The Legal Process of Pursuing a Medical Injury Claim: A Lawyer’s Perspective

Pursuing a medical injury claim can be a complex and daunting process. 

From the initial recognition of harm to the final settlement or court verdict, each step requires careful navigation of legal principles, medical facts, and procedural rules. 

Here, we will outline the legal process of pursuing a medical injury claim from a lawyer’s perspective, providing insight into what plaintiffs can expect and how they can effectively manage their cases.

Understanding Medical Injury Claims

Medical injury claims, also known as medical malpractice claims, arise when a healthcare provider’s negligence results in harm to a patient. 

Negligence in this context means that the healthcare provider failed to deliver the standard of care that a reasonably competent provider would have offered under similar circumstances. 

Common examples include surgical errors, misdiagnosis, delayed diagnosis, medication errors, and failure to obtain informed consent.

Step 1: Initial Consultation and Case Evaluation

The process begins with an initial consultation with a medical malpractice attorney. During this meeting, the lawyer will:

  • Listen to the client’s story: The attorney will gather detailed information about the medical treatment, the injuries sustained, and the impact on the client’s life.
  • Review medical records: The lawyer will request and review all relevant medical records to understand the circumstances of the alleged malpractice.
  • Evaluate the case: Based on the information provided, the lawyer will assess the viability of the claim, considering factors such as the statute of limitations, the strength of the evidence, and potential damages.

Step 2: Pre-Litigation Preparation


Legal Process for Medical Injury Claim


If the attorney believes the case has merit, the next phase involves preparing the claim for potential litigation. 

This includes:

  • Expert review: Medical malpractice cases typically require expert testimony. 

The lawyer will consult with medical experts to review the case and provide opinions on whether the standard of care was breached and if that breach caused the injury.

  • Notice of claim: In many jurisdictions, a formal notice of the intent to file a claim must be sent to the healthcare provider. 

This notice gives the provider an opportunity to settle the matter before a lawsuit is filed.

  • Gathering evidence: The attorney will collect additional evidence, such as witness statements, medical literature, and any other relevant documents.

Step 3: Filing the Lawsuit

If a settlement is not reached during the pre-litigation phase, the attorney will file a formal complaint in the appropriate court. 

This document outlines the plaintiff’s allegations, and the damages sought. The process includes:

  • Drafting the complaint: The lawyer will draft a detailed complaint that specifies the facts of the case, the legal basis for the claim, and the damages being sought.
  • Filing and serving: The complaint is filed with the court and served on the defendant (the healthcare provider or institution).

Step 4: Discovery

The discovery phase is crucial in building a solid case. During discovery, both parties exchange information and evidence. 

This phase includes:

  • Interrogatories and depositions: Written questions (interrogatories) and oral testimony under oath (depositions) are conducted to gather information from the parties and witnesses.
  • Document requests: Each side can request relevant documents from the other party.
  • Expert witness preparation: Both sides will prepare their expert witnesses, who will provide testimony on medical standards and causation.

Step 5: Pre-Trial Motions and Settlement Negotiations

As the case progresses, there may be opportunities to resolve the dispute without going to trial. This phase includes:

  • Motions: Lawyers may file pre-trial motions to resolve specific issues, such as a motion to dismiss the case or a motion for summary judgment.
  • Settlement negotiations: Often, parties will attempt to settle the case through negotiations or mediation. Settlements can occur at any stage, even after a trial has begun.

Step 6: Trial

If the case does not settle, it proceeds to trial. A trial involves several key steps:

  • Jury selection: If the trial is before a jury, the process begins with selecting impartial jurors.
  • Opening statements: Each side presents an overview of their case to the jury.
  • Presentation of evidence: Both parties present evidence, including witness testimony and expert opinions.
  • Closing arguments: After presenting the evidence, lawyers make their final arguments to the jury.
  • Jury deliberation and verdict: The jury deliberates and returns a verdict, deciding whether the defendant is liable and, if so, the amount of damages.

Step 7: Post-Trial Motions and Appeals

After the trial, there may be further legal actions, including:

  • Post-trial motions: The losing party may file motions challenging the verdict, such as a motion for a new trial or a motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict.
  • Appeals: Either party can appeal the trial court’s decision to a higher court, which will review the case for legal errors.

Understanding the Key Elements of a Medical Injury Claim

To successfully pursue a medical injury claim, it is essential to understand the fundamental elements that constitute medical malpractice. 

