A pro se litigant in a medical malpractice case is someone who acts as his or her own attorney. Pro se is Latin term meaning “for oneself” or “on one’s own behalf.” You do not have to be a licensed attorney to represent yourself in a medical malpractice lawsuit. A law license is required only for representing another party in a court of law.
Disadvantages of Filing a Medical Malpractice Lawsuit Pro Se
Why not file a medical malpractice lawsuit pro se? There are several reasons.
The Complexity of Medical Malpractice Law
First, medical malpractice is a complex, contentious, constantly evolving area of civil law. Even lawyers who do not specifically focus on medical malpractice often know little about it, so it stands to reason that a non-attorney will struggle, too. This is especially the case when you consider that most doctors and hospitals — your likely opposition — have highly skilled, highly paid attorneys on staff. Their familiarity with this area of law may give them an edge over someone who is representing themselves.
The Potential Money at Stake
Second, medical malpractice lawsuits tend to involve significant sums of money. The opportunity cost of not hiring a medical malpractice lawyer can therefore be particularly large. We encourage victims considering pro-se litigation to honestly consider whether they are likely to benefit from the knowledge and experience of an attorney who works on cases like yours for a living and will know exactly what to expect, what strategies have worked in the past, and what approaches have never worked before.
The Difficulty of Winning
In order to win your medical malpractice lawsuit, you have to know when your case is strong enough to emerge victorious in court and when you should push for an out-of-court settlement instead.
Even when doctors and hospitals feel they can win a jury verdict, many are willing or even eager to settle out of court, often for a substantial amount. Settling lets them avoid the time, cost, energy, and reputational damage that comes with a protracted trial. A good attorney knows when to settle and how to handle the negotiation process.
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