Nobody wants to deal with medical problems in any shape or form. It’s even worse when those medical problems are created or worsened by the medical professionals who are supposed to be treating you.

Unfortunately, medical errors are one of the major causes of accidental death in the US. Therefore, it has become crucial for everyone to know how to recognize medical malpractice.

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What is the statute of limitations for medical malpractice in Washington state?

Generally the Statute of Limitations in Washington on a Medical Malpractice case is three years from the date of the negligent conduct. Therefore, if a lawsuit has not been started within the three year time frame, the claim is usually barred. However, in certain situations there can be exceptions to the three year time limit for conditions that were not known within the three year time frame. In that situation, you generally have 1 year from when you knew or should have known of the negligence. Other tolling provisions may also apply depending on the situation, so if you have a potential medical negligence claim, you should have your claim reviewed by an experienced attorney even if you believe you may be past the standard three year statute.

Are nursing home injury/abuse cases considered medical malpractice?

A nursing home injury/abuse claim may encompass some medical negligence, but there may also be vulnerable adult claims, premises liability claims, standard general negligence claims, negligent hiring and employee oversight claims, and corporate negligence claims, as well as intentional conduct claims like civil assault and battery claims. A nursing home abuse/injury claim requires a full analysis of the facts and many of the viable claims can depend on the potential defendants involved, and the type of harm that occurred. If you have a possible nursing home claim, you should have the claim reviewed promptly, as some potential claims may have a shorter statute of limitations than the traditional three years.

Can a medical malpractice case be reopened after it has settled?

Generally, no. You usually cannot reopen a medical malpractice claim after it has settled. Part of the settlement process involves the signing a comprehensive release document that prevents you from reopening the claim to try to obtain more money.

Can you file a medical malpractice lawsuit against someone other than a doctor?

Yes, you can bring a medical malpractice lawsuit against any health care provider, medical facility or hospital that has provided medical treatment that is below the standard of care for a similarly situated prudent medical provider in Washington.

How do I know if I have a medical malpractice case?

Medical Malpractice claims require a careful review and analysis of the specific facts in a given situation. This usually begins with us reviewing your medical records. After record review, we may have the claim reviewed by a medical expert to provide us with an initial determination on any specific breach of the standard of care that occurred. It takes time to do a thorough review, so if you have a potential malpractice claim, you should not delay in having your possible claim reviewed.

Is a misdiagnosis considered medical malpractice?

A misdiagnosis or the failure to diagnose a condition are often good indicators of medical negligence. However, misdiagnosis and diagnostic errors alone do not mean you have a viable medical negligence claim. There are other components to a medical malpractice claim that have to be analyzed to see if you have a valid malpractice claim.

What is considered medical malpractice in Washington state?

In Washington, medical malpractice exists where the health care provider failed to exercise the degree of care, skill and learning expected of a reasonably prudent health care provider in Washington acting in the same or similar circumstances, and that failure must be the cause of the injury or harm that the patient suffered.

What documents do I need for a medical malpractice case in Washington state?

Initially you will want to obtain any and all medical records from your treating physicians during the time frame that you believe the negligence occurred. If the medical records and an initial expert opinion support a malpractice claim, we will need to obtain additional information from you to support other elements of your claim, like damages. This usually requires providing documents that support your economic loss, out of pocket expenses, as well as documents that “show” how your life has been affected by the harm that was caused by the medical negligence. Don’t worry, we work with our clients to determine what evidence will be the most helpful to prove your case.

Civil rights

As an American, your civil rights are guaranteed by the Constitution, as well as federal and state laws. A violation of these rights is not something that should be taken lightly. When the people who should be responsible for protecting and enforcing these rights are the ones doing the violating, what happens?

Employment discrimination, police misconduct, sexual harassment, and disability discrimination are some instances of civil rights violations. Unfortunately, the most common civil rights cases are police misconduct, which includes excessive force, wrongful imprisonment, false arrest, and malicious prosecution.

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Can you sue someone if my rights have been violated?

Yes, legal action can be brought if your civil rights have been violated, and the violation causes you harm as a result. There are many types of claims that may be brought depending on the facts and circumstances in a given situation. If you believe your rights have been violated, you should have your situation reviewed by an experienced attorney.

Is there a statute of limitations concerning civil rights in Washington state?

