Medical Malpractice Frequently Ask Questions
When you visit the doctor or go to the hospital, you have the right to expect professional medical care. When a doctor makes a life-changing or life-threatening mistake, you have the right to hold them accountable for their negligence. Many people who suspect they were the victims of medical malpractice have a variety of questions, ranging from “what happened?” to “what should I do now?”
If you or your loved one was the victim of medical malpractice in the District of Columbia, you can find answers to some of the most frequently asked questions (FAQs) about these claims below. Do not hesitate to seek legal representation if you have other questions you need answers to.
The Law Offices of Dr. Michael M. Wilson, M.D., J.D. & Associates will work tirelessly to help you pursue all of the compensation you need and deserve. You can have our lawyers provide a complete evaluation of your case as soon as you call us or complete an online contact form to set up a free consultation.
What is a medical malpractice claim?
Medical malpractice occurs when a doctor, nurse, or other healthcare provider or facility’s negligence causes injury to a patient. Under the District of Columbia Code § 16–2801(2), a healthcare provider is defined as “an individual or entity licensed or otherwise authorized under District law to provide healthcare service.”
The statute lists several titles that are considered healthcare providers, including a physician, nurse practitioner, psychologist, hospital, nursing facility, hospice program, pharmacy, and many others. Examples of specific types of medical malpractice include spinal cord injuries, diagnosis errors, medication errors, surgical errors, doctor negligence, hospital negligence, birth injuries, bile duct injuries, and many more.
How do I choose a malpractice lawyer in Washington DC, and what questions should I ask?
When you are looking for an attorney to handle your medical malpractice claim in the District of Columbia, you will want to make sure that you are considering a lawyer who has extensive experience dealing with these kinds of issues. You may want to ask how many medical malpractice cases the firm has handled or is currently handling.
Dr. Michael M. Wilson has over 30 years of experience handling medical malpractice claims and the Law Offices of Dr. Michael M. Wilson, M.D., J.D. & Associates has recovered more than $100 million for its clients.
It is important to ask if the attorney handles medical malpractice cases on a contingency fee basis. When a lawyer does work on a contingency fee agreement, the victim does not pay anything unless and until they recover a monetary award.
People who are interviewing attorneys should also find out who their contact will be for the firms they are speaking to. Know who will be answering all of your future questions and addressing your concerns.
How much will a lawyer cost me? How do your fees work?
When you work with the Law Offices of Dr. Michael M. Wilson, M.D., J.D. & Associates, you pay nothing for your initial consultation, and you will not be charged any attorney’s fees unless and until you receive a financial award.
Most contingency fee agreements are set up such that an attorney will recover whatever expenses they incurred in pursuing the case and then take a predetermined percentage of the remaining award. The remainder goes to the victim. This means you never have to pay an attorney’s fee directly out of your pocket.
Contingency fee agreements are ideal for most people because they do not risk losing any money if their cases are not successful. District of Columbia Bar Rule of Professional Conduct 1.5(a) states that a lawyer’s fee must be reasonable, and one of the factors that will be considered in determining the reasonableness of a fee includes whether a fee is fixed or contingent.
Under the District of Columbia Bar Rule of Professional Conduct 1.5(c), a contingent fee agreement must be in writing and state the method by which the fee will be determined. This method needs to include any percentages that will accrue to the lawyer in the event of settlement, trial, or appeal.
The agreement also needs to specify any expenses that will be deducted from a victim’s recovery, whether those expenses will be deducted before or after the contingent fee is calculated, and whether the victim will be liable for expenses regardless of their case outcome.
What is “informed consent”?
The American Medical Association (AMA) states that informed consent to medical treatment “is fundamental in both ethics and law.” Informed consent refers to the process by which a healthcare provider obtains the permission of a patient to perform a medical procedure.
The AMA states that a physician should assess a patient’s ability to understand the medical information related to their situation as well as treatment alternatives. The patient should be able to make an independent, voluntary decision.
The physician should present the patient with all relevant information about the patient’s diagnosis, the nature, and purpose of recommended interventions, and the burdens, risks, and expected benefits of all possible options — including possibly the decision to forgo treatment. A physician should document their informed consent conversation and the patient’s decision. This is usually done through written consent.
In emergencies, a patient may not be able to make these types of decisions, and it will instead be that patient’s designated surrogate who consents to a medical procedure. When no surrogate is available, a physician can initiate emergency treatment without informed consent but should still obtain consent for any ongoing treatment.
Many people fear that signing informed consent agreements prohibits them from filing medical malpractice claims, but this is not how informed consent agreements work. Informed consent only shows that a patient agrees to a medical procedure, but it does not excuse healthcare providers who act negligently. It is also possible that despite the signed form, the patient was not properly informed about the risks of the procedure.
What are the steps of a medical malpractice lawsuit in Washington DC?
The first thing you should do when you learn that you were the victim of medical malpractice is immediately getting help from a qualified attorney for medical malpractice. Do not wait to contact the Law Offices of Dr. Michael M. Wilson, M.D., J.D. & Associates.
An attorney will then conduct an independent investigation of your accident to determine the cause, collect evidence, and identify all liable parties. Once this has been completed, the lawyer can file a lawsuit on your behalf.
In cases filed in the District of Columbia, the named parties enter into mediation. In a Maryland medical malpractice case, the named parties are given the option of pre-suit arbitration. Either of these processes could produce a settlement, but either could also result in continued litigation.
A case will generally move to discovery, which allows both the plaintiffs and defendants to exchange evidence. Throughout the litigation, the two sides will usually be negotiating a potential settlement to resolve the case.
If the case cannot be settled, then it will usually head to trial. At trial, medical malpractice needs to be proven by a preponderance of the evidence, meaning that the jury will rule in favor of the side with the greater weight of the evidence.
How long will the process take?
A medical malpractice action can often be a very lengthy process. You should generally assume that it will take at least one year to resolve your case, with many cases taking about 18 months.
It is essential to keep in mind that a medical malpractice case can involve numerous court appearances. Multiple motions may need to be filed, and insurance companies for negligent healthcare providers routinely find ways to delay these proceedings further.
Certain types of claims are more complex than others. If the very nature of your injury involves a highly complicated area of medicine, it may be more difficult to prove and require a much more stringent method of investigation.
In some cases, you could be subject to delays simply because the court is overworked. If you file a claim in a court already dealing with a number of medical malpractice cases, this can potentially slow down your case.
What types of damages could I recover in a medical malpractice claim?
If a settlement can be reached, the amount is usually intended to cover all of your past, present, and future expenses relating to your recovery. When a case does go to trial, a jury could award compensatory damages that are usually some combination of economic damages and noneconomic damages.
Economic damages are material losses that can be calculated, while noneconomic damages are much more subjective and cannot be easily quantified. Common economic damages include medical bills, lost income, and property damage. Noneconomic damages may consist of awards for pain and suffering, emotional distress, and loss of consortium.