How to File a Lawsuit Against a Medical Doctor

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Lawsuits against doctors or other medical professionals are called medical malpractice suits. The suits are filed after a doctor fails to provide competent medical care resulting in injury, death or financial damage to a patient. Medical malpractice suits also can stem from general negligence on the part of the doctor or the hospital at which the treatment occurred. Valid cases often are settled before going to trial, which saves everybody time and money.

Make a timeline of events as you remember them, including dates of appointments, tests ordered, procedures performed and conversations you had with your doctor. Make sure your reason for wanting to file a malpractice lawsuit is clearly articulated.

Contact an attorney who specializes in medical malpractice to find out if your case is worth pursuing. Each state sets its own rules for medical malpractice, including statute of limitations. If the negligence or wrongdoing occurred too far in the past, it might be too late to file a lawsuit.

Gather all relevant medical records and forms from the hospital or facility where you were treated. These can include charts, doctor's notes, X-rays or MRI results, lab notes and bills. The medical facility holding these records might charge a fee to have them copied and sent out.

Bring all materials to your attorney for review. He or she will conduct a thorough analysis of the records to determine whether or not medical malpractice likely occurred and decide if the case should be taken to court.

Work with your attorney to fill out all paperwork required by your local courthouse. Pay any required filing fees to officially submit the lawsuit for the court's review. The doctor or medical professional who you are suing must be formally notified of the suit; your lawyer will most likely handle this step but if not, you will have to pay the court to send a legal summons to the doctor and give him or her the opportunity to respond.


  • It's possible to file a medical malpractice lawsuit without the help of an attorney, but an experienced lawyer can help navigate a complicated case and save time and money.


  • Typically, the patient who has been injured or wronged initiates the lawsuit against a doctor. If the patient has died and the family suspects wrongful death, the person's dependents or beneficiaries legally are allowed to file.


About the Author

Katharine Flug has been writing operations manuals for medical nonprofits since 2008. She served in the U.S. Peace Corps, where she wrote and helped publish educational materials on HIV/AIDS. Flug holds a Bachelor of Arts in gender studies and linguistics from Indiana University.

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