WA Medical Malpractice: How Do You Know If You Have A Lawsuit?

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Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: Jul 16, 2021

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How would someone really know if they have a medical malpractice lawsuit in Washington? While it may seem like a fairly straight forward question to many, the truth of the matter is that the answer is not always so obvious. Matt Menzer, a Washington State medical malpractice attorney who represents medical malpractice victims, provided some insight into determining liability and obtaining a Certificate of Merit – something that is now required in Washington.

Determining liability

The first level of inquiry is whether or not there is liability on behalf of the healthcare provider, that is, whether or not there has been a breach of the relevant standard of care. However, Menzer says that you must now get a doctor involved in the process. He told us, “A law went into effect here in Washington in 2006. The law says that in order to file a lawsuit, you need a declaration or an affidavit from a doctor stating that it’s likely that there is a case with merit and that there has been a breach of the standard of care.”

Obtaining a Certificate of Merit

For all practical purposes, Menzer says that a person who suspects that they, a friend or relative has been a victim of medical malpractice needs to hire a lawyer who can review the case and seek the opinions of medical experts who can say either, “This is a strong liability case, this is a weak case or there is no liability at all.”

He also says that you’re going to need that same doctor to file the Certificate of Merit before you can initiate a lawsuit. He explained:

This is something that an attorney should do. In fact, you wouldn’t want the patient, client or the injured party dealing directly with those experts in the first place because you want to maintain what we refer to as the work- product privilege.

People who suspect that malpractice has occurred should start talking to lawyers fairly quickly so that all steps can be taken to preserve evidence and do an investigation to see if there is a viable claim.

Medical malpractice lawyers represent clients against may types of medical personnel including doctors, physicians, dentists, nurses, pharmacists, chiropractors, EMTs, psychologists, therapists, health care providers, hospitals, HMOs, clinics and pharmacies.

While only a small amount of cases actually go to trial in Washington, attorneys frequently file and negotiate claims with insurance companies as well as arbitrate and mediate claims for clients – and most medical malpractice attorneys work on a contingency fee basis, which means that there are no up front costs to clients.

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