Medical malpractice cases are often the most challenging and complicated types of personal injury claims. Unlike a car accident, the material facts that form the foundation of a medical malpractice claim are outside the common sphere of knowledge of most people. Proving that a drunk driver was negligent when they crashed into a car stopped at a traffic light is much easier to understand than demonstrating that a surgeon failed to adhere to an accepted standard of medical care when performing a delicate and dangerous procedure.
At Rice, Murtha & Psoras, our team brings years of experience to the table. If you are going to trial in a medical malpractice case, you want a firm representing you with the knowledge and resources to handle complex litigation. Our attorneys provide professional and aggressive representation.
To discuss your case, call Rice, Murtha & Psoras’ Baltimore medical malpractice attorneys today at (410) 694-7291.
Trial Preparation for a Baltimore, MD Medical Malpractice Claim
The entire body of work our Baltimore medical malpractice lawyers engage in prior to a medical malpractice case going to trial could be considered preparation. However, there are some specific aspects of preparation that will not happen until a trial date is set.
A key component in a medical malpractice trial is the expert witnesses each side will use to support their claim. Generally, both the defendant and plaintiff must disclose the expert medical witnesses that they will call to testify at trial. In medical malpractice cases, these include physicians, medical technicians, surgeons, nurses, and other medical professionals, depending on the type of malpractice and the injuries sustained.
In many medical malpractice cases, the plaintiff will be called to testify on their own behalf.
In addition to exchanging this information, each side will prepare a trial brief that concisely presents their arguments for the presiding judge. Also, each side will likely prepare a set of potential jury instructions that could be used at the end of the trial. This article will serve as your guide to the entire legal process of a medical malpractice lawsuit from when you first consult with an attorney all the way through trial.
The Discovery Process in a Baltimore, MD Medical Malpractice Trial
Once a complaint has been filed and the case commences, the discovery process begins. During this process, each side is permitted to request evidence, information, documents, and other related materials from the other side. This could be accomplished by sending written questions, or interrogatories, to opposing counsel. Witnesses and parties of interest could also be formally questioned under oath during a deposition.
The process is used to evaluate the merits of your case. In some situations, if the discovery process produces additional evidence to support your claim, a settlement could be offered to avoid proceeding further with the trial.
Discovery takes up the bulk of pre-trial situations. It is not unusual for discovery in litigation to take years.
Interrogatories and Requests for Production
One of the most critical parts of the discovery process is when each side’s lawyers send each other requests for information. These requests are called interrogatories or requests for production, depending on what the request is for.
Interrogatories are requests for information. Generally, a lawyer will be looking for individuals with special knowledge about a subject and where they can be contacted. Lawyers tend to ask for information about the other side’s experts or witnesses they intend to be involved in the case in interrogatories.
Requests for production are requests for material things. In a medical malpractice case, medical records, health forms, and hospital bills could all be asked for in a request for production. Electronically stored information is also frequently asked for in requests for production. Email correspondence between a party and someone else could be useful to a case.
Interrogatories and requests for production generally cast a very wide net. The idea is that some of the requests will likely be denied by opposing counsel, but you will get most of the information you want from the other side. There are several reasons why you might want to withhold information. Some information is considered “privileged” and is not fair game in the discovery process. A common example of such information is any discussions between you and your lawyer since that would fall under attorney-client privilege.
Doctor-patient privilege is usually waived in malpractice cases, since your communications with your doctor and the treatment they provided (or failed to provide) are the core issue in the case.
If one side is being difficult or obstructive in the discovery process by withholding information, they can be penalized by the court and, in extreme cases of uncooperativeness, lose the case outright.
Depositions are another lengthy part of the discovery process. Interrogatories and requests for production generally involved communication between lawyers. The parties just provide information. In a deposition, however, opposing counsel and your lawyer will be interacting with you, as well as other people involved in the case, directly.
You, your lawyer, the opposing lawyer, and a professional recorder will be present when you are deposed. The recorder will transcribe everything that is said during the deposition. Sometimes, a lawyer might ask to go “off the record” temporarily. This could be for a reason as mundane as someone needing to use the restroom, but it also could be for a private conversation between the lawyers to clarify a point that does not need to be on the record.
