Given the difficulty of the undertaking upon which you are about to embark, the most important decision you make will be the selection of your attorney.

In every state in the United States there are attorneys who devote all of their time to the representation of victims of medical negligence. This professional may not be in your city or town. If your case has significant merit, the attorney will agree to come to you.

If, after a number of years, an attorney has devoted all of his or her time to representing the victims of medical negligence, and he or she is still in practice, it is a good bet that that attorney knows and is good at what he or she is doing. If such a professional agrees to take your case, the chances of a successful outcome are greatly increased.

Even if the answer to that first inquiry is yes, you will still want to know:

1. What has been your prospective attorney's experience with the handling of your particular type of case?

2. What does your prospective attorney do to keep abreast of the changes in both the law and medicine?

3. If the prospective attorney hasn't had a case involving your same scenario before, has he or she had one that is similar or involves the same specialty?. If so, what?

4. Does the prospective attorney have resources available to determine, in a relatively reasonable period of time, whether the case is one that he or she is willing to accept?

5. How much will the evaluation cost, what cost can be expected as the case is pursued, and when is this money due?

6. What, if any, tort reforms will impact upon your claim?

7. What is the total amount of the prospective attorney's fee and how will it be paid?

8. Will the prospective attorney handle the case him or herself or will it be handled by an associate? If it is handled by an associate, what is the experience of the associate, and what direct involvement will the primary attorney have in the case?

9. Will the case be thoroughly evaluated and reviewed by expert consultants who will have committed that they will be available and will testify before any claim is made?

This is the most important factor of all from every perspective. From your perspective the investment emotionally alone demands no less. From the attorney's perspective the investment that he is going to be making in his time, efforts, and resources requires that he must meet with success or he will not last long. From society's point of view the filing of any claim which ultimately cannot be proved hurts the civil justice system as it will surely be used to attack that system by those who are relentlessly trying to eliminate the rights of victims. Lastly, it must be remembered that this is a claim that is about to be asserted against a professional for failure to properly carry out his/her duty -- such a step should never be taken lightly.

One cardinal rule - If your prospective attorney tells you he or she will pursue your case at the first interview, under no circumstances should you retain that attorney. It is impossible to ascertain the merits of a medical malpractice case without extensive investigation, research, evaluation, and consultations with medical experts.

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