The law is so broad and expansive that attorneys often have their own areas of concentration or interest. Medical malpractice is a sub-specialty of negligence law. Hiring a qualified attorney who focuses on medical malpractice or birth injury law can be crucial to the ultimate success of an injured child’s case. Finding an attorney with a commitment to birth injury law who is dedicated to finding answers and solutions is critical to a successful process.
Stern Law, PLLC exclusively tries cases of birth injury resulting from medical negligence. We have been protecting the rights of injured mothers and children for over 30 years. For more information about our extensive experience, please call (800) 462-5772 for a free, no-obligation case assessment.
Steps in obtaining an attorney’s legal services include:
- Participate in an initial consultation
- Obtain a Medical Legal Review
- Check the statute of limitations
- Gather medical records
- Agree on a retainer and fee agreement
- Signing a medical release, if required
Participate in initial consultation
The decision to hire a specific attorney to assist a parent in redressing serious harm to a child should be made only after careful consideration. Contracting an attorney is forming a partnership, of sorts, in which active participation on both sides is necessary to the ultimate success of the undertaking. Attorneys devote careful consideration into whether they will accept or decline the case. Internal review, by an attorney or law firm staff member, and an external review by doctors or nurses, is generally required to properly assess a case’s merit.
An initial consultation can help parents decide whether to contract for legal services and under what terms. For more information on the initial consultation process, refer to “Initial consultation” on this website.
Obtain a Medical Legal Review
A Medical Legal Review by Stern Law, PLLC or a Law Firm Affiliate regarding the circumstances surrounding the cause of a child’s condition is an initial step in determining whether a family can pursue Lifetime Benefits through a court of law. During this step, a staff member gathers preliminary information which will allow the firm to better understand whether a child may qualify for Lifetime Benefits. The review is provided at no expense to potential clients, and it can help parents understand what caused a child’s injury.
In reviewing the medical information, an attorney will search for evidence of injury and negligence that can be presented in a court of law. To be successful in a birth injury claim, the attorney must prove on the client’s behalf that the standard of care was violated due to the defendant’s act, or omission of an act, and because of that, the child was harmed. The value of compensation is determined on a case-by-case basis, based upon an ability to prove the severity of injury, the duration of injury, and the current and projected expenses related to the injuries.
Check the statute of limitations
Before any litigation can be initiated, it must be determined whether the time limit on filing suit has expired. In the case of medical malpractice, the statute of limitation prevents a person from filing a law suit after a specific amount of time has passed since the injuring event. States have differing rules on the statute of limitations. Some states only provide one year from the time of birth, while others extend the time period until a person’s 21st birthday, or beyond. A complicating factor is that some states start the clock running at the time of injury while others do not start the countdown until the injury was discovered.
Statutes of limitation, in essence, protect the defendants whose ability to defend themselves effectively diminishes as time passes because documents are not kept forever, memories fade, and evidence becomes harder to collect and validate. This is why it is imperative to contact an attorney as soon as possible so that a child’s rights are preserved.
Gather medical records
A patient’s records may contain doctor notes, nurse documentation, medical history, lab tests, lab reports, screens, examinations and evaluations. Lists of medications, interactions, and dosage levels are maintained. Medical providers also obtain records from other health care providers and use the materials as a basis for diagnosis or care. Billing and insurance documents are also maintained in a client’s records.
Typically, the medical provider who provides the care maintains the records. Hospitals maintain their own records.
A patient can gain access to the following medical records:
- Any information provided to them about you by any doctor if that information was used to diagnose or treat
- Diagnostic lab tests (blood, urine, ultrasounds, fetal heart strips, CT scans, or MRIs)
- Physician notes
- Test results
In most states medical records are only required to be kept for a specified number of years by the medical professional who originally ordered or prescribed the medical care being requested. States differ in their guidelines. After that point they can either place them in storage or have them destroyed. Some opt to keep the records if care is still ongoing.
Providers typically keep child records for 3 to 10 years beyond the age of 18 or 21, whereas they are only required to keep adult medical records for six years or more after last visit. These guidelines vary by state.
There are important variables that apply to the length of time a physician may choose to retain their records. State and federal laws apply, but medical boards and physician associations also make recommendations. Typically the provider will keep the records to comply with the strictest guidelines that apply to them and their circumstances.
Agree to a retainer and fee structure
When contracting an attorney, fee structures and payment requirements should be fully understood and agreed upon in writing. Legal firms generally require three documents to contract for their services. This allows the law firm to begin working on the behalf of a client, and resolves all questions about what services will be provided.
As part of its services, the law firm will ask clients to enter into:
- Retainer agreement
- Fee agreement
- Medical records release
Fee agreements will stipulate how expenses will be handled. These expenses are generally thought to be outside the realm of attorney services, but are necessary to successfully litigate a case.
In addition to the costs of the case, the fee structure should outline when and how any required payment is to be made.
Sign a medical release
Federal law mandates that individuals have access to most of their personal medical records. HIPAA protects the client’s privacy when it applies to health information, while providing a degree of access to a minor child’s records. According to HIPAA, the person requesting the information must be the patient, parent, or legal guardian to obtain medical records. As an alternative, a patient can provide written permission that allows their medical provider to release a copy of the medical records to the attorney for review.
The process of contracting an attorney to represent you in a birth injury claim is about evaluating prospective lawyers and determining whether or not their services meet your needs. To learn more about Stern Law, PLLC, please call (800) 462-5772 to arrange a free consultation.