposition.
The next time you'll need to appear in your lawyer's office will be years later when your case comes up for trial.
Your attorney will need to prepare you for trial and that will be done in your attorney's office.
If your attorney's office location is important to you, then obviously you want to look for a law firm that has great qualities that is close to your home.
Another thing to consider is whether to go to a large firm, a medium sized firm, a small firm or a solo practitioner.
There are pros and cons to each one.
Your ultimate choice will come down to personal preference.
There are some large law firms and medium sized firms who have lots of staff to work on your case at any given time.
While that can be good, it might be a bit unsettling when you call the office and every time the receptionist asks you how to spell your last name.
It might be unsettling when you are handed off to a paralegal to answer your question, hoping instead you talk to the attorney you met with during your first consultation.
When going to a large law firm, the attorney who meets with you during your first visit may not be the attorney assigned to handle your case on a daily basis.
The attorney who is going to be with you at your deposition may be different than the one you met on your first consultation.
When your case comes up for trial, don't be surprised to see a new face.
This trial attorney will likely be someone different from the attorney you met on your first office visit and when you had your deposition.
If that's okay with you, then a large or medium sized law firm might be right for you.
Then there are the smaller law firms ranging from 1-5 lawyers where you have one attorney dedicated to your case from start to finish.
This way you know that every time you have a question, you will be speaking to the same person each and every time.
You would expect that this attorney would know every detail of what happened in your case and what's going on day to day.
Whether you prefer an attorney in a fancy office building in Manhattan or a small office in an office park is a personal preference.
Here's one final tip that should help you greatly...
As you speak to and meet with various attorneys think about how each attorney makes you feel.
Do they make you feel welcome?
Do you get the sense that they care about you and your matter?
Are they confident?
Are they reassuring?
Are they dismissive?
Do they speak down to you?
How the attorney makes you feel is extremely important when making your decision.
When you hire an attorney to represent you, this relationship will last two to three years as your case winds its way through the legal process.
If you know at the outset that there's something about the attorney that just doesn't sit right, those feelings don't go away as you get deeper into your lawsuit.
Hopefully, these tips will give you a better idea of what you need to look for when deciding among similarly qualified trial attorneys to help you obtain money as a form of compensation for the injuries you suffered because of a careless doctor or hospital staff.