Steps to Filing a Medical Malpractice Lawsuit in Washington State

how to file a malpractice lawsuit

Healthcare providers are trained experts who never make mistakes, right? Nope. Not at all. In fact, between 2015 and 2019 in Washington State, Insurers and self-insurers paid $759 million on 1,873 claims over the five-year period, or $405,025 per paid claim.

Even if you accept the fact that some of those claims didn’t prove that a doctor or other healthcare practitioner did anything wrong, that’s still nearly 2,000 instances in which it seems that a medical professional was careless and harmed a patient. Medical negligence can be life-altering, and the only recourse is often to file a lawsuit.

That’s what this post is about. Below, the trusted lawyers at Will & Will walk you through how to file a malpractice lawsuit and everything else you need to know. Read on to learn more, or reach out to our firm today.

What Constitutes Medical Malpractice?

If you were injured because a provider didn’t adhere to the accepted standard of care or gave you treatment that you didn’t consent to, you are a victim of medical malpractice under Revised Code of Washington, Section 7.70.040. Also, if your healthcare provider promised you a particular injury wouldn’t happen but the injury happened anyway, your case may fall under the definition of medical malpractice.

In a real-world setting, examples of medical malpractice can come in many different forms. Here are some examples:

  • Failing to diagnose an illness or injury
  • Giving improper treatment
  • Failing to warn you about the risks of a treatment
  • Errors involving prescription drugs
  • Birth injuries like brachial palsy and caput succedaneum
  • Errors during surgery

If any of these situations sound like yours, you may need to learn how to start a malpractice lawsuit in order to recover compensation.

How to File a Malpractice Lawsuit in Washington State

Understanding that you are a victim of medical malpractice is a good starting point, but it doesn’t tell you how to file a medical malpractice lawsuit. But there’s no need to worry — we cover the basic process below.

Step 1: Seek Medical Treatment

The moment you realize you have suffered an injury due to medical malpractice, you need to seek medical care from a different doctor. This serves two purposes:

  1. You make sure you are treated for your new injuries and not in danger.
  2. You create proof of your injuries by seeing a doctor who will assess and treat the problem.

Step 2: Get a Copy of Your Healthcare Records

After being treated for your injury or illness, reach out to the hospital or doctor’s office where the malpractice occurred to get a copy of the medical records. These records document the harm the initial healthcare provider caused. That means they will make strong evidence to use in your lawsuit.

Step 3: Let the Parties Know You’re Planning to Start a Medical Malpractice Lawsuit

Before speaking to anyone else, it’s usually a good idea to talk to your lawyer. You or your lawyer can discuss whether to reach out to the insurance companies and healthcare facility to let them know that you’re going to file a claim

Why do this? Because insurers and even doctors and hospitals will often respond to you quickly, hoping to avoid a lawsuit by offering you a settlement. If they offer a fair settlement, you can accept it and avoid having to go to court.

Step 4: Create and File Your Medical Malpractice Claim

Assuming that the insurer or negligent healthcare professional does not offer a settlement right off the bat, your next step will be to actually create your claim and file it with the court. To understand how to file a malpractice lawsuit, reach out to an experienced lawyer. Getting the paperwork right is key. Any mistakes can harm your ability to recover compensation.

Step 5: Go to Mediation

Under Revised Code of Washington, Section 7.70.100, plaintiffs and defendants involved in medical malpractice claims must go through mediation before a case can go to trial. During mediation, your lawyer can represent your interests. If the other side offers an acceptable settlement, you can agree to it and avoid a trial. Otherwise, you can go to trial and fight for the compensation you’re owed.

Important Terms to Remember When Filing a Malpractice Lawsuit

As you learn how to start a malpractice lawsuit, you’re going to encounter some legal terms. Here are some terms that will help you file your medical malpractice suit.

Statute of Limitations

The statute of limitations is the amount of time you have after an event occurs to file a lawsuit. In Washington state, the statute of limitations for medical malpractice is three years in most cases. So, if you’re wondering when to sue for medical malpractice, you should know that the clock is ticking. A lawyer can help you make sure you take action with plenty of time to spare.

Comparative Negligence

Comparative negligence refers to the idea that parties can share the fault for an injury or other harm. A medical professional you are suing might try to use comparative negligence as a defense. In other words, they might say you’re partially at fault for what happened.

They do this for one key reason. If they can show that you hold some responsibility for your injury, the amount of compensation you can recover will be reduced by the percentage of fault you are found to hold.

Expert Witness

An expert witness in a medical malpractice case is typically a medical professional who will look at the details of your case and give their opinion about whether malpractice occurred. As you research how to start a malpractice lawsuit, you may come across information saying an expert witness is required for your case. That’s not exactly true.

Washington state used to require a medical expert witness for any malpractice case, but the Washington Supreme Court decided that the rule was unconstitutional in 2009. Still, having an expert witness is often necessary in order to win a medical malpractice case.

Want to Know How to File a Malpractice Lawsuit? Call Will & Will

Understanding how to file a malpractice lawsuit isn’t easy. And winning such a case is even harder. But you deserve compensation for what happened to you. So, what are your options?

One of your options is to contact the trusted lawyers at Will & Will. We have decades of experience fighting for our clients, and we know how to give you the best possible shot at recovering compensation. Our husband and wife team will give your case the attention it deserves and keep you informed at every step.

Don’t wait — contact us today. Give us a call at 206-209-5585 or reach out online.

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