These elements form the backbone of any claim and must be clearly established to prove negligence. 

The key elements include:

  1. Duty of Care: The plaintiff must show that the healthcare provider owed a duty of care to the patient. 

This is typically straightforward, as a duty of care exists whenever a provider-patient relationship is established.

  1. Breach of Duty: The plaintiff must demonstrate that the healthcare provider breached this duty by failing to adhere to the accepted standard of care. 

This involves comparing the provider’s actions (or inactions) to what a reasonably competent provider would have done in similar circumstances.

  1. Causation: There must be a direct link between the breach of duty and the injury sustained. 

The plaintiff must prove that the injury would not have occurred if not for the provider’s negligence.

  1. Damages: The plaintiff must have suffered actual harm or injury as a result of the breach. 

This can include physical pain, emotional distress, additional medical bills, lost wages, and other economic and non-economic damages.

Challenges in Medical Injury Claims


Legal Process for Medical Injury Claim



Medical injury claims are notoriously challenging due to several factors:

  • Complex Medical Evidence: These cases often involve intricate medical details that require expert interpretation. Understanding and presenting medical evidence is crucial.
  • Expert Testimony: It is vital to secure credible expert witnesses who can testify to the standard of care and causation. 

Their testimony can make or break a case.

  • Statute of Limitations: Medical malpractice claims are subject to strict deadlines.

Missing these deadlines can result in losing the right to sue, regardless of the claim’s merit.

  • Defensive Medicine: Healthcare providers often practice defensive medicine to protect themselves from litigation, which can complicate establishing a clear breach of duty.
  • Jury Perceptions: Jurors may have inherent biases in favor of healthcare providers, making it essential to present a compelling, clear, and understandable case.


Navigating a medical injury claim requires a deep understanding of both legal and medical intricacies. 

From establishing the elements of negligence to managing the complexities of litigation, every step is pivotal. 

By working with an experienced medical malpractice lawyer, plaintiffs can effectively pursue their claims, seek justice, and obtain the compensation they deserve for their injuries and suffering. 

This partnership is essential to overcoming the challenges inherent in medical malpractice cases and ensuring that healthcare providers are held accountable for their actions.

If you or a loved one has been affected by medical negligence, don’t hesitate to seek professional legal assistance. 

Contact Finch McCranie LLP today for a consultation and take the first step towards securing the justice you deserve. 

Visit Finch McCranie LLP to learn more and get in touch with experienced medical malpractice attorneys who can help you navigate your claim.


What are typical examples of medical malpractice? 

Common examples include surgical errors, misdiagnosis, delayed diagnosis, medication errors, and failure to obtain informed consent.

What happens during the initial consultation with a medical malpractice attorney? 

The attorney will:

  • Listen to the client’s story and gather detailed information about the treatment and injuries.
  • Review relevant medical records.
  • Evaluate the case’s viability based on factors like the statute of limitations, evidence strength, and potential damages.

What does the pre-litigation preparation phase involve? 

This phase includes:

  • Consulting medical experts to review the case.
  • Sending a formal notice of claim to the healthcare provider.
  • Gathering additional evidence such as witness statements and medical literature.

What are the steps to filing a lawsuit?

  • Drafting and filing a detailed complaint with the court.
  • Serving the complaint on the defendant (healthcare provider or institution).

What occurs during the discovery phase? 

During discovery, both parties exchange information and evidence through:

  • Interrogatories (written questions) and depositions (oral testimony under oath).
  • Document requests.
  • Preparing expert witnesses for testimony.

Can a case be settled without going to trial? 

Yes, settlement negotiations or mediation can occur at any stage, even after a trial has begun. Pre-trial motions may also resolve specific issues.

What happens if the case goes to trial? 

A trial involves:

  • Jury selection (if applicable).
  • Opening statements by each side.
  • Presentation of evidence and witness testimonies.
  • Closing arguments.
  • Jury deliberation and verdict.

What are post-trial motions and appeals?

  • The losing party may file motions challenging the verdict, like a motion for a new trial.
  • Either party can appeal the trial court’s decision to a higher court for review.

What are the critical elements needed to prove a medical injury claim?

  • Duty of Care: The provider owed a duty of care to the patient.
  • Breach of Duty: The provider failed to meet the accepted standard of care.
  • Causation: The breach directly caused the injury.
  • Damages: The plaintiff suffered actual harm or injury.
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