Medical malpractice is an important legal topic, but it’s misunderstood by many clients you’ll encounter. If you want to manage a successful case and help your clients achieve their goals, you need to be able to communicate on the same level. Your client should understand the basics of medical malpractice, and be able to give real, open insight into their experience.
The question is, how can you create an open environment and educate your clients in a way that’s accessible to them?
What Clients Should Know About Medical Malpractice
As a lawyer, you’re probably so familiar with the ins and outs of medical malpractice that the most fundamental concepts are second nature—and seem like common sense to you. But your clients may not be familiar with these principles.
- The importance of contacting a lawyer. If someone is talking to you already, they’re in good hands. But each year, thousands if not millions of people get questionable medical treatment—and they don’t know how important it is to contact a medical malpractice attorney. In many cases, your communication must begin before you formally bring new clients onboard.
- The need for second (and third) opinions. One of the first steps a client should take if they feel they’ve received incomplete, unnecessary, or damaging forms of treatment is to get a second opinion from another medical professional. In some cases, it’s advisable to get a third opinion. Some clients will feel reluctant to do so, feeling like they’re going behind the back of their primary healthcare team. However, your clients should understand that getting a second opinion is common and beneficial, even outside of malpractice cases.
- The danger of communicating with the hospital. Clients don’t always think through the consequences of their actions independently, especially when they’re not familiar with legal processes. If left alone, they may try to contact the hospital or healthcare facility directly, trying to reach a specific individual, gather records, or even notify them of the case they’re bringing against them. Obviously, this is a bad idea that could jeopardize the case, but you’ll need to communicate that to be successful.
- The types of malpractice. As you know, there are many ways that malpractice can manifest—some of which aren’t immediately obvious. For example, malpractice can be committed not just by doctors, but also nurses and other healthcare providers, and it can be committed through direct actions, negligence, and a lack of action when necessary. This is another area that sometimes needs to be communicated to clients before they become clients; they need to understand the context of what happened to them, and the possible actions they could take, just to get in a room with a lawyer.
How to Communicate Complex Subjects With Clients
So how should you be communicating these ideas and complex subjects with your clients?
- Onsite content. First, make sure your website has plenty of onsite content, where you explain some of the fundamentals about medical malpractice. You won’t be able to reach everyone, but some people who aren’t sure if what they experienced malpractice will get a better understanding of what “malpractice” really is—and they’ll be more likely to contact you in the future.
- Marketing materials. Similarly, you can use your marketing and advertising materials for a kind of educational outreach campaign. Try to reach as many people as possible with an explanation of how medical malpractice works—and explain it in the simplest possible terms.
- Starting from a baseline. Once you’re in a room with a client, you’ll want to establish a baseline of their existing knowledge. What do they think malpractice is? What do they currently know about their case? What are they still missing? What are they confused about? Start the session by listening more than talking.
- Utilizing examples. Most people understand the complexities of legal matters much easier when they have real examples. Instead of detailing the different types of medical malpractice, give them a handful of examples of real or hypothetical cases.
- Providing simple instructions and scenarios. While it’s important to keep your clients fully informed at all times, sometimes it’s much easier to digest information when it’s reduced to something simpler and cleaner. Provide simple instructions, and simple hypothetical scenarios to make their decisions easier.
When communicating with a client, pay attention to their nonverbal communication; do they seem like they understand what you’re saying? Take the time to ask them what they do and don’t understand, and be prepared to phrase your concepts in different terms. The more adaptable you are, and the more you notice when a client seems to be lost, the better you’ll be able to clarify your main points. And the more you do this, the better you’ll get.