Yes, generally, the same three year statute of limitations applies to injuries sustained as a result of a civil rights violation. As with any injury claim, there may be exceptions to this time limit depending on the type of claim being brought. Civil rights claims being brought against the government normally have a pre-filing notice requirement (government claim form and waiting period) that has to be met prior to a lawsuit being filed. We recommend you have your potential claim reviewed promptly, so that we can fully investigate the facts and circumstances of your situation and comply with any pre-filing requirements prior to the statute of limitations date.

What steps to take if my employer violated my civil rights?

If you believe your employer has violated your civil rights, you should have your concerns reviewed by an experienced employment law attorney. Civil rights generally involve a harm caused by the employer taking a negative employment action toward you because of your race, religion, gender, disability, age or some other protected status. This could be obvious discrimination such as being told you are fired because your race, nationality or gender are “not a good fit” for the job; or, that you are too old for the job; or perhaps your disability interferes with your ability to do your job. Too often employers are more subtle about the method and manner in which discrimination occurs. For example, an employer may say they are a proponent for gender equality, but in reality, there are unspoken, varying standards or pay differentials occurring. The types of claims that can be brought against an employer depend on the specific set of circumstances you are dealing with.

Additionally, a savvy employer will not likely terminate an employee if they have an issue with some aspect of the employee that may trigger a civil rights wrongful termination claim. Such an employer is much more likely to make subtle changes to the employee’s work environment with the end goal of forcing the employee to quit their job. This is referred to as a constructive discharge and is treated no differently than a termination under the law.

Finally, you should keep in mind that the statute of limitations on employment claims vary. Also, there may be pre-litigation filing requirements, such as filing a claim with the EEOC, and/or working with your union representative or completing an administrative process. Because the viability of claims, requires a careful analysis of the facts of your specific case, we recommend you have it reviewed by an experienced employment attorney as soon as the concern arises.

Can I sue the police?

Yes, the police are not above the law, and can be held liable for intentional misconduct as well as negligence in the method and manner in which they carry out their duties. This may be seen in an excessive force situation, a failure to provide necessary medical care in custody, or even negligent driving that results in injury. There are doctrines of law that protect officers from legal action in a situation where they were acting under the color of their authority and arguably were not aware that their actions violated an individual’s rights. This is called qualified immunity. Similarly, a law enforcement agency can only be held liable if it has in place a policy, custom or practice that violates the rights of the citizens it protects. This does not shield them from liability for certain acts carried out by employees. The legal analysis for these claims can be complex. If you believe your rights have been violated by a law enforcement officer or agency and that this violation of your rights has caused you injury or harm, you should have a thorough evaluation conducted of your individual situation by an experienced attorney.

Brain injury

Head and brain injuries are usually the most devastating type of injuries. They may have been caused by an accident or medical negligence. Whichever is the case, not only do they have medical ramifications, but they often have emotional, physical, and psychological effects as well. They can affect your cognitive functioning and give you significant difficulty with your memory.

So if you’ve suffered a traumatic brain injury due to someone else’s negligence, you may be due some compensation for your medical and other expenses.

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How do I know if I have a traumatic brain injury?

Often people that sustain a traumatic brain injury (TBI) have been diagnosed with “concussion” or “mild head trauma” in the Emergency Room. However, numerous people each year go undiagnosed because they have the mistaken belief that a TBI requires a person to have a “loss of consciousness” or major head trauma. In reality, you can sustain a traumatic brain injury simply from the acceleration / deceleration forces that occur in a standard motor vehicle crash, without your head ever striking anything at all. These “whiplash” injuries toss the brain around inside the skull with such acceleration and force that the brain crashing into the bone causes tears and hemorrhaging in the brain tissue; resulting in a traumatic brain injury. These seemingly invisible traumatic brain injuries can be severe and life changing.

Common symptoms to watch for are headaches, sensitivity to light or sound, vision changes, speech or hearing changes, memory difficulties, balance difficulties, difficulty with finding the right words to use to communicate, becoming easily agitated, personality/behavioral changes, and loss of impulse control. These are just some of the common symptoms people may experience if they have sustained a head injury. You likely will not experience all of these symptoms as each head injury is different and different areas of the brain control different functions. If you are experiencing any strange or confusing symptoms after a trauma, you should discuss those with your doctor.

What rights do I have if I have suffered a traumatic brain injury in an accident or due to medical malpractice?

