Common Client Mistakes That Hurt Their Cases
Interviewer: What kind of mistakes do you see people make? I know you are alluding to them. I guess one is taking too long to get treatment. What kind of mistakes do people make that jeopardize their ability to have a successful claim and to get compensation?
Charles Price: Like the things I said before, waiting too long to investigate a case, not documenting the potential evidence in a case. Those are the two really big ones.
Frequently people can do things after they have a case that jeopardizes the case. I had a very clear case of medical negligence for a young gal, and subsequently she went out and committed multiple larcenies, had drug use and drug rehabilitations, and just generally acted a fool. She had previously been a college kid and living the straight and narrow life and living with her family, and she just went completely downhill. Of course, that affected the case and affected the value of the case.
Interviewer: Is that a common thing?
Charles Price: No, it’s not that common. I mean, it happens often enough where we’ll have people, for example, with a back surgery that went wrong. They are claiming that they’re 25% disabled because of the poorly done back surgery. The next thing you know, they are posting pictures of themselves skiing down Killington on their Facebook page. Believe me, I’ve seen it all and that kind of stuff happens more often than you think.
Interviewer: Maybe people don’t realize that. You said way back in the interview that people’s misconception is that the doctor will cave in and cough up all kinds of money and they will settle right away. You said that doesn’t happen like that.
Charles Price: That’s right.
Interviewer: You said people wait too long to bring a case. How long is too long?
Charles Price: Two years is the first leg of the medical malpractice statute of limitations, which means ideally and generally you should bring any claim of malpractice within two years from the date of the event that you believed caused the injury. Certainly waiting anywhere close to two years is really bad, even though there is a procedure in Connecticut law to file what is called a Petition for Extension of the Statute of Limitations, which is granted automatically and gets filed with the clerk of court and gives you an additional 90-day window to conduct an investigation. For example, if two days before the two-year anniversary of your surgery you decide that you want to consult a lawyer and see if you have a case, if you came to my office we would, for example, file this petition for you as a courtesy just to give us 90 days to look at your case. That’s too long to me. If you wait more than three months or up to six months after what you believe to have been potentially negligent treatment, you’re waiting too long.
Interviewer: What are some of the tactics or things that the other side does to investigate the case and to fight back against it?
Charles Price: We always advise people in our retainer agreement and just in our general advice, for example, not to post pictures of themselves on Facebook if it’s going to be harmful to the case. To get back to what the defense does, they do a number of things. They get all of the records, including records of the patient’s treatment prior to the treatment in issue.
For example, the person has had ten years of back problems and three prior back surgeries and was significantly limited prior to the surgery that is the subject of the potential claim. Then the neurosurgeon or the orthopedic surgeon who is being sued is going to say, “But look, we could not have possibly caused all this damage. The patient had all of this injury and damage before we even did anything.” Looking at preexisting conditions, what we call company-morbidities, other conditions, medical conditions the patient might have, like diabetes, that have nothing to do with the malpractice – they are always looking to portray the person in a more negative light. That’s one thing they do.
Another thing they do to defend the case is, of course, the most significant thing and the most significant advantage they have is they have access to thousands and thousands potential expert witnesses all across the country who have excellent credentials and hate malpractice cases and hate lawyers. They have a stable of experts in countless specialties that can pretty much pick up the phone and say, “My doctor has been sued for this surgical error. Would you help defend him in this case?” That’s what they do. They go around the country and they hire very good experts who say that the doctor’s care was not negligent and they say it whether that’s true or not true.