D.C. Maryland and Virginia medical malpractice, accidents and work injuries questions answered by D.C. injury attorneys.
Here are some of the questions people have when they first contact us about D.C., Maryland and Virginia medical malpractice, serious car accidents or workers compensation.
We try to provide as much information as we can based on our experience as medical malpractice lawyers in D.C., Maryland and Virginia and based on representing many hundreds of people who have been injured in accidents or at work in D.C., Maryland and Virginia.
Here are the basics:
Patients permanently injured by medical malpractice, or the families of patients killed because of medical negligence, when a hospital, HMO or healthcare corporation doesn't follow basic patient safety rules deserve justice - resources to help with the harms and losses due to the injuries or death of their loved one.
Drivers who don't follow the rules of the road, driving recklessly, driving drunk, speeding, and texting should be accountable for the harm they cause when their actions cause a car accident or wreck.
Workers hurt on the job deserve workers compensation benefits for lost wages, medical treatment and permanent injuries. If a worker is killed on the job, his family deserves workers compensation death benefits - to at least help with the financial loss of a loved one.
But since every person is unique, if you have questions or need information about an injury or death in your family, please contact us to talk it through. We'll talk to you, schedule a free initial meeting and give you all the information we can.
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I have a serious injury, but do I have a medical malpractice case?
Medical Malpractice at a Hospital in D.C.
Many times we get phone calls from folks who have been legitimately, seriously injured in a hospital and they want to know if they should file a lawsuit against the doctor, HMO, or hospital. And many times, people have legitimate claims of negligence or medical malpractice. But the thing about medical malpractice is that there is a lot to consider besides just the injury, and a lot of people don't know that there are sometimes years of investigation that go into a medical malpractice claim before a lawsuit is even filed.
Especially cases involving children or babies - sometimes the extent of the harm won't be known until the child is 4 or 5 years old (other times it is obvious - in cases involving cerebral palsy, damage to the child's brain, or paralysis). So, a good DC medical malpractice attorney will let you know not only how long you have to file a case (to make sure you are within the statute of limitations - the time limit for filing a case) but how long it will take to determine the extent of your child's injuries or developmental delays.
In fact, medical malpractice claims are so hard to pursue that only a handful of attorneys are actually practicing in this area.
The first thing that you need to prove is that the doctor, nurse, tech, or hospital was negligent. This can be established by reviewing medical records, medical literature and texts, hospital protocols, the practices of other hospitals across the country and other information to determine the set of patient safety rules the hospital should have followed - this is often called the standard of care. You have to also prove that violating those rules was a cause of your injury.
This can be determined initially by reviewing your medical records, medical literature, protocols, etc. but it also requires analysis and testimony by expert witnesses, which typically costs thousands of dollars (another reason not many lawyers handle DC medical malpractice cases - they are expensive).
Now, if people don't have a serious, permanent injury, why do we tell them we can't help them, even if the hospital was negligent?
I need a lot of medical treatment because of a medical malpractice issue in a hospital. How can I get the medical care I need?
When medical malpractice causes serious injuries, it means you'll need a lot of medical care you never planned on.
When hospitals, HMOs and healthcare companies commit medical malpractice in DC, Maryland or Virginia, they should pay for the harms they cause. Sometimes that is easy to determine - a construction worker who can't work anymore after becoming paralyzed due to medical malpractice can determine how much money he would have earned in his career.
But what about future medical treatment and other needs caused by medical malpractice? How do you make sure you and your family get everything you need to live as normally and independently as possible after a life changing injury?
As part of our medical malpractice cases, we analyze everything that you need - all of the future medical care caused by the malpractice, plus the equipment, modifications to your home and car, everything to make sure you can live as independently and be as mobile as possible.
The cost of all of the medical care you'll need are part of the damages (the harms they caused and should pay for) in a medical malpractice case.
But at least in DC, Maryland and Virginia, hospitals, HMOs and doctors rarely admit when they've done wrong, so they probably won't offer to pay for all of the medical care you need (and certainly won't tell you everything you're entitled to).
Instead, we have to hold them accountable.
There is a lot to process when you or a family member have been seriously harmed by medical malpractice - talking to us will help you focus on your health and recovery.
