One of the most important phases in the process of a medical malpractice case is discovery. Discovery is done in any legal case, whether it is criminal or civil. However, the process of discovery is different, depending on the nature of the case. For medical malpractice claims, the process can be arduous. Hospitals and doctor's offices can sometimes be uncooperative with presenting attorneys with records. These institutions are business-oriented, and may not always be patient friendly, especially during a medical malpractice claim. This can lengthen the claims process, and thereby extend the time it will take you to get the compensation you are owed. One way to prevent this can be done before you even consult with an attorney. There are a number of steps that can be taken prior to even filing a case that will help your attorney to help you.
Prior To A Baltimore Medical Malpractice Case
When you enter the operating room, or head to the hospital for an emergency, you have no idea whether or not you will come out unharmed. In fact, at times you may not even know you've been harmed until several years down the line. Whenever you engage with any medical professional or are admitted to any hospital, it is important to keep track of your records. This is a helpful practice even if you leave the operating room completely unharmed. While keeping track of your medical records is something everyone should be doing, when it comes down to medical malpractice, medical records are of utmost importance. Whenever you are provided any medical records, you should make copies of them, and possibly even store them digitally. This keeps them safe for later use in case you find yourself becoming the victim of medical malpractice later on.
Things To Hold On To After Your Care Is Done
There are several important elements to building a medical malpractice case, one of which is gathering evidence. When you are considering building a case, or just to keep proper records in general, you may want to hold on to the following:
- X-Rays: An x-ray image is a great way to show your lawyer, and possibly even a jury, your injuries. In a medical malpractice case, it can also show the carelessness of surgeons who leave sponges, or even sometimes surgical instruments, inside of their patients.
- Prescriptions: Due to the disjointed nature of the healthcare system, when you receive a prescription for a medication, there are several steps in the process that can interfere with the post-care medication you receive. If you receive the wrong medications, consequences can be dire. In one case of egregious malpractice, a woman received the wrong medication, which resulted in her death. Retaining your prescriptions for your post-hospital home care medications can be used to demonstrate negligent hospital discharging.
- Bills: Any and all medical bills can be helpful for determining compensatory economic damages. This will give you and your attorney a jumping-off point to begin discussing what damages to seek for your case. High medical bills can also be used in the courtroom to help influence the jury.
- Lab Reports: Lab reports are important documents that doctors use to make decisions on treatments. You will likely be given a copy of these results as well. Holding on to your lab results can be beneficial to you and your attorney when the time comes. Lab results can be analyzed in court by expert medical witnesses, that may have different opinions on what should have been done.
- Descriptions Of Injuries/Illnesses: When you are first admitted into a hospital, doctors will make use of a description to see what you can properly be diagnosed with, as well as whether or not surgery is necessary. In court, your attorney can use expert medical witnesses to examine these descriptions and see what decisions should have been made.
Holding on to any and all documents you receive from the hospital or doctor's office will save time in the long run. Be sure to store these documents and any copies of them in a safe place, or to make digital copies for easy access. The more you bring to your attorney at the initial consultation, the less you and your attorney will need to fight with hospitals and any of their third party record keeping agencies to get the records you need. If your treatment center has made use of a third party record keeping agency, it may hinder you and your attorney's progress on building the case. When you go in for your initial medical malpractice consultation, bring as much information as you can. The more information you have to start with, the easier it will be in the long run.
Of course, even if you don't have all the documentation from the start, you can still build a case. Your attorney will be able to assist you in getting the documentation that you need for your case. This is a crucial step in the civil litigation process. This step is commonly referred to as "discovery."
Techniques For Discovery
There are several different techniques that your attorney will use when going through the discovery process. Your lawyer will be familiar and well-versed in utilizing these techniques to help build your case. It is important to remember that the more information that you and your attorney start with, the more effective each of these steps will be. Evidence used in cases will often continue to build as the investigation and discovery processes continue. During discovery, you may see your attorney make use of one or more of the following techniques:
A deposition is a form of pre-trial witness testimony. The witness is placed under oath outside of a courtroom setting, with attorneys from both side present. Even though the attorneys are present, they may not interfere (for example by objecting to a line of questioning) with the deposition process. This means that all coaching and advising must be done prior to a deposition. These depositions are used to help gather information to further the discovery process, and in rare circumstances, they may appear in court. Witnesses from the initial depositions are likely to appear at a trial. If they cannot attend, their deposition may be admitted, depending on the circumstances. Depositions may also come up when the facts of the deposition is in direct contradiction to what the witness testifies to in court. Depositions are usually done in person, and are often recorded electronically and/or by stenographer. The witness who is being deposed is not welcome to any help or coaching from their lawyer during the deposition.
Interrogatories are a form of questioning done in writing. These are most often sent to the opposing party who will then, with the help of their attorney, answer the questions and return them to your attorney. Interrogatories require a great deal of care in their composition, as the defendant will be answering with counsel. Responses to interrogatories from the defense can also be done with the help of your own attorney. Depending on your state, there may be specific limits on how many questions may be included in an interrogatory. Interrogatories will help you and your attorney better prepare your case.
Requests For Production
If you do not have all medical records necessary for building your case, you should be able to request them from the healthcare provider holding them. Sometimes, this process can be simple and quick. Other times, this process can be lengthy, drawn out, and altogether frustrating. Hospitals and doctor's offices often make use of third party record keepers. These entities often slow down the process of obtaining the documents that you need for your case. On top of this, they are likely to try and assess egregious fees for generating copies of these documents. With the help of your attorney, you can demand that your care provider surrender the medical records relevant to your case in a timely manner. This process is known as a request for production. These requests often go to the healthcare provider advising them of the on-going litigation and the demand for the record. Along with the demand, the request should also include a time frame for the file to be released. While these requests may take some time, you may find that when your attorney makes a demand, the hospital will suddenly become more compliant. Requests for production are incredibly helpful during the discovery phase, however, to save you and your attorney time, the more information you are able to start with, the stronger your case will be.
Sometimes, the hospital or the defense will claim that the specific records are unavailable for release due to their nature. If this happens, a brief hearing will be held to discuss the admissibility of this file. If the judge rules in your favor, the hospital or other care provider must release the file into the court record. The defense, or the healthcare provider's own attorney, will be present to try to thwart your attorney's attempts to obtain these records. The court can rule in either party's favor, and sometimes crucial pieces of evidence can be gained or lost in this process. Through an admissibility hearing, your attorney may be able to get key pieces of evidence brought into the courtroom for the trial. Or, if the defense has something that they may be able to bring up against you, if an admissibility hearing is held, your attorney may be able to stop the defense in their tracks by getting the judge to deny the item's admissibility.
The Importance Of Preparing Your Information For Your Medical Malpractice Attorney
Even though your attorney will help you every step of the way, the defense will stop at nothing to prevent you from getting the compensation you are owed. Between stonewalling tactics used at hospitals, to high-stakes admissibility hearings, your attorney will need to fight the defense, and healthcare providers for every inch of ground once the case is filed and the discovery process begins. A capable attorney will not have a problem dealing with these issues; however, a great amount of time and effort can be put to better uses by having all of your information organized and ready at your consultation. You and your attorney can work together to sift through what information can be a strong point in the case, as well as work together on determining what the next steps that can be taken are. Generally speaking, the more information that you and your attorney have at the start, the easier it will be as the case progresses.
If you or a loved one has been the victim of medical malpractice, don't wait - talk to a skilled and experienced medical malpractice attorney at Gilman and Bedigian today.