Case Timeline & Series of Events
Interviewer: That makes sense. When someone comes in your office, you go over the facts of their case. What happens if you decide to file? What are the steps and the events that happen in a typical case – a timeline?
Charles Price: The investigation process starts with the client signing the retainer agreement, which is a contingency arrangement with no fee to the client unless there is a recovery, and various types of releases including insurance and medical and potentially employment or educational. These releases allow us access to records that we need to investigate the case. This is presuming the client has not already obtained the records. Even if they have, we will often re-request the record to make sure we have everything.
The process always starts with the initial intake, the evaluation by lawyer of the facts of the case and whether just on the facts alone, without even looking at any records, the case is something that might be viable. By viable I mean you can prove a deviation from standard of care and that a significant enough injury occurred. It has to meet those two elements right from the beginning or we probably would not even request the records.
The next step after the initial intake and evaluation of the case is getting the paperwork signed and then obtaining the records. We sent out a request to the doctor or hospital. We get in what is considered the complete chart. That is the next step. We analyze the medicine records. We identify the medical issues of what might have gone wrong. Following that, we research the medical benefits. That means going online to find out how often the complication happens and what the appropriate treatment is for the condition that the patient suffered from, and we gather all sorts of literature about what happened.
Once we have done our research and we’ve conducted our own review, the next and nearly final step in the investigation is the submission of the records to an expert witness for review to see if that expert will say, “Yes, I think there was negligent treatment and I’m willing to help you.” That is what I say gives you the chance to fight, because otherwise you’re going into a gun fight with an unloaded gun. At least when you have the expert, you are ready for the gun fight.
The next step after that is to attempt to settle the case. If the case can’t be settled, we draft up the legal papers – the complaint – and we attach to that complaint a letter from the expert setting forth what was done wrong. Then that is when the lawsuit starts.
Standard of Care
Interviewer: Stepping back, you talk about standard of care. What is that?
Charles Price: The standard of care, or what we call “deviations from accepted standards of care,” is the care that would be rendered by a similar healthcare provider under similar circumstances. That is what the standard of care is. Again, it’s just a series of words that mean nothing unless you apply it to a set of facts. For example, going back to my cardiac example of the 52-year-old lady who was an ex-smoker and is overweight and has a family history of cardiac disease, if that patient comes into the hospital emergency room, our expert will say that the standard of care under those circumstances required that an EKG be done and that blood work be done to rule out a heart attack.
If that lady turns out to suffer a heart attack or to have been having a heart attack and those tests were not done, then the emergency department has not met the standard of care because they did not do what most reasonably careful emergency room doctors would have done under the circumstances of that particular patient – that is, a high-risk patient. That is what the standard of care is: what most reasonable practitioners in that same field would have done under those circumstances.