Call us today at (202) 393 - 3320 to get started - we'll send you a free, no obligation guide to medical malpractice in DC, Maryland and Virginia that will help.
What is an "injury diary" and why should I keep one?
So, you've been hurt at work and you are the kind of person who relies on their physical abilities for employment. You do heavy lifting, bending, rotating your shoulders, squatting, and all manner of physical labor. Suddenly you have been placed on work restrictions, and been referred to physical therapy to teach your body, once again, how to operate. You may be frustrated, confused, and wondering how you are going to provide for your family with a torn rotator cuff, or an injured cervical spine.
With DC workers' comp it can be so easy to screw up your case simply because you don't know what your rights are, and you assume that the employer and the insurance company are going to take care of you. While this may, in some cases (not all) be true of your employer, they actually have very little influence over the insurance company.
The idea that your employer is in charge of your workers' comp case is a very common mistaken belief, so I will say it again. They actually have very little influence over the insurance company. The insurance company is a third-party company, and their job is administrate your claim.
If you are just getting started on your claim, it's best to heed this advice from the very start. If you have been working on your claim for awhile, it's never too late to get organized and be in charge of your case.
The first thing I would recommend is to:
1). Keep track of your benefits checks. The insurance company will try and do try regularly to trip you up with respect to your benefits. If you don't know exactly how much you are expecting to receive on your check and when you are expecting to receive it, you run the risk of falling directly into their trap because they will use the lack of careful records as an opportunity to skip your payment. Your workers' comp rate (benefits rate) is calculated by the last 26 weeks you got paid (the average) and multiplied by 2/3. In other words, your benefits rate is 2/3 of what you were getting paid before.
You can ask me for a sample of a payment tracking spreadsheet. I'm happy to send it to you - just email [email protected] with the subject line "Payment Tracking." You should be recording which dates are covered by the check, which day you expect to receive your check, and how much it should be. Also, keep your pay stubs in a file.
If you are a client of ours and your check comes more than three days late, let us know right away. Three days late is an inconvenience but three weeks late is a crisis. Don't wait to let us know.
If your check is more than 3 days late call us now to find out what we do about it.
The second thing I would recommend is to:
2). Keep a diary of your appointments with your treating physician. Nobody knows better than you what your treating physician told you, and most times medical records don't tell the whole story. Do not let the nurse case manager into the room with you and your doctor.
Every time you see your treating physician write down a)what he/she told you about your condition; b) what he/she told you about your prognosis; and c) how long he/she took you out of work.
Next, you should:
3). Make sure you have a disability note if you are out of work and requesting your office visit notes from the front desk at the doctor's office.
There is a significant difference between your disability note and your office visit notes, and you need both. The disability note (and all of your orders and referrals) tells how long you are out of work and what your doctor is requesting next for your treatment plan. The office visit notes, or progress notes, give a summary and overview of your visit and your treatment plan.
If you have been keeping an appointment diary, we want to see that too. The more we know about your medical treatment, the better job we can do at being your advocate. Clients of ours have the benefit of our twenty years of experience in handling workers' comp claims. If you have a serious work injury, call us today at 202-393-3320.
The last thing I would recommend, whether you are handling this on your own or have a workers comp attorney, is to draft a job description from the very beginning and bring it in to show your treating physician and remind him of the physical aspects of your job. Treating physicians see many patients during the day and may not remember the physicality of your job from month to month. Bring your job description with you every month, so that he or she can properly and accurately give you restrictions.
If you are feeling overwhelmed, and have a significant work injury give us a call today. All we do is help people with serious, life changing injuries, and if you call us today at 202-393-3320 you will speak with a real person who wants to hear your story.
And don't forget to order your FREE book on DC workers' compensation: Protect Your Rights, the Ultimate Guide to DC Workers' Compensation. Get the benefit of twenty years of our experience for no cost or obligation at all!
After an accident, can I use my uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage?
Car Insurance After an Accident
Uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage is something every driver in DC, Virginia or Maryland should have - here's why:
It is the insurance coverage you can use after a serious accident when the other driver doesn't have any liability or car insurance or doesn't have enough to pay for all of the harms he caused as a resultof the accident - your medical bills, hospitalization, physical therapy, rehab, medications - everything you now need to recover from the accident (for as long as you need it) plus the lost income if you can't work, and all of the other damages for personal injury cases allowed under the law, like pain, suffering, permanent injury, future medical care, future lost income and others.
