Factors of a Viable Case
Interviewer: I’m sure it’s very complicated, but what are some of the main factors that would tell someone whether they have a potentially valid case or not?
Charles Price: To go back to one of my surgical examples, if you are scheduled for a one-day surgery and you are supposed to be in and out in the same day, let’s say, to remove your gall bladder, but you wake up post-operatively and you are still in the hospital and you are told that they cut an artery while they were taking out your gall bladder, basically they are going to essentially know that they have a case right off the bat.
There are many people who go through a course of treatment, for example, in stroke cases. A person with a headache and dizziness goes to the emergency department, and they are told that they simply have a migraine and they are discharged. Then a couple of days later, the same symptoms occur and they go back in and they are diagnosed as having a stroke. Then the people are going to bring the claim. They are going to consult a lawyer and they are going to say, “Is there anything that could have been done differently that maybe would have stopped this process before it got so bad?”
The main factor that really determines whether a person has a good case is the clarity of the event. If there is a stark contrast between what they were supposed to have as an anticipated outcome and what they ended up having, then that is going to be a pretty clear factor that there is probably a strong case.
Interviewer: Does the event have to be extremely serious in order to have a case? Does she need to be significantly injured or can it be a lower level type of an event?
Charles Price: Generally the case has to be pretty serious because medical malpractice cases are so work-intensive, usually involving upwards of five depositions in any particular malpractice case, multiple expert witnesses that drive up the expense, and they take a long time. In order for the lawyer to want to be interested in pursuing a case, it generally has to be a serious injury or a death. By serious injury we usually mean permanent injury or very prolonged injury.
For example, we had one client who developed an infection in her forearm following a simple car accident. They sutured her up, sent her home, and she developed a massive infection in her forearm and basically lost all the flesh off of her forearm. She had to go through, I would say, eight or nine skin grafting procedures. Again, she didn’t die, but she has massive scarring and she had massive treatment.
The exception to that rule is a smaller case can have a very clear and defined injury, but the patient recovers almost substantially. For example, a person has hand surgery and the surgeon cuts a nerve and now the person has no sensation in three of their fingers. That person’s not dead and is not going to die, but if that person is a carpenter and can’t feel three fingers of his master hand and it’s a clear case of cutting a nerve, again, it doesn’t have to be a huge case, but in that case the fault or negligence has to be clear.