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A caller to our office was upset because she had called a bunch of different law firms and nobody wanted to take her medical malpractice lawsuit. Rather than discuss what was wrong with her case, I thought it would be helpful to tell you what attorneys are typically looking for in order to take on a medical malpractice lawsuit. Note that despite public perception, these are very hard cases to bring and win so the best firms are very selective when it comes to taking on clients.
- Is it clear that you are a victim of negligence? Having a bad result with a doctor, nurse, etc. is not enough to bring a lawsuit. You have to show that they violated the acceptable standard of care and that what happened to you wasn’t just a risk of your situation. For example, getting an infection after surgery is usually a risk of a medical procedure. Not monitoring the heart rate of a baby about to be delivered is usually negligence.
- What is the long term outcome? A sad but true fact is that a doctor can screw up badly, but if you are going to make a great recovery or nothing bad actually happens to you, there likely isn’t a case. This is because a key factor in Illinois medical malpractice lawsuits is what are your damages? It’s very expensive to bring a lawsuit (often $200,000.00 or more) so if you don’t have life altering injuries such as death, paralysis, brain damage, permanent disability, etc., then it can cost more to take the case on than it’s worth. Lawyers also look for things like long term economic loss because you can’t work any more or cost for having to receive significant future medical care or help.
- Do you have any co-morbidities? A common defense to malpractice lawsuits is that the person was so sick that this was an expected outcome or their poor health increased the chances of a bad result. It may not sound nice, but it’s true. For example, if you weigh 550 pounds and have blood flow issues that you feel a doctor didn’t diagnose, the insurance company for the doctor will argue that they couldn’t have done much to change your outcome. If you have stage 4 cancer with a six-month life expectancy, if a doctor doesn’t properly diagnose a blood clot your damages would likely be limited due to your short life expectancy.
- What is your age? The honest truth is that the older you are, the harder it is to get a lawyer to take on a medical malpractice lawsuit. It’s not impossible, but very hard to find. You could be the healthiest 85 year old in the world, but even then your life expectancy is very short. That limits what any case could be worth. So as with the other examples, if the lawyer thinks they might spend more than they can win, they won’t take the case on.
- How much time do you have left to sue? Generally speaking, the closer you are to the statute of limitations for filing a lawsuit, the harder it will be to find an attorney. It takes six months to a year to pull most cases together. If a law firm takes on a case right before the deadline to file, they risk not identifying the right defendants and exposing themselves to legal malpractice.
- Have other reputable law firms reviewed the case and declined to take it? We’ve taken and won cases that other lawyers have rejected, but if a really good law firm has reviewed your case and declined to get involved, most law firms would be hesitant to get involved. It’s expensive to have these cases reviewed which again makes lawyers very selective.
Remember of course that every case is different and not every law firm has the same standards. In other words, it doesn’t hurt to ask. If you’d like to speak to an attorney for free, please contact us any time.