Your UM/UIM coverage will step in and pay up to the limits of your policy. Here's how it works:
Let's say a driver is on his phone and crashes into you on 495 because he wasn't paying attention and crossed the line into your lane of traffic. Your car was totaled and you suffered serious injuries - a torn rotator cuff, a broken leg, a concussion. You spent 3 days in the hospital after surgery on the fractured femur and you need another surgery on the rotator cuff. You're facing a long recovery of medical specialists, physical therapy, and rehab.
And you're paid by the hour in a physical job your doctors have said you can't do for at least 6 months - and if you don't work, you don't get paid.
The driver's insurance company calls and says they are responsible for the accident he caused (great). But they only have $25,000 in coverage, so that is the most the insurance company will ever pay. Your hospital and surgery bills are already more than $25,000!
Is it fair? No. Is it legal? Yes.
If you have UM/UIM, that coverage will make up the difference, up to your policy limit. Let's say you had a $300,000 UM/UIM policy - then after the other driver's insurance offered their policy limit of $25,000, your insurance would pay up to another $275,000 for a total of $300,000.
If you didn't have UM/UIM coverage on your policy, you'd be stuck with the $25,000 or trying to collect from the driver personally (and people with minimum insurance policies usually don't have much money...)
Will your insurance company just pay you the UM/UIM coverage? No - they are not in the business of just giving away money. Can you settle a UM/UIM case? Absolutely - and here's one we worked on recently.
Check you Declaration Page on your own insurance policy (and if you can't find it, you can get this online from most insurance companies. We're happy to review it with you, just fax it to (202) 393 - 3324 or email it to [email protected] with the subject UM/UIM and we'll set up a time to talk about it at no charge.
Could cerebral palsy have been prevented?
One of the hardest parts of investigating a medical malpractice case in DC, Maryland or Virginia against a hospital is having to deal with the internal conflict that one may feel about calling the birth of a precious child "a medical mistake." And a lot of people use this term but it's not accurate. Medical malpractice means the hospital didn't follow established patient safety rules to keep you and your baby safe. It's not a medical mistake - the hospital was negligent - but whatever term you use, as a parent of a child with cerebral palsy, you know you have greater responsibilities than most parents do.
And one of the big ones is the financial responsibility you have for a child with cerebral palsy.
One thing we know is for sure is that taking care of a child with special-needs can be an exhausting, 24/7 occupation. And we don't pretend that resources are not an issue in this matter. We're upfront with the families of kids with developmental delays - if your child's disability was caused by medical malpractice or hospital negligence, we'll help you get the money to take care of your child. No matter your health and financial situation now, you won't always be there to take care of him when he's an adult - what happens then?
That's why we do what we do.
Here is an excerpt from one of our publications, our Special Needs Resource Guide. It tells you a little bit about our philosophy.
The days are long but the years are short…
If you are a parent or grandparent caring for a special needs child - a child with developmental disabilities and delay or cerebral palsy for example - then you know that is a 24/7 occupation. As many people have said, “the days are long but the years are short”. How do you know what is out there in terms of resources for you and your child or family? Since caring for a disabled child or young adult is a full time, around-the-clock occupation, we have put together this book of resources available for parents, caregivers and families with disabled or special-needs children.
Many of the resources available are public benefits, some are private benefits. Some may have specific disabilities they are a resource for, such as cerebral palsy or autism. Many resources may depend on where the disabled child lives, or income levels, or other factors. We wanted to make it as easy as possible for you to have a list of available resources in your area to use as a starting point in advocating for your child. There are many other opportunities, resources, and benefits available to children with special needs and their families that are not listed here.
And we're certainly not experts on raising special needs kids (or any kids for that matter). These are resource opportunities we've identified; many from parents of special needs children we have helped. And parents are always giving us ideas. If you know of other resources or ideas that work and could help parents and families with special needs children, please let us know. You can email ideas and resources to [email protected] or call (202) 393-3320.
