Victim of Medical Negligence? Know Your Rights

Patrick C. Barry
Study after study shows that medical malpractice continues to be a leading cause of patient harm in this country. Negligent acts by a doctor or other care provider are no different than negligent acts by any other professional, such as an accountant, engineer, or even a lawyer. A victim of professional negligence, also called “malpractice,” has certain rights against that professional, including doctors, nurses and other health care providers.

What are your rights in such a situation?

The right to seek an attorney

First, you certainly have a right to see an attorney and investigate your claims. Doctors and hospitals must provide you or your lawyer with copies of your medical records, generally within 30 days of the request. Although they are generally required to turn over all records, they often do not do so in response to a first request by a patient. Hiring a lawyer helps ensure the necessary follow-up so that all appropriate medical records are provided.

The right to a trial by jury

A good malpractice attorney will investigate the case and determine if there is a good faith basis to proceed with a lawsuit. You have the right to bring a negligence and personal injury claim if you have been hurt, or a “wrongful death” claim if a family member has been killed. In Rhode Island and Massachusetts, like most states, you have a right to have that claim heard and decided by a jury as well. Many people don’t know it, but the Seventh Amendment to the United States Constitution establishes and protects the right to a trial by jury of regular citizens, rather than an insurance company or government bureaucrats. Most state constitutions do as well.

The right to be properly advised and prepared

If you do proceed with a lawsuit, you have rights throughout the process as well. Good, ethical lawyers recognize they have an obligation to treat all witnesses and parties with basic dignity and respect, including those on the other side of the dispute. Your own lawyer has certain obligations too, and you have the right to expect to be appropriately informed, advised and prepared throughout the entire case.

If you believe you or a loved one may have been harmed by medical negligence or malpractice, the lawyers at Decof, Decof & Barry, P.C. (DD&B) have extensive experience in this area. DD&B generally charges no fees unless it is successful in recovering money for you, and advances all case expenses as well. Please feel free to call us and discuss your case.

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