It happens – doctors make mistakes. Not frequently, but it does happen. Tests that should have been ordered…are not ordered. Injuries occur during surgery (including an operation on the wrong appendage…yes, had the case… it happens). When a doctor deviates from the Standard of Care for a patient, and that patient is injured, you may have a right to pursue compensation in the legal system.
A NEUTRAL DOCTOR MUST CERTIFY MALPRACTICE
In Virginia, you don’t simply sue a doctor. There are safeguards to make sure that only legitimate disputes wind up in a lawsuit. And you must certify, in accordance with Virginia Code 8.01-20.1 that you obtained the opinion of a doctor who states that malpractice occurred before you can serve a lawsuit.
DO I NEED A LAWYER?
You couldn’t need one more, although no lawyer can ethically tell you that you are required to have an attorney.* Medical negligence is highly technical, sophisticated litigation. And if you do have a case, your lawyer will – because it is required by law – hire a doctor to review the case and serve as an expert witness. This is high-stakes litigation for everyone involved, and these suits are vigorously defended.
* See LEO 1750.
More than you might expect. As a very, very brief summary, your lawyer will first have to prove a breach of the standard of care by the defendant doctor with expert testimony from other doctors in that same field. This requires experienced, well-regarded physicians, whose time is very valuable. And your lawyer will have to prove damages.
MEDICAL MALPRACTICE IS SUBJECT TO CAPPED DAMAGES
Even if you sue a doctor and win, the laws of Virginia limit the recovery to a staggered, gradually increasing amount. Click here for the statute. These caps tend to harm catastrophically injured people most, but it is unfortunately the law of the Commonwealth.
BASIC THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW
In order to have a medical malpractice case, the plaintiff, or decedent – in the event of a death – must have serious damages. Unhappiness with treatment is not a case. A common risk, or less than ideal result from surgery, is not a viable case. This is because the costs of pursuing litigation – not attorney’s fees, but actual costs for expert witnesses – are too great.