Although there is no definite timeline for a medical malpractice lawsuit, a rough estimate can be made. It usually takes anywhere from six months to three years after all medical treatment has finished. This timeline is due to the time taken by both the medical provider and the patient’s representatives to gather all the required documentation, including evidence and expert reports confirming malpractice, and the process of litigation. The length of time largely depends on whether there are complex issues surrounding the case and how fiercely the defendant wants to fight the lawsuit.
For instance, if the two parties can amicably reach a settlement agreement before the case is filed in court, the time is considerably reduced. Although this saves time and expenses for both parties, it may also result in a smaller award for the plaintiff. However, all trials come with a certain amount of risk, and if the attorney believes there is a good chance of coming away with nothing, it may be better to avoid the risk of trial. On the other hand, if reaching a settlement out of court is proving difficult, then a full trial is inevitable and both parties will have to proceed to court.
Generally, a medical malpractice lawsuit involves several stages, and it is highly recommended to use the services of a qualified attorney to succeed in such a lawsuit. The legal process is complex, and nuanced medical issues are the focus of the case. Each scenario is different and ought to be handled as such. While settlement may be available at any stage, the following is a step-by-step breakdown of the medical malpractice timeline:
During this stage, your lawyer will gather information from you regarding the alleged medical malpractice. This will include a detailed account of your medical condition, the treatment provided, and any bills incurred. Your lawyer will also need access to your medical records and any other relevant medical history that may impact the case. They will thoroughly review this information to determine whether there is a viable medical malpractice case. This process can take anywhere from three to six months to complete.
After a thorough investigation and review of all available evidence and if there is a viable case, the next step is to hire a medical expert. Ideally, the medical expert should be a specialist in the same field as the alleged medical malpractice. Their duty is to review the medical records and provide an opinion on whether the defendant failed to meet the appropriate medical standard of care. As such, they will be required to testify before the jury and explain what the appropriate medical standard of care was under the given circumstances, and how the deviation from that standard by the medical professional contributed to the plaintiff’s injuries. The amount of time required for the expert to form and provide their report depends on the expert and could take anywhere from one to several months.
Next, the medical malpractice lawyer will file the lawsuit in court. The court will determine the trial date, which may be set anywhere from six months to a year in the future, depending on the court’s schedule. The pretrial procedures and average length of time before the actual trial varies among different counties. Additionally, either party may request a continuance to postpone the trial date further.
This certificate serves as an assurance that the medical malpractice case is valid and must be submitted by the plaintiff’s lawyer soon after filing the lawsuit and before the commencement of any pre-trial investigations. Moreover, the lawyer is obligated to provide a written opinion or affidavit attesting to the negligence committed by an independent medical doctor who reviewed the patient’s medical records. In this certificate, the lawyer affirms that he or she has consulted with a medical expert who believes that the medical standard of care was violated.
At this stage, the litigation process begins. Both parties will investigate each other’s legal claims and defenses through written and oral questions. This is the lengthiest part of the litigation process and varies widely in how much time is necessary. Depending on the number of witnesses and experts involved, the discovery process often takes anywhere from six months to one and a half years.
Usually, after or during the discