You might think the headline of this article is strange coming from an attorney who helps injured patients.
You're right, it is.
However, I want to share with you these tips to help you understand why not everyone who calls has a valid medical malpractice case.
(1) Nothing was done wrong to you
It goes without saying that if your doctor or hospital staff did nothing wrong, then you absolutely have no business bringing a lawsuit against them.
Yesterday I received a call that reflected a typical concern.
"My dad went into the hospital fine and now two years later he needs all the hardware removed because of an infection deep in his bone," the concerned family member says.
"I'm sorry to learn of your troubles," I reply. "What do you think was done wrong?" I ask.
"I have no idea. I just know that he went in fine and now he needs all this surgery and medical follow up. Something MUST have been done wrong," the son says.
"Actually, that's not correct," I reply.
"We need to confirm, with a well-qualified medical expert, that there was medical carelessness, that the wrongdoing caused you injury and that your injury is significant and/or permanent."
"Just because you come out of the hospital with a complication or an injury does not automatically mean something was done wrong."
(2) You did not get hurt
Likewise, if a doctor did not treat you properly, but you did not suffer any injury as a result of that wrongdoing, then you have no business bringing a lawsuit seeking compensation.
If any one of the elements listed above is missing, then it will be difficult, if not impossible to bring a successful case on your behalf.
(3) You do not have a long-term permanent injury or permanent disability
If your injury is not significant or disabling, most experienced New York medical malpractice lawyers will likely decline to handle your matter.
(4) You think that if you sue your local hospital, you will not be allowed to return there for any additional treatment you may need
In all likelihood, this is not true.
A hospital cannot discriminate against you, even though you have sued the hospital for medical malpractice.
They are obligated to treat every patient who walks into the emergency room.
An issue might arise if you are going for elective treatment or surgery and the hospital is a private hospital that you have sued.
In all probability, you will be able to continue receiving treatment at that hospital.
In fact, defense attorneys like to make the argument "Can you believe this? Mr. Jones has sued our hospital, telling the world that our hospital did wrong by him.
Yet he still returns to our terrible hospital for ongoing treatment of his current medical condition.
What does that tell you about his trust in our cherished medical facility?
He has no trust in our doctors and nurses, yet he continues to rely on them for his care and treatment."
That's a powerful argument that goes against your claim that your doctor or hospital staff were careless and you no longer trust them.
(5) You like your doctor
Sure, who doesn't?
Yet on a particular day, at a particular time, your physician may have departed from good and accepted medical care causing you permanent harm.
Should your feelings toward the doctor affect your ability to decide whether you are legally entitled to be compensated for your permanent injuries?
You must decide whether you are able to do this.
Some injured patients are reluctant to sue a doctor they have liked, loved and trusted for many years.
Some patients refuse to sue in that instance.
Some are torn and conflicted.
They feel their doctor will not 'like' them if they bring a lawsuit seeking money as a form of compensation for their injuries.
If your feelings are more important to you than obtaining full and fair compensation for your doctor's carelessness and your resulting injury, then you should not bring a lawsuit against your doctor.
(6) You are not interested in money
Virtually every single person who comes into my office tells me this.
Most come in because they want the doctor's license revoked, or they want to make sure this problem never arises again.
It is only when the victim realizes the true extent of their injury do they realize that their suffering is worthy of compensation.
(7) You think a lawsuit will make you rich
Nobody ever got rich bringing a medical malpractice lawsuit seeking compensation.
Newspapers love to publicize large verdicts because it generates polarizing feelings which in turn sell newspapers.
What many papers do not often publicize is that most large verdicts are reduced on appeal.
"Tort reformers" use those headlines of large verdicts to support their arguments that juries give "runaway verdicts" and the medical malpractice laws need to be changed.
I will tell you that every single person who comes into my office has clearly said that they would rather have their health back than any amount of compensation from a medical malpractice, wrongful death or accident lawsuit.
(8) You think your lawyer will be able to settle your case quickly by pressuring the insurance company with their skills
If a lawyer tells you they can get you a quick settlement in your medical malpractice case, I suggest you run, in the other direction.
Ask that lawyer how long they have been representing injured victims in medical malpractice cases in the State of New York.
Ask that same lawyer how many insurance companies there are in NY that represent doctors and hospitals.
Then ask how many years it takes to bring a medical malpractice lawsuit to a conclusion.
I will tell you that I have been in practice almost 28 years in New York, handling accident and medical malpractice cases.
Malpractice cases are NEVER resolved quickly.
They are the most hard-fought cases.
The defense lawyers are among the best in the business.
The only time a malpractice case gets settled quickly is if there is no dispute about who caused the harm, and no dispute about the extent of the injuries and damages.
I will also tell you that damages (the amount of money you might receive as compensation) are always hotly contested.
Your lawyer's skills might be impressive.
However, don't be too impressed by any promises to settle your medical malpractice case quickly.
It simply will not happen.
(9) You think your case is unique and the doctor's insurance company has never seen such injuries as yours
This is wishful thinking.
The insurance company has databases of every case that has ever been brought against the doctors and hospitals they represent.
They know who the lawyers are.
They know what similar cases have settled for.
They know what juries award for similar injuries.
An insurance company never has any incentive to settle a case unless the prospect of going to trial is much riskier than trying to settle prior to, or during trial.
It is understandable to think that your injury and your set of facts are unique.
However, the insurance company looks at it and asks "Is this a failure to diagnose case?"
"Is this a surgical complication case?"
"Is this a case where a doctor failed to act?"
"Is this a failure to communicate case?"
Many of these malpractice cases fall into certain categories.
Don't get me wrong...
Just because your matter might fit into a particular category doesn't mean it is less meaningful or has less merit.
It simply means that the doctors' insurance has likely seen this scenario before.
(10) Your friends will think you are a moral sinkhole for suing your doctor or hospital
Are you really that worried about what your friends think?
Do they sit home every day wondering when they'll be able to return to work and support their family?
Do they have to have three corrective surgeries to get them up and walking again?
Have they been to the rehabilitation facility like you have?
Do they have to do all those painful exercises that teach you how to walk again?
Will you be able to play sports again?
I ask you again, are you really worried about what your friends think of you?
Do they see what you have to endure every day and night?
If it's more important to you to worry about your friends' thoughts and feelings then you probably should not bring a lawsuit against your doctor or hospital.
But that's something only you can decide.
(11) You have enough money to make up for your lost wages while you are out of work recuperating
Why should you have to use up your savings to pay your living expenses, when you believe your doctor or hospital caused your injuries?
A careless doctor or hospital staff is supposed to be held accountable for their actions.
If they did wrong and violated the basic standards of medical care causing you injury, they are supposed to pay to compensate you.
You should not be using your money.
(12) You have enough money saved up to pay for all of your medical and hospital bills for the rest of your life
Your medical bills may be very significant.
What if your health insurance company will not pay for some or most of your bills?
Do you think it is fair that you, the injured victim, should have to pay these bills out of your own pocket?
Your doctor who caused you these problems should have to pay for these expenses.
There is an interesting Jewish proverb going back thousands of years.
It basically says that if someone causes you physical harm, they become obligated to pay you for your injuries.
Today's laws governing medical malpractice cases here in NY are no different.
If a jury determines that your doctor was negligent and his negligence was a cause of your injury, then he becomes legally obligated to pay you money as the only way to compensate you for what he did.
(13) You know that you will always have a job, and therefore always have health insurance to help pay for your ongoing medical needs for the rest of your life
If you believe this, then I have a bridge to sell to you.
(14) You do not want your neighbors accusing you of bringing a "frivolous lawsuit."
This brings me back to what I said earlier- Do you really care what your neighbors think?
If the answer is 'yes' then you should not go forward with a lawsuit against your physician.
On the other hand, if the answer is 'no', then you need to reach out to an attorney immediately to see if you have a valid case.
(15) You know your doctor did something wrong, but you're just not the kind of person to sue, even though you are now blind because of the wrongdoing
Many immigrants feel this way.
They come to this Country with much gratitude for the opportunity to make a better life here in the United States, and especially here in New York.
Despite these feelings, every person in the State of New York, regardless of whether you are an immigrant or a lifelong resident of this great state has legal rights.
An injured victim's right to sue and seek monetary compensation is the fundamental backbone of our civil justice system.
Most people who call me to ask if they have a valid case tell me that "We're not the type of people to sue."
They tell me that "We've never sued anyone before!"
Is that going to keep you from going forward if you have a valid case?
Will the fact that you've never sued anyone before be your deciding factor whether you bring a lawsuit against your careless doctor?
Only you can decide that.
(16) The money you might receive will never make you "whole" again
In our civil justice system in NY, money is the only way that we as a society can compensate an injured victim.
We cannot put you back together again as if your injury never happened.
It may not be a perfect system, but it is the best system we have.
Go back to a childhood story we all know...Humpty Dumpty.
"All the kings men and all the kings horses couldn't put Humpty Dumpty together again."
We can't turn back the hands of time.
We can't go back and magically wave our wand and all your injuries will go away as if they never happened.
The only civil alternative to compensate you for your injuries is to make the person responsible pay you for those lifelong injuries.
(17) A lawsuit will not bring back your spouse
That is true.
However, it will compensate you and your family for her suffering and the pain she endured while alive.
It will compensate you and your family for the financial loss that your family suffered after your spouse died.
It will compensate your family for the loss of a wife, mother and friend.
Can you ever put a price on the value of a mother?
Can you ever put a price on the value of a mothers' love?
(18) "What good will the money do for me?"
See paragraph 17 above.
(19) "In my family, we don't do such things."
See paragraph 15 above.
(20) "I don't want this to happen to anyone else, but I'd feel bad suing my doctor."
Compensation is designed to have a two-fold effect...
(1) Compensate you for your actual damages and
(2) Compel the doctor to change his or her ways.
If your sole goal is to make sure that the doctor or hospital does not commit the same errors that caused you harm, then a lawsuit might not be the way for you to go.
Rather, you might want to file a complaint with the department of health and have them investigate to determine if there was wrongdoing.