If you’ve sustained a traumatic brain injury (TBI) as the result of the negligence of someone else, even medical malpractice, you have the right to be compensated for the harm caused. With head injuries, it is important to work with an experienced attorney who has a strong working knowledge in the area of brain injury litigation. Specifically, without limitation, you need someone skilled in establishing how the injury occurred, what the extent of the damage is, your pre-injury condition as compared to the “change” that occurred as a result of the TBI; and what the recovery period, and post recovery will look like. For all of these reasons, if you think you, or someone you know has suffered a traumatic brain injury resulting from the negligence of some other person, you should contact an attorney experienced in handling brain injury cases as soon as possible.

What is the statute of limitations in Washington for bringing a traumatic brain injury lawsuit?

Washington’s statute of limitations for any personal injury, including a traumatic brain injury, is generally three years. This means you either have your case resolved or a lawsuit filed within the three year time frame or your claim is forever barred. That said, there are exceptions to this rule. For example, if the brain injury is the result of an intentional act such as an assault or battery, the statute is two years. Also, a child that is injured or a person that is incapacitated (i.e. unable to handle their own affairs) may be able to extend the statute of limitations under certain circumstances. Suffice it to say, you should not procrastinate. If you believe you may have a claim you should contact a knowledgeable attorney to evaluate your specific situation as soon as possible.

How much will it cost to hire a traumatic brain injury lawyer?

Most personal injury lawyers work on a contingent fee basis, meaning the lawyer recovers a fee when / if the lawyer secures a financial recovery for you. The contingent fee is paid out of the proceeds of the settlement, so you will not have to worry about the ability to pay an attorney hourly as your case progresses. The contingent fee percentage is usually based on several factors such as the difficulty of the case, the risk taken on by the lawyer based upon complexity and other issues of your case, and length of time a case takes to resolve. The typical contingent fee ranges from 33 and 1/3% to 50% of the gross settlement amount depending on case variables. You should also keep in mind that there are costs associated with retaining any lawyer that are ultimately your responsibility. For example, if your injury is the result of a medical negligence claim, experts would have to be retained right away to determine if the injury was the result of negligence or a known risk or complication; similarly, in an auto crash case the initial evaluation may require hiring an engineering expert or reconstructionist. These experts cost money. Some lawyers require you to pay these initial costs up front. In any event, you are ultimately responsible for these costs in addition to any attorneys’ fee.

Further, in many TBI cases, we often have to go through the Court approval process to resolve a claim if the injured person has a guardian or difficulty understanding because of the head injury they sustained. This process includes the Court reviewing and approving the contingent fee and costs associated with the case.

Finally, in Washington, RCW 4.24.005, allows a person to request the Court review the lawyer’s fees for reasonableness within 45 days resolution, if they believe the contingent amount being charged is too high based on the work performed.

What should I look for in choosing a traumatic brain injury attorney to represent me?

You want to make sure the attorney you hire has knowledge and experience handling traumatic brain injury (TBI) cases. You should also look for an attorney who has personal experience not only representing brain injured clients and their families, but has had personal experience dealing with individuals in their own family or social circle who have had brain injuries. Brain injury cases are specialized. They require a lawyer who understands the issues that come with a brain injury. The only way a person truly understands what it means to have a brain injury or live with someone that does, is someone who has experienced the effects of a TBI in their personal life. You want a compassionate lawyer, who truly “listens” to you and your family. A lawyer who can understand what you’re going through and grasp the profound impact your injury has had on your life, and is willing to go to the matt to protect you and your future.

People who sustain TBI’s often have difficulties maintaining employment and/or working at the level they were pre-injury. Frequently TBI survivors have ongoing care needs for years to come and possibly for the rest of their life. It’s important an attorney really get to know you and understand what you’ve lost, and what you need into the future. The attorney you hire is responsible for gathering evidence to prove the harm caused to you and your family, to help maximize the amount of money you will have after your claim resolves. The attorney needs to be able to effectively relay all the changes that have occurred in your life as a result of your TBI, and this all begins with the attorney “listening” and being willing to learn all about you and your family.

Finally, you want an experienced brain injury attorney who is tied into the network of local, regional, and national support groups; an attorney who has connections with the top neuropsychologists, neurosurgeons, and neuroradiologists in the country; an attorney who has top experts in the field in their cell phone contacts list, and can consult with them at any time.

