Filing a medical malpractice lawsuit is a complex legal action, which requires finding an attorney, a physician, and working with other people involved in the case. In some cases, patients must try to find their way through the murky waters of the civil law during a time of suffering. This is not easy, but the rewards for a successful medical malpractice lawsuit can be significant. Here are the steps people will go through when bringing forth the charge of medical negligence.

Step 1: Select a qualified attorney
Because of the aspects of the case, there will likely be many technical details involved, and these cases should only be handled by attorneys who specialize in in this area. When considering a medical malpractice lawyer, patients should look for:

  • Extensive experience in these types of cases
  • Referrals from previous clients or colleagues
  • Professional certifications

Almost every city has attorneys that advertise in the area, and there are usually several listed in the phone book. People can consult that resource, as well as the internet, to find an appropriate attorney. The best recommendation, however, will come from a trusted attorney you may already know. Even a civic trial lawyer should be able to refer you to someone who is qualified to handle a medical malpractice lawsuit.

Step 2: Establish the Legal Elements
Every case of this type has four rudimentary elements:

  • Duty
  • Negligence
  • Injury
  • Causation

In most cases, establishing negligence and causation are the most difficult aspects of the case. The legal representative must use evidence and expert testimony to prove that someone failed to provide the appropriate care, and that failure to provide adequate care directly resulted in an injury. It can be extremely challenging to show negligence and causation, though.

Step 3: Obtain a Certificate of Merit
In order to restrict the number of cases that go before a state’s court system, most states require anyone who files this type of suit to first obtain a certificate of merit. Patients receive this certificate from a licensed physician who certifies that the case might include medical negligence. Usually patients go to the doctor their attorney recommends for this certificate.

Step 4: File the Suit and Notify Those Involved
The attorney will go through the formal steps to file the medical malpractice lawsuit, and he or she will make sure the defendants are notified. At this point in time, the doctor’s insurance company will have time to prepare a defense against the impending suit.

Step 5: Receiving a Settlement or Going to Court
The vast majority of suits brought against medical providers are settled out of court, so both parties can avoid the high expenses of a trial in court. Settling out of court assures the patient that he or she will receive some compensation, whereas there is no guarantee that a jury will side with the patient in court. However, settlements out of court are often lower than the amounts juries award patients who successfully argue their case in a courtroom. Ultimately, the patient and his or her attorney will have to decide which avenue would be the better option to pursue in the medical malpractice lawsuit.