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How to Sue a Doctor?
Requirements, Compensation & More

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Collen Clark Published by Collen Clark

If you think your doctor has been negligent and you didn't get sufficient care, you should consider filing a medical malpractice claim. Schmidt & Clark lawyers have been dealing with medical malpractice cases for over twenty years.

Here’s what you should do if you're in this situation yourself.

Summary of the Key Findings

  • Before suing a doctor, you should know the statute of limitations in your state, consult a medical expert, and find an experienced lawyer.
  • To win the case, you should prove there was a doctor-patient relationship, the doctor was negligent, and the injury happened because of the negligence.
  • To increase the chances of getting a higher settlement, you should hire a lawyer with experience handling medical malpractice cases.

What You Should Do Before Suing a Doctor

Gavel and stethoscope concept for medical malpractice

Filing medical malpractice claims is different from filing other civil lawsuits. Here’s what to remember if you want to file a malpractice lawsuit.

1. Statute of Limitations

Statute of limitations is the deadline by which you have to file a medical malpractice lawsuit, and it varies, depending on the state. If you don’t file a lawsuit until this deadline, the court won’t accept your claim, regardless of whether your case is justified or not.

“If you think you might have a valid medical malpractice case -- meaning you believe you've been harmed by substandard medical care at the hands of a doctor or other health care professional -- it's time to understand the statute of limitations that applies to these kinds of lawsuits in your state.” NOLO, legal encyclopedia

When the time for filing a lawsuit starts running out also depends on the state you are in. In some states, it begins when medical malpractice occurs, and in others, when the patient discovers the injury. This is referred to as the discovery rule.

It’s best to hire a medical malpractice attorney, as they’ll know the statute of limitations in your area and help you file your claim on time.

Related Article: What is the Statute of Limitations for Medical Malpractice?

2. Consult a Medical Expert

A medical professional talkin to a patientIn some states, before filing a malpractice claim, you have to first submit the claim to a malpractice review panel or get an affidavit from a qualified medical professional. 

The certificate from a qualified expert is usually obtained from another doctor who agrees that there has been medical malpractice. 

When submitting your claim to a review panel, they review your evidence, hear arguments and testimonies, and decide if medical negligence happened. 

Note: The expert or a panel decision doesn’t replace medical malpractice lawsuits, and they can’t award your damages.

This is a step you have to go through in some states before you sue a doctor. But, you can present their findings in court to support your case.

Related Article: Is an Affidavit Admissible as Evidence?

3. Get a Medical Malpractice Lawyer

Shaking hands with a medical malpractice lawyerHaving legal representation during your medical malpractice case is crucial as it can affect the outcome of your case. 

These lawyers are familiar with the rules and regulations in your state, including the statute of limitations, whether you have to submit your claim to a review panel or not, and similar.

Your lawyer will also know if you need to give the doctor notice that you intend to file a claim.

Hiring an experienced medical malpractice lawyer will help you win the case and get the settlement you are entitled to. 

Requirements for a Medical Malpractice Claim

A doctor neglecting using gestures

When filing a malpractice suit, you have to be able to prove that medical malpractice happened. These are the requirements you have to show:

  • Prove there was a doctor-patient relationship — You have to prove you hired the health care provider, and they agreed to be hired.
  • The doctor was negligent — You need to prove the doctor harmed you in a way other doctors would not. Almost all states ask that you have medical experts to explain the suitable standard of care.
  • The negligence caused the injury — Malpractice lawsuits usually involve an injured patient who was already sick. It has to be proven that the doctor's medical mistake caused further harm. This is also where you’ll need medical experts to testify.
  • A specific injury or damages happened — Even if the doctor provided subpar care, you can’t file a suit if you didn’t experience any harm. You have to prove you experienced physical or mental pain, additional medical bills, or lost work.

Most Common Types of Medical Malpractice

Annoyed and frustrated doctor holding a syringe

You need to prove a doctor deviated from accepted medical practices, such as prescribing the wrong therapy to leaving an instrument in the patient’s body during surgery.

Here are some of the most common malpractices:

  • Misdiagnosis or a failure to diagnose
  • Not warn the patient of known risks in a timely manner
  • Operating on the wrong side of the body
  • Operating on the wrong patient
  • Operating while ill or under the influence
  • Faulty medical device
  • Postoperative negligence

Compensation You May be Entitled to

Handing money to another person

An injured patient can be entitled to economic and non-economic damages, such as:

  1. Payment of related medical expenses
  2. Compensation for lost wages
  3. Lost earning capacity
  4. Pain and suffering 
  5. Loss of quality of life
  6. Emotional distress
  7. Deprivation of spousal companionship 

If you agree to settle, you’ll get damages from the doctor’s insurance company.

Related Articles:


On What Grounds Can You Sue a Doctor?

You can sue a doctor if you can prove you suffered damages as a direct result of their negligence. In some cases, you can even sue a doctor for breaching doctor-patient confidentiality.

How Much Does it Cost to Sue a Doctor?

It costs between $100 to $500 to file the lawsuit [1]. You also have to pay to obtain the legal documents and medical records to prove negligence. Witness fees can go into tens of thousands of dollars.

How to Sue a Doctor: Final Thoughts 

There are several steps and certain criteria you need to fulfill before suing a doctor. You have to check the legal standard in your state, get expert witnesses, and let the doctor know you intend to sue them. 

Your best option is to get legal representation with previous experience in pursuing monetary damages for medical malpractice.

Schmidt & Clark, LLP lawyers put a lot of value on each attorney-client relationship, and we strive to reach a favorable outcome of every case. Contact us for free consultations.



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