Do you need a lawyer for your medical malpractice case in New York? Get the answer from Kingston, New York medical malpractice lawyer, John H. Fisher.
When it's alright to represent yourself in a malpractice case
Not all medical malpractice cases are multi-million dollar cases (in fact, few are). If you have a simple case with clear liability against a physician, it may make sense to represent yourself without paying a lawyer. Blasphemy, you say?
How about an example or two. A year after a hysterectomy you discover that a sponge was left in your abdomen by mistake during the operation. In your case, the sponge is a "foreign object", which means it wasn't supposed to be left there after the operation. You have a clearcut case of negligence against the surgeon and the nursing staff for failing to correctly account for all sponges before the surgical site was closed by the surgeon.
That's the good news. The not-so-good news (at least for your case) is that you have almost no injuries or damages that were caused by the sponge. Lawyers may have a lukewarm interest in your case since the recovery will be modest and the expenses of litigation are always high. You check around and few lawyers are interested in your case. Guess what? You may not need a lawyer.
How you can represent yourself in a malpractice claim
The first step in representing yourself is getting your medical records. You call the medical records department of the hospital and ask for your complete set of medical records relative to the admission for your surgery. Under New York's Public Health Law section 18, the hospital must provide you with a copy of your medical records, the opportunity to inspect the original chart, within ten (10) days of your written request. Once you have the medical records, you have proof that the physician and nurses were negligent by leaving a sponge, a/k/a the "foreign object", inside you after your operation.
The second step is contacting the Risk Management Department of the hospital. Every hospital will have a Risk Management Department whose sole job is to assess claims for personal injury. While the Risk Management Department rarely settles substantial cases over $100,000, you can bet they might be interested in settling smaller cases with evidence of obvious malpractice. The Risk Management Department saves loads of money by settling cases withou hiring an expensive defense attorney.
You can send a letter to the Risk Management Department setting forth a summary of what happened to you and a copy of your medical records. You can inform the Risk Management Department that you will give them the opportunity to call you to discuss a settlement of your case before you retain legal counsel. Now, there's a phone call you will likely receive!
How do you know what your case is worth?
Chances are, you don't. Heck, you didn't go to law school, study for the bar exam and litigate countless malpractice cases. So what! No one knows better than you what you lived with and in the case of the "foreign object", you may have almost no harm to you.
The best way to place a value on your case is to check with a personal injury lawyer you know. If you have a friend or a family member with connections to a malpractice lawyer, use your connections for a 15 minute phone chat. If you find a friendly lawyer on the phone, you will get an educated opinion about the value of your case. This is how you place a settlement value on your claim.
How do you negotiate your own settlement?
Once you have a value for your case, you're ready to speak with the Risk Management Department of the hospital. Don't be shy about asking for money--if you don't ask, you won't get. If the Risk Management Department won't agree to pay the bottom line you established for your case, they are making your job real simple: NOW, it's time to get a lawyer for your case.
If you have questions, I welcome your phone call
If you have any questions, or want more information, I welcome your phone call on my toll-free cell at 866-889-6882 or you can request a FREE copy of my book at the home page of my website at www.protectingpatientrights.com. If you know someone you think might find this article of interest, I encourage you to share it with them.