Does Your Lawyer Think Like a Doctor?

Nov 25, 2019 | Compensation, Damages, Health Care Systems, Medical Cases

Your personal injury lawyer should, if You Want to Win Your Medical Malpractice Case

If you’ve experienced a surgical error, or a life-altering misdiagnosis, you want to have a skilled lawyer on your side. That’s obvious. 

But what makes for a good lawyer on a medical malpractice case? That may not be as clear to the average client seeking help.

So we wanted to offer some insight into the inner workings of these types of lawsuits, so that you can choose wisely when selecting your attorney and boost the chances of a favorable outcome for your case. 

Because that first step — selecting your lawyer — could very well be the most important decision you make in the aftermath of your injury. It can mean the difference between a multi-million dollar victory and a case that is outright dismissed, if it is filed at all. And you deserve the former. 

Does Your Personal Injury Lawyer Know the Medicine?

So back to that first question we asked: What makes for a good medical malpractice attorney? In a nutshell, you want a lawyer who knows how doctors think — or at least how they should think.

By that, we mean you want to hire someone who has more than just a cursory knowledge of the medical field. 

Your lawyer should be able to critically examine the facts of the case and meticulously question the type of care that was provided. 

That requires more than just a careful reading of the case file. It requires more than just long phone calls with medical experts. It means your lawyer should know what the records mean, and not just what they say. 

Frankly, they need to collaborate with the experts as much as learn from them.. 

Now, we are not claiming to be doctors, or to have medical degrees. We have a lot of friends who are doctors and do not want to understate how much goes into obtaining an M.D. 

Clinical judgment is also a tough thing to second guess. 

But we have examined and successfully tried enough of these medical malpractice claims to at least say that we are experts on medical cases. And that’s what you want to look for when hiring your lawyer. 

A Medical Malpractice Lawyer Who Thinks Like a Doctor is One Step Ahead

What do we mean by this?

Well, if you are dealing with a skilled and experienced medical malpractice attorney it will be obvious from the outset. 

When you tell the lawyer you have cauda equina syndrome, they won’t have to look it up. They’ll be able to ask you right away about the symptoms you are experiencing. 

And when you start describing the medical treatment you received, they’ll be able to quickly identify red flags.

Most importantly, when it comes time to examine your medical record, they’ll know how to spot errors, lapses or inconsistencies, no matter how complex the case. 

Now, some lawyers might be content to have their experts do this.

But let’s be honest — what neurosurgeon at Stanford or oncologist at Johns Hopkins is going to go through a lawyer’s case line by line to tell them what they should be looking for?

Besides, doctors aren’t trained to think like lawyers..

A skilled attorney will have already identified problem areas and will be able to bring the expert’s attention to it. From there, the expert can weigh in and direct the lawyer as he or she continues to pry open the case, providing instructive medical literature and suggesting cross-examination questions for the defense witnesses.  

That’s good lawyering. It’s how cases get won.

Digging into the Medical Records

Let’s look at an example. 

Say the client is paralyzed from an undiagnosed epidural abscess.

The lawyer’s job is to determine whether it was missed because of negligence.

An epidural abscess is an infection that forms between the bones of the spine and lining of the spinal cord. It typically presents as a triad of symptoms: back pain, fever and an abnormal neurologic exam.  

The ER chart shows that while the client presented with back pain, they didn’t have a fever and their neuro exam is charted as normal. A less experienced lawyer might stop at that point, and tell the client that they don’t have a case.

But a well-qualified attorney will know to push further. They’ll consider the fact that people with severe back pain will often take Tylenol or Motrin for it. That can mask a fever.  

Did the nurses ask the question about prior medication? Did the client tell them that? Is there evidence that the doctor took that into account?  

That’s a classic example of a lawyer thinking like a doctor. 

What about the location of the back pain? If it’s in the lumbar spine, it’s reasonable to consider potential orthopedic causes of that injury — the client hurt it while engaged in a physical activity; slept on it wrong; maybe something else.  

But what if it’s in the thoracic spine? What caused it? There’s no joint there, so it’s not pain which would be caused by any type of motion or overuse. It’s far more likely that an infection is the source.

A lawyer who is thinking like a doctor will arrive at that. 

So it’s not just seeing that back pain is charted — it’s knowing what questions the doctor should be asking about the specific location and therefore potential source of that pain.

Find the Right Treatment

The lesson here is simple: make sure you hire someone who has more than just a law degree, but also the knowledge and experience to ferret out the truth in a field that can be incredibly complex. 

We can assure you, if you hire us, that’s the kind of treatment your case will receive. 

Just ask our clients. 

Even as many lawyers are turning away from the complexity of medical malpractice litigation, we continue to take action against doctors and other medical professionals who fail to uphold prevailing standards of care. Our reputation compels opponents to take us seriously, and our case-building skills enable us to pursue sizable compensation with confidence.

If you or a loved one has been victimized by a serious medical mistake with life-changing or fatal consequences, please contact us for a thorough, informed evaluation of your potential legal case.

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