What To Know Before Filing a Virginia Medical Malpractice Claim

If you have been injured due to the negligence of a doctor or hospital and are considering filing a malpractice claim, the following is what you need to know. For more specific information regarding your case and what you will need to do call and schedule a consultation with a Virginia medical malpractice lawyer today.

Importance of Medical Records

The first thing that you need to have are your medical records from every doctor that has provided you care, and all the facilities in which you received care in and around the time that you were injured. As long as you talk to a lawyer shortly after you became aware that you are injured, in most cases they’ll be able to put together the pieces to determine if malpractice occurred.

Virginia has some harsh rules that make it a little tougher for a plaintiff to pursue a medical malpractice claim in Virginia than in many other jurisdictions. For instance, most jurisdictions have something called a discovery rule, which stands for the idea  that  the statute of limitations starts to run when a patient discovers that they were harmed, by either a certain medical treatment or procedure. However, that’s not the case in Virginia. In Virginia, the statute of limitations is generally two years from the date of the malpractice.

The basic rule of thumb is if you think that you’ve been injured by the care you received, you need to talk to a lawyer as soon as possible, and let them know who treated you, where you receive treatment, and any prior medical history you might have that could be potentially relevant, as soon as you possibly can.

How Soon You Need to File

In Virginia, medical malpractice claims have a two-year statute of limitations, so the injured person or the lawyer representing  them needs to let the at fault parties know as soon as possible that there might be a potential claim. In general though, there is not a requirement to put the provider on notice of the claim prior to filing a lawsuit. This differs than the rule in the District of Columbia, for instance, which requires a 90-day notice prior to filing a lawsuit. Again, the time limit varies depending on the jurisdiction and where the treatment provider is located.  For instance, if you received medical care at a federal government facility, that’s going to have a different time period than if you received care at a state-owned or private facility.

State facilities typically are going to have a one-year notice provision that applies.  Under the Virginia Tort Claims Act, if you received care at a facility operated by the Commonwealth of Virginia, instead of having two years to start your lawsuit, you’ll have only one year to put providers on notice. That’s pretty technical depending on the identity of the doctor and the entities involved, so the basic rule of thumb is as soon as you think you might be a victim of medical malpractice, you need to talk to a lawyer as soon as you can.

How An Attorney Can Help

If you’re ever going to be a litigant in the court system, and in Virginia in particular, it’s important to have a lawyer. Virginia has a lot of procedural aspects of litigation that are confusing and hard to understand even for lawyers. This is particularly true when it comes to medical malpractice. There are so many pitfalls, and so many areas in which someone could make a mistake that would be fatal to the case, that you really need to have a lawyer who’s familiar with the area of law and familiar with the specific jurisdiction in which you are bringing your action.

Pro se litigants have a tough time in Virginia in any type of case. In medical malpractice cases, those issues are complicated tenfold. It really is an extremely complex area of law and if you start out going on your own, it’s going to be harder to get a lawyer who is able to help you. It’s harder to get attorneys involved at a later stage. In an auto accident, for instance, somebody who is injured might be able to start the case on their own and then a few months down the road contact a lawyer. That lawyer might still be able to clean everything up and represent that person because the case is not damaged in any way that’s irreparable.

Unfortunately, medical malpractice cases are just so much more complex that it’s a lot harder to do it alone. If a couple of months into it you try to look for lawyer, it will be a lot harder for the lawyer to salvage the case if it hasn’t been adequately prepared from the beginning.