We do this because identifying medical malpractice that led to your child's cerebral palsy could potentially make an enormous difference for your child. And for you.
If you think that your child's developmental delays or cerebral palsy may have been the result of medical malpractice, hospital negligence, a medical mistake, call us today. There could be time limitations so you don't want to wait. Plus, you will be one step closer to getting the resources that can help your child and your family. You can reach us a 202-393-3320 and you will speak to a person who wants to hear your story.
Do I Need To Share My Medical Records with a Car Accident Attorney in DC that I'm thinking about hiring for my case?
So, you've called a D.C. lawyers office and hopefully you have spoken to a warm, inquisitive person who wants to hear your story (that's what we do at Donahoe Kearney -- you'll never hear us pick up the phone and say "law office"). That person takes you through a series of questions, which you may or may not feel like answering, considering all you wanted to do was find out how much an attorney costs, and whether or not you have a case.
It may be frustrating to know that even at the outset with all of the questions, we may not know whether or not you have a case until we've reviewed other things like medical records, insurance correspondence, pay stubs, police report, photos, etc.
We know that the process can be frustrating but here's the thing; we are not a "run of the mill" type of law firm. We promise to never take your case just so we can run it through the mill and collect a check after settling quickly (like some of those firms you see on TV). All of our cases we have taken because we have reviewed all of the materials, thoughtfully analyzed the case, and decided that your case is a case we think we can win and get something for you that makes your life better.
That's just the kind of firm we are.
Now, back to the process. We may ask you for additional information, like medical records or a copy of your insurance policy (depending on the type of case it is) and we always keep these records completely confidential and don't share them with anyone unless you've given us express permission.
Even if it turns out in the end that we are not the best fit for your case (sometimes the geographic location makes a difference, or the merits of the case lie outside of our practice area) we will do our best to either A) refer your case out to a trusted associate we know will do a good job or B) put enough information in your hands that you can handle the matter on your end.
That's just the kind of firm we are.So, do you need to share your medical records with a prospective attorney? The answer is, maybe. But don't forget to ask the good questions.Will my records be treated confidentially? What will happen to my records once you are doing reviewing them?If you have questions about what it takes to hire an attorney in DC, Maryland or Virginia, don't be shy! Give us a call at 202-393-3320 and we would be more than happy to answer any questions you might have.
Should I Hire A Lawyer From a TV Commercial For My Serious Injury Case?
Great question - how do you find the best lawyer for your injury case?
There is no doubt that there are many, many lawyers to choose from in Washington, DC, Maryland and Virginia, and many say they specialize in injury or accident cases.
Some of those lawyers have big, fancy billboards, their name on the side of a bus, or star in their own TV commercials. But you have to ask yourself this simple question:
Why? Why do they have to advertise like that?
(Because they have to? Because they would rather spend money on ads than on your case? Because they've already taken care of everything for you and have extra time on their hands)?
We don't know the answers to these questions (and you don't either), but here's the real question:
Is this the best law firm in the D.C. area
to help me with all of the problems caused by my serious injury?
Lots of big law firms advertise they handle 27 types of cases. But that doesn't mean they are good at 27 different things - who is? Just because they advertise for medical malpractice, personal injury or workers' compensation doesn't mean that they are right for you. In fact, lots of times these law firms will give you first-year and second-year associates (fresh out of law school), who have a mountain of other work to do ( a ton of other cases, research memos for partners, business networking, attending lower level meetings, and so on) and they don't have the time or the experience to handle your case well.
When it comes to medical malpractice, you really have to do your homework to find the right lawyer, otherwise you can waste valuable time with an inexperienced lawyer who will not be able to move forward with your case. This area is complicated, time consuming and costly - that's why we take only medical malpractice cases with catastrophic injuries - we don't want to put you through years of litigation that won't help you and your family (and we tell you that up front).
Personal injury is yet another field of law that can fall prey to this advertising mill mentality. Some law firms will take personal injury cases and "run them through the mill," which means that they will handle the casework as though it is paint-by-numbers and do whatever they need to in order to settle quickly and make quick money. Otherwise, it doesn't make sense for them to take the small cases that they do because they can't possibly give all of the cases the personal attention that they deserve and make money at the same time.
