There are an estimated 98,000 preventable medical malpractice deaths each year according to the Harvard Medical School. That's several jets crashing each day. And yet there is no outrage. So if you or a loved one are thinking about suing a doctor or a health care facility, consider these tips:

  1. Not everything that goes wrong is malpractice. There must be shown a deviation from the standard of care in that speciality. Infections happen and most likely are not malpractice. There are known risks from some procedures, such as colonoscopies that are not malpractice.

  2. Seek the prompt service of an attorney in your state that handles these cases. Do not see you cousin or your neighbor or a friend's friend. And divorce, real estate, and criminal lawyers do not know what to do. Make sure you research how many cases the attorney has done before. Check to see if he or she is board certified and selected for honors by his or her peers. Also, check AVVO ratings.

  3. Be prepared to state what you feel the doctor did wrong in a short sentence. If it can't be simplfied than a jury will never understand your claim. Good examples are: they operated on the wrong eye, or they took out my kidney by mistake, or they should have done a C-Section, etc.

  4. Prepare a detailed timeline for the attorney.

  5. Bring the attorney all the medical records you can assemble. The more the merrier. The health care provider must turn them over to you and you don't have to tell them why. If they refuse, report them to the state medical society and you'll get them quickly.

  6. Keep in mind that there is a bias in favor of doctors at trial. That is why so many cases are not taken. The injuries have to be severe to warrant the attorney spending $50,000 to $100,000 of his or her own money.

  7. Get a second legal opinion if the first firm turns you down

  8. Keep in mind there are important time limits when a claim must be filed.

  9. Don't tell the attorney: "it's not about the money". While that may be true, that doesn't pay the attorney's mortgage

  10. Keep accurate records of who said what to whom. Sometimes you will find nurses who will help. See the movie "The Verdict" with Paul Newman to see what I mean by that.

Best of luck and remember to fight like heck if you believe you are in the right. Doctors are human and they make mistakes and they must be held personally responsible for the harms they cause.