It can be frightening enough on its own to go through a serious medical struggle. However, a doctor acting negligently or improperly on top of this experience can make things even worse.
But it happens more frequently than we like to think. Medical malpractice cases produce billions of dollars in payouts each year.
If you believe that your doctor has acted outside of the bounds of reasonable care, you might want to consider bringing a lawsuit forward against them.
How does this lawsuit work? First, you’ll need to work through the discovery process.
Read on and we’ll walk you through what the discovery process of a medical malpractice lawsuit looks like.
Defining Medical Malpractice
A medical malpractice case involves a situation in which a medical professional has acted (or failed to act) in a way that would match the expected quality of a care a patient could hope to receive.
There are a number of things a patient must prove if they hope to successfully bring a medical malpractice case forward.
Firstly, a patient must be able to prove that a professional relationship existed between themselves and the medical professional. There must be some sort of documentation or paperwork to prove this. Calling a friend who is a doctor and asking for advice and then suing them later for medical malpractice will not work.
The most important element of a medical malpractice case is negligent behavior on the part of the medical professional. A patient might believe that a doctor has acted in a way that is not congruent with the expected standards of medical care.
It’s important to note that the expected standards of care are not the same as a patient’s personal feelings.
One can’t sue for medical negligence just because they are unhappy with how a situation in the operating room turned out. They would need to be able to prove that the steps that were taken would not be acceptable in any professional’s eyes.
Last but not least, they’ll need to prove that some form of harm resulted from the negligent behavior. If no injury, pain, or harm arose from the doctor’s actions, it might be tough to get a medical malpractice claim to stick.
What Is the Discovery Phase?
Let’s say that you’re serious about bringing a medical malpractice case forward. You’ve hired a medical malpractice attorney and together you’re getting the case up and running. The discovery phase is the part of the process where you’ll be gathering the largest amount of information and evidence.
Just as you, the plaintiff, are developing your case at this point, so will the doctor and his defense. There are many different sources of information you and your attorney might look into at this point in time.
The law requires the plaintiff and defense to be generally forthright about the cases they are preparing. Requests for information from either party must be honored.
One of the first discovery devices that will be employed is known as interrogatories, which are written requests for basic information about the case from the opposing side.
They take the form of questions that must be answered by the opposing side in writing. These questions often cover the broad sense of a plaintiff or defense’s approach to a case: their theory, defenses, and the damages they think are in play.
In medical malpractice cases, this is often a popular moment to request the names of expert medical witnesses who might be called in to testify. We’ll talk more about these experts later.
The answers that each side of the lawsuit provides in response to interrogatories must be 100% accurate. Any sense of dishonesty might be enough to end a case. Parties have a legal obligation to inform the other party about changes or updates to their answers as a case progresses.
With this basic information in hand, each party can better prepare and strategize for the case.
Requests for Production
In medical malpractice cases, documentation surrounding the medical care provided to the patient can be a huge source of evidence for a case. How do the plaintiff and their attorney get their hands on these kinds of documents?
By issuing a request for production. This is another common discovery tactic used by both parties in a medical malpractice case, although most commonly the plaintiff. Often, documents such as medical records, x-rays, lab reports, and so forth are brought forward.
These can all be used as essential pieces of evidence in the oncoming court proceedings.
The last major discovery tool that occurs in medical malpractice cases is the deposition. This is when important individuals associated with the case (the patient and the doctor, at the very least) will be brought in to discuss the case under oath.
They will be interviewed by the opposed party’s attorney as information for the case is guarded. Prior to a deposition, an individual is usually coached by their own attorney as to what to say and what to avoid.
A deposition can be the key piece of evidence in a medical malpractice case depending on what is said and revealed.
Understanding the Discovery Process
The discovery process of a medical malpractice case is an essential part of the legal process. It’s important to understand what kind of information can arise from this phase if you hope to bring a lawsuit forward. The above information should provide you with everything you need to know.
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