We get calls from folks who have been "accepted" by a "mill firm" and they haven't heard from their attorney in six months or EVER. And sometimes, even though they have a good case, we can't represent them because the case has already been screwed up by their other attorney.
So, you may be asking, "what's different about Donahoe Kearney?" Well, I'll tell you.
Attorneys Frank Kearney and Keith Donahoe are specialists. At Donaohe Kearney, all we do is represent people with serious injuries who need to be compensated in order to fairly adjust their lifestyle and pay for things like not being able to feed your family because you can no longer work, modifying your home to accomodate your injuries, and getting the future medical care you need.
And we don't take every case that comes our way. If we did, we would never be able to give the time and attention to each case, warranted by the needs of the client and the case. We will work tirelessly to make sure that you are made as whole as possible after a serious injury -- just ask any of our past clients.
And if you think we may be the right lawyers for you, call us at (202) 393 - 3320 to get started working with us.
I've been scheduled for a formal hearing. What should I expect?
At Donahoe Kearney we go to bat for our workers' comp clients: which means if they are not getting the treatment and/or benefits they deserve, we will file for a formal hearing on their behalf.
The difference between an informal conference and a formal hearing is pretty simple: for an informal conference we are just meeting with a claims examiner who will help us to resolve our conflict with the other side. The claims examiner will issue a recommendation that is nonbinding, but may become final if both sides agree. This is unlikely, because the insurance company can reject the recommendation of the claims examiner for any reason and request a formal hearing instead.
There are very few situations we request informal conferences for - and never if our client is not getting paid.
A formal hearing is a condensed, on the record trial where you file exhibits, call witnesses and make opening statements and closing arguments. The decision from the formal hearing is binding, but can be appealed. If handling a case yourself, you'll also have to understand all the ins and the outs of the process (discovery, medical records, exhibits, procedure) but we take care of all of the legal issues for our injured worker clients and we DO communicate with our clients on what to expect. Here's an example of a letter that we send to our clients when we have filed for formal hearing:
I just wanted to let you know we requested a Formal Hearing in your case to get you the workers' comp benefits the insurance company has denied (or delayed). We take this seriously and are aggressive about this approach - if the insurance company isn't doing what we think they should for you, we take them to court.
There is nothing you need to do right now, but here's what you can expect:
- You will receive a Scheduling Order in a few weeks with the date of the Formal Hearing and a lot of other dates leading up to it. Put the Formal Hearing date on your calendar and plan to be there, but don't worry about the other dates in the Scheduling Order - we take care of all of that.
- We get the Scheduling Order as well, and we'll call or email you to make sure you got it.
- We will thoroughly prepare you for the hearing and contact you to schedule meetings with Mr. Kearney as we get closer to the hearing date.
- Unfortunately, there is nothing we can do to move up the hearing date - these are being set about 4 months from the time we request the hearing. Sometimes these are re-scheduled because of conflicts with the lawyers' schedules, the judge, etc., but only by a week or so.
- We keep talking to the insurance company lawyers, to try to get them to provide the benefits before we ever have to go to the hearing, so rest assured we are doing everything we can to speed up the process.
- We'll be working on your case a lot between now and the hearing - be sure to keep us updated on your condition and medical treatment, like always, becasue we will probably need more frequent updates.
And if anything changes, we will let you know as soon as we hear.
Finally, hang in there - we know it is a difficult and unfair system that favors insurance companies. But we will do everything we can for you.
Have you been given the run-around by the insurance company? Have they stopped, or delayed paying your workers comp benefits or medical treatment? You may need to file a formal hearing and for most people we don't recommend doing this one your own (some can, if the case is small and/or straightforward). Give us a call today at 202-393-3320 to see if we might be the right firm for you. The call is free and confidential, so you have nothing to lose. Give us a call today to speak to a real person who wants to hear your story.
What's Different About Getting Medical Treatment on Workers' Comp?
If you were injured at work and are receving benefits, you may be getting treatment for the first time and feel confused about all of the differences between just getting medical care and getting medical care when you're on workers comp.
Here are some basics about getting medical treatment after a work injury.
