You suspect that your doctor has done something wrong, and that has caused you significant injury and loss. Now, when you go to an attorney, the attorney says that before he starts investigating your case, he wants you to obtain your medical records and deliver them to him. Is this the right thing for the lawyer to ask of you, and is this the normal procedure?
What is the Normal Procedure?
If you have what sounds like a valid medical malpractice case, the attorney who is evaluating your case will have to do many things. The attorney will ask you to sign permission slips, which will enable him to attain copies of your medical records. The attorney will also make you sign a retainer agreement, which means you are giving him permission to go ahead and investigate your case. Once you have done this, the attorney is going to invest whatever time and resources are necessary to obtain your medical records, and get these records over to a medical expert to attain a full evaluation. This evaluation will determine:
1. Whether there were violations of basic standards of medical care
2. Whether such violation resulted in your injuries
3. Whether the injuries you suffered were significant or permanent
In New York, before a medical malpractice lawsuit can be filed, a medical expert has to confirm each one of these three elements. The expert’s confirmation would mean you have a genuine basis for a case and you can proceed with the lawsuit.
Should be Locating Your Own Medical Records?
When you go to a medical malpractice attorney, he may tell you that he is not sure whether you have a case, and he could ask you to spend your time, effort, and resources to go to the doctor’s office or hospital and get your medical records yourself.
This means the attorney does not want to pay for this, out of his own pocket, and wants you to bear the expense and trouble. Suppose you manage to get the records, the attorney might ask you to pay him the fee that the medical expert is going to charge for reviewing and evaluating your records. Now, the question is: should you be doing all this?
What do Astute Attorneys Do?
Well, there can be number of different answers to this question. However, more importantly, you will find that the most experienced medical malpractice attorneys who take up these types of cases on a regular basis will:
1. They will screen your call to determine whether there is a possibility of a valid case
2. If they determine there is a possibility of a valid case, you will be invited to their office, and they will spend a solid deal of time with you learning more details about your case
3. If after the detailed discussion they feel you may have a valid case, they will request you to issue them permission to retrieve your medical records
4. The attorney’s office will then invest whatever is necessary to obtain your medical records and have your records properly evaluated by a medical expert they have worked with before and therefore trust
Therefore, stellar medical malpractice lawyers will pay for all this because it is an investment for them. If an attorney asks you to get your own medical records they may not be convinced you have a viable case. This does not mean they do not trust you it just means your case is not jumping out at them as a winnable case. If you decline their request, that tells them that you may have some doubts too. If you do accept their request, then they will study your medical records when you deliver them to the law firm and they will give you some honest feedback on whether your case is winnable or most likely not.