Attorneys in our office fill all of the above criteria. We are committed to bringing you the best care and representation available – because we care.

If I bring a traumatic brain injury lawsuit, will I have to go to court?

Simply because you file a lawsuit does not mean that you will be required to go to court. Traumatic brain injury cases can resolve without trial, and most do. That said, we believe the Latin phrase, Si vis pacem, para bellum — “If you want peace, prepare for war” – always applies in our practice. We prepare every case as if we are going to go to trial. By thoroughly preparing your case for trial, we maximize the value of your case. This process either results in the defendant entering into reasonable negotiations, or enables us to effectively relay your case to the jury should we have to try the case. Because we practice in this manner, defense firms know they are in for a fight if they see our name in a case. We are prepared to go to the mat for our clients anytime, anywhere. This drives up settlement value on cases and leads to earlier resolutions if a case is going to resolve.

Social security disability

It can be challenging to earn a living when you’re disabled, either mentally, physically, or emotionally. Fortunately, the Social Security Administration provides benefits for people who have a debilitating personal injury or chronic illness to the point that they are unable to work. These benefits could be available under Social Security Disability Insurance or Supplemental Security Income.

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What can I do if my social security disability claim was denied?

If your social security disability claim was denied the most important thing to do is file an appeal within 60 days of the date on the denial letter you receive. Failure to file an appeal within 60 days will likely require that you re-apply for your social security disability benefits all over again. Social security takes 4-5 months to review initial applications, so if you miss your 60 day appeal window, you will be waiting another 4-5 months before receiving another denial letter that you can then appeal. It’s likely you will need to enter the appeal process before benefits are granted as approximately 70% of initial applications are denied.

You also want to continue treating with your medical providers throughout your claim, and especially on appeal. Social Security regulations require the claimant to have medical record evidence in the file that documents the condition(s) causing the disability and the functional limitations that the claimant’s conditions impose on a person’s ability to work.

What's the process for filing an appeal?

To keep your disability application moving through the appeal process, you simply need to contact social security and let them know you are wanting to file an appeal and timely complete all the paperwork you receive. However, if you want to prevail on appeal, an attorney can significantly increase your ability to get a favorable benefit decision.

The different stages of appeal are as follows:

  1. Initial application-You apply for benefits.  If denied, you appeal to reconsideration.
  2. Reconsideration involves review of the initial application by the state division of disability services.  If denied, you appeal by putting in a request for hearing.
  3. Hearing—The hearing is in front of an administrative law judge (ALJ).  At this stage, the ALJ is charged with reviewing all available evidence and taking testimony.  The ALJ assigns weight and credibility determinations with regard to the evidence and testimony in your file.  If denied, you can then appeal to the appeals counsel and request review if you believe errors were made at the hearing or by the ALJ.
  4. Appeals Counsel—The Appeals Counsel can review the decision of the ALJ and either reverse the decision, or order a supplemental hearing by the ALJ to obtain additional evidence, or the Appeals Counsel may deny review allowing you to file a lawsuit against SSA in Federal Court.
  5. Federal Court Lawsuit—In Federal Court the entire administrative record is reviewed.  The Federal Court may reverse and award benefits or may uphold the decision made by the ALJ at the hearing level.

How long do I have to file an appeal?

You have 60 days from the date of the denial decision to file an appeal. The 60 day deadline applies at each stage of the appeal process. After any denial or unfavorable decision made on your claim, you have 60 days to appeal to the next review level.

How long does an SSDI/SSI claim take?

Generally, a social security disability claim can take a long time, depending on your location in the country and the backlog of appeals in the local area. The following are general time frames seen in Eastern Washington.

A social security disability claim if approved on application takes 4-5 months. If a denial is received and appealed, the reconsideration stage can take another 2-4 months. If a denial is received on reconsideration, a request for hearing is filed and it can take 1-2 years before you will have a hearing in front of an administrative law judge. (The Spokane hearing office tries to provide the claimant a hearing date within 1 ½ years of the request for hearing being filed.) If you receive an unfavorable decision after hearing, an appeal is filed with the Appeals Counsel, and it can take up to another 6 months before you know if the appeal is going to require filing a lawsuit in Federal Court. Federal Court cases do not have a set time frame, and some have taken years depending on the case.

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