First of all, your treatment requires authorizations and all of your providers (there may be one or several) will need to have the authorizations to treat you in their records. They have to carry the authorizations so they have the authority to bill workers' 'comp. When scheduling your treatment, you may need to be prepared for extra administrative measures, evaluations, and paperwork that you might not have to deal with when using your regular insurance. Give yourself a little extra time before your first appointment wth a new provider to make space for these types of tasks. And call ahead of time to make sure that the office has indeed received the auhorizations from your workers' comp adjuster.
Second, when you are seeing your treating physician (not your physical therapist or occupational therapist) you will need to get a disability note from him or her whenever you see them. This disability note, which says whether or not you can return to work (or return to work with restrictions) will be the piece of paper that triggers whether or not you keep receiving financial benefits while you are out of work.
Look at your slip before you leave the office and make sure it says what the doctor said to you. Doctor's offices sometimes make clerical errors so you want to make sure that the paperwork matches what you discussed with your doctor. And don't leave the office without it in your hand!
You also need to make sure that you have received all of your referrals from your treating physican to see other doctors related to your treatment. Typically the doctor will give you an order that states that type of treatment he would like you to seek - like physical therapy, and MRI, or a referral to a specialist..
The referrals have to match the type of treatment exactly. For example, if the referral says "physical therapy" and you want to get "aqua therapy," you will have to get an order specifically for aqua therapy.
Third, you need to make sure you have all of your office visit notes from your treating physician, and reports from any surgeries and special treatment. We recommend that you keep a copy of all of your own records, but for our clients we order and keep track of all of the records associated with their treatment and we seek authorizations on their behalf.
These records, especially from your treating physician, are the trail of paperwork that we use to show continuity of care and continuation of treatment, so you will also want to make sure that your visit notes reflect everything that you talked about with your doctor. Sometimes doctors offices inadvertently leave in visit notes things that don't correspond with the doctor's orders, such as "claimant can go back to work," when the doctor actually put you out of work for another month. These mistakes are not fatal, you just need to call the doctor and ask them to correct the visit notes. Sometimes your adjuster will want to see your visit reports, so you want to make sure they are accurate.
If you have a new workers' comp claim and are just getting started, you will absolutely need to order our free book "Protect Your Rights - the Ultimate Guide to DC Workers' Compensation." This book, written by premier workers' comp attorney Frank R. Kearney, gives you insight into what you need to know about DC workers' comp. And if you have further questions don't hesitate to give us a call at 202-393-3320. You will speak with a real person today who can get you started.
I Just Assume the Insurance Company Will Pay After an Accident -- Right?
Here's what your dad probably taught you when you first started driving. If you get in an accident, call the police and get the insurance information. They pay for the damage, and you deal with your end.
That's good advice, but it's not the whole story.
The truth is that any insurance adjuster, in any industry, is tasked with limiting both liability and financial exposure on behalf of their company. Which means that you have to be prepared to prove, and fight for, the benefits that you are owed after a car accident.
Now first of all -- follow your dad's advice because without a police report it can be very difficult to enforce an insurance claim: especially if you are seriously injured. Make sure all of the insurance information is getting on the police report (simply speak to the officer about it) and make sure you have the same information for your personal records. Get the name of your officer and his badge information. This is all just very simple information gathering that you do after an auto accident.
You will also want to photograph all of the damage (both to your car and theirs) before the other driver drives away because you will likely never see them again.
Next, we would recommend always going to the emergency room, even if you don't have a serious injury. Some injuries are latent and you won't feel their effects until weeks down the road. If you have something like a sore neck and spine, you may not even relate it to the injury if it starts hurting later. It's always better to get checked out immediately, and then once you start to experience symptoms, visit your primary care doctor.
Now, when do you need a lawyer for your accident case?
Most of the time if your injuries are minor and the insurance company is cooperating, you can probably handle the case on your own with one of our free books or reports to assist you.
But, if you have more serious injuries with protracted medical care, surgery, and can't work, you will probably need an attorney to prove your case and negotiate a settlement on your behalf. (plus determine how much insurance coverage the at fault driver has and file a lawsuit to hold that driver and his insurance company accountable).
We'll help you do what's right for you and your familly after a car accident in DC, Maryland or Virginia. Call us at (202) 393 - 3320 to get started.