Why Attorneys Are Selective With Medical Malpractice Cases
June 20, 2017
BY: Domhnall O'Cathain
The car crash happened five weeks ago. The first four weeks were filled up with doctors’ appointments and dealing with the bills that came in the door.
You knew that it would be good to see a lawyer at some point. Your sister recommended a lawyer with a reputation for winning big. So yesterday you took a half-day from work and went to the lawyer’s office with the police report, your medical records, and other paperwork.
The office staff was very pleasant. The reception area had lots of plaques. And they offered you coffee or tea while you filled out an information sheet.
Then you sat with the lawyer. He was very nice: understood how the accident happened, and was familiar with the areas of your body that hurt. He even spoke about your sister, nieces, and nephews.
Then he said something you didn’t expect:
“Unfortunately, we cannot help you.”
‘Can’t help me, why? My car was rear ended and I have a stack of bills on the desk here, right in front of me!’ Get a second opinion? ‘Damn right: I’m going to go find a real lawyer, a
bulldog, instead of wasting a half day on you!’
Why Personal Injury Lawyers Turn Down Cases
One of the hardest things for a personal injury attorney to do is to turn down a case.
We see people who are hurt and turn to a lawyer for help. If we tell them we cannot help, their emotions can vary from being thankful for our honesty to feeling insulted.
So why do we turn down cases? The first thing to understand is that personal injury lawyers work on a contingency fee, i.e. if the lawsuit is not successful, you don’t recover monies and we don’t get paid. We need to consider your chances of recovering, if the defendants have insurance, whether there are other things that might have caused the injury… like all businesses, we have staff and bills to pay.
Give me an example, you might say? Okay.
Sometimes It Just Doesn’t Make Sense
Let’s look at a potential medical malpractice case:
A patient goes to his primary care doctor with complaints of pain in his chest, a possible indication of a heart attack. The doctor sends him home telling him to call if anything goes wrong.
Later that night, he begins to sweat heavily and the chest pain gets more severe. His wife calls the ambulance and he is rushed to hospital where they stabilize him and save his life. The following day, the cardiologist at the hospital turned to him and said, “You should talk to a lawyer about that doctor of yours”.
Slam-dunk, right?! Not always.
Here is how an experienced medical malpractice lawyer will look at those facts:
The primary care doctor was probably negligent; however, the patient is still alive and got the treatment he would have received anyway, despite a 12-hour delay. That means that the ‘damages’ (12 hours of chest pain) is not worth the $25,000.00 that would have to be invested by the lawyer in a medical malpractice case like this. And that does not include the hundreds of hours of work. The cost of bringing medical malpractice cases and the tendency of jurors to favor doctors means that lawyers have to be very selective.
And what if you think the lawyer is wrong? Find out how much time you have to sue… and get a second opinion.
Experienced New Jersey Medical Malpractice Attorneys
The New Jersey personal injury attorneys at Lesnevich, Marzano-Lesnevich, Trigg, O’Cathain & O’Cathain, LLC are experienced with medical malpractice and a variety of other personal injury cases. Contact us today for a legal consultation.