Under Washington State law, you have the legal right to represent yourself in a court of law, and if you are a victim of medical malpractice intent on avoiding legal fees, this might sound appealing. Taking a case to court without legal representation is a complex endeavor, however, so if you are intent on doing so, you should be aware of these five requirements:
1. Time. Get ready to dedicate the majority of your time and energy over the next several years to the lawsuit. Medical malpractice suits are very complex, so organization and adherence to legal proceeding is imperative. You will have to take the time to carefully gather, document and organize your case. Part of your time commitment will be learning about the legal context of your case. You will be held to the same standards as a lawyer, so you will also need to spend time learning about the ins and outs of court proceedings. Further, Washington law RCW 7.70.100 requires pretrial mediation, which can take many months of back and forth between you and the defendant’s attorneys.
2. Knowledge. Washington State has several statutes on medical malpractice. An overview of the requirements of medical malpractice can be found here, but to pursue a case you will need to be familiar not only with the ins and outs of court proceedings but also with the entirety of Washington law regarding malpractice. A good place to start is to make sure you understand RCW 7.70, as well as its precedents.
3. Access. In order to gain knowledge, you must have access to information about previous court cases, complaints and decisions similar to your case. These are available to the public, and you can access them through PACER.gov.
4. Experts. Proving medical malpractice requires at least one expert in the field to testify that a health care professional breached the standard of care. Take care when choosing the expert to ensure his or her opinion will hold up in court. For example, you should not hire an orthopedic surgeon to testify about a cardiologist’s diagnosis. The expert you choose should be as closely associated with the defendant’s field as possible. Keep in mind that the expert is not obligated to testify in favor of your case just because you paid the court fees. Make sure you know they will support your case.
5. Patience. During the pretrial and trial process, the defendant’s attorneys will try to derail the case, search for inconsistencies and get you to settle for less than your case is worth. That is their job. A tremendous amount of perseverance and assertiveness is required to stick with it. You will be under enormous pressure to settle. If you can reach a settlement that is agreeable to you, there is nothing wrong with doing so, but don’t lose patience or resolve and settle for less.
Why We Highly Recommend Hiring a Malpractice Attorney
Are you exhausted just contemplating these requirements? The truth is, medical malpractice lawsuits take a tremendous amount of time and energy. You can easily slip up on a technicality that will result in having your case dismissed. Another risk you run is failing to demonstrate that malpractice even existed.
Let Us Help You
While you have the legal right to forgo legal counsel, the decision is not in your best interest. At Perey Law, we handle every case on a contingency basis. You will not be charged a fee if we fail to recover compensation for you.
If you or a loved one has been injured due to a medical error, you may have a medical malpractice case. Please contact us immediately to find out if you are eligible for compensation. There is no cost to you to speak with one of our knowledgeable attorneys. We provide a free consultation during which we will discuss your legal options.