Many people attempt to settle their legal cases on their own because they aren’t sure if they need a lawyer and they don’t want to pay legal fees. While there are some straightforward cases involving minor injuries that may be okay to settle without the help of an attorney, most medical malpractice cases require the help of a skilled lawyer due to the complexity of the law.
Be Aware of the Risks of Settling on Your Own
If you are thinking about settling a medical malpractice claim on your own, you need to be aware of the risks involved when you work without a lawyer, including the following:
- Not receiving the full value of your claim. Insurance companies for the hospital or the doctor involved in your case will want you to talk to their insurance agents as soon as possible in an attempt to get you to settle quickly. They do this to prevent you from hiring a lawyer who could help increase the value of your claim. A knowledgeable lawyer will know how to strengthen your claim to get you the most compensation possible. For example, if you accept a quick settlement before your full injuries are known, it can prevent you from collecting further compensation down the road. An attorney would know this and would know what your case is truly worth. By working with a lawyer instead of attempting to settle your case on your own, you can rest assured that you will get the right amount of money to pay for your medical bills as well as to compensate you for your pain and suffering.
- Not being aware of the statute of limitations. Statutes of limitation basically refer to the deadline by which a lawsuit must be filed. In Virginia, medical malpractice victims have two years to file a lawsuit or else the claim is permanently barred. Since the statute of limitations is fairly short and unforgiving, it is critical that an injured person know about this law or else a case could get dismissed for not having been filed within the two-year window. This is one benefit to hiring an attorney who has experience handling medical malpractice cases. Not only will an experienced lawyer know when the clock starts and when the time limit will expire, but an attorney also knows if there are any special circumstances that could extend the length of time. Most people would not know how to put more time on the clock and what would constitute a situation in which the statute of limitations could be extended. For instance, if a foreign object was left inside a person during surgery, the patient has a year from the date the object was discovered to file a claim—even if it has been longer than two years since the original surgery. There are other situations in which the time period to file a lawsuit can be extended, such as in the case of a cancer misdiagnosis. Because the time limitations may be determined by the specific facts of a case, it is always best to consult an attorney before pursuing a claim on your own.
- Not knowing the procedural requirements. There are certain actions that have to be taken and procedures that are required before you can file a medical malpractice claim. Before you can begin negotiating for fair compensation for your injuries, one pre-suit requirement is to get a certificate of merit. A certificate of merit (or an affidavit of merit) is a document signed by a medical expert that validates the merit of your claim. This means that a medical expert reviewed your medical records and case facts and agrees that the medical provider deviated from the standard of care in your case and that the deviation was the cause of your injuries. If you don’t have a certificate of merit before attempting to negotiate with the negligent party, the other side will dismiss your case or will assume you aren’t serious about taking them to court. Consequently, they may offer you a very low settlement offer or nothing at all.
Because medical malpractice cases can be complicated, the first step you should take is to talk with a lawyer who has successfully handled medical malpractice cases. We would be honored to review your case and provide you with feedback in a free no-obligation consultation. Contact us online or give us a call to learn more about your rights.