That being said, everything you say during a deposition will be on the record, and you will be under oath during the deposition. The best thing you can do is answer every question honestly and as best you can. Any attempt to mislead opposing counsel will be found out eventually, and it will hurt your case.
The questions will generally start simple. Opposing counsel will usually ask you your name and what you do for a living to get you acclimated to the deposition process. However, the questioning will quickly turn to the matter of your medical malpractice case.
After opposing counsel has finished questioning you, your own lawyer will get to ask you questions. The other side’s lawyer is trying to get information from you that will win him the case. Your own lawyer questioning you gives them a chance to clarify the information you gave and frame it in a way that is more favorable to your case. If opposing counsel wants to ask yet more follow-up questions after your lawyer has finished, they will. This back-and-forth will continue until both parties have no further questions for you.
A single deposition can take hours, and this process is carried out for every witness who will take the stand, every medical expert, and any other relevant people involved in the case.
Expert Medical Witnesses in Baltimore, MD Malpractice Trials
Medical expert witnesses are neutral parties who are relied upon at trial to explain integral details that could impact the outcome of the case. At trial, both the defendant and plaintiff will call on expert witnesses to offer their opinions and review aspects of the cases, establish the acceptable standard of medical care, and attempt to ascertain whether the defendant’s conduct or inaction constitutes medical negligence.
Your side’s expert will likely argue that the defendant did not live up to a professional medical standard and that their negligence caused your injuries. The defendant’s medical expert will likely argue that the defendant upheld the medical standard of care and is not liable. Both your lawyer and the defense lawyer will get to examine and cross-examine both experts on the stand. If all goes well, your expert’s testimony will be more compelling to the jury in this so-called “battle of experts” and help your case.
Depending on the case, an expert witness could be a general practitioner or a specialist in a particular medical field. For example, our Baltimore medical malpractice lawyers might rely on the testimony of anesthesiologists, obstetricians, surgeons, or emergency room specialists to support your negligence claim.
Settlement Negotiations in Baltimore, MD
If, after the discovery phase and the testimony from both sides’ medical experts, it is determined that the case has merit, the negotiation phase beings. At this point, each side will evaluate the legal and persuasive strength of their position. More often than not, if the facts appear to support the plaintiff’s claim, the legal defense team will look to enter into a settlement.
The defense attorneys will try and minimize their client’s liability. From a practical standpoint, the defense is attempting to lower the amount of damages their client will be required to pay while trying to avoid the expense of an ongoing trial.
Our Hartford County medical malpractice lawyers will consider the legal strength of your case, along with its value, to weigh the appropriateness of the settlement offer. If the settlement is unreasonable, we will suggest continuing the trial. However, as with every decision, though our office offers advice and guidance, the final decision is made by our client.
Court cases, especially medical malpractice cases, are lengthy, expensive, and impossible to predict with certainty. Therefore, many cases settle out of court. Medical malpractice cases are even more likely to settle. The unfortunate reality is that most medical malpractice cases that do go to trial result in a win for the defendant (although, of course, no outcome is guaranteed). Our job as your attorney is to get you a “win.” That means you get all the compensation you need for your medical malpractice injuries. Sometimes, a settlement might be the best way to accomplish that goal.
When neither party is interested in settling, the case continues.
If a settlement cannot be reached, a trial date will be scheduled. However, it is possible that your trial will not begin on that date. It could be rescheduled because of a court conflict or by request. Additionally, during this time, both sides might continue to negotiate. In many cases, a defendant will offer a more reasonable settlement as the trial date approaches.
The Jury in Baltimore, MD Medical Malpractice Trials
At trial, both sides will present their arguments, witnesses, and evidence. The medical experts present their professional opinions and further explain the complex evidence that was presented. Each side will have the ability to ask their witnesses questions and cross-examine the opposing side’s witnesses. At the conclusion, each side will present their closing argument, summing up the body of evidence.
The jury will then evaluate the evidence and debate amongst themselves to determine if the defendant’s actions or inaction were negligent and if such negligence was the cause of the plaintiff’s injuries. If the jury determines medical malpractice occurred, they will award the plaintiff monetary compensation for their injuries and losses.
Experienced Baltimore Medical Malpractice Trial Lawyers Offering Free Case Reviews
Call our medical malpractice lawyers at Rice, Murtha & Psoras at (301) 381-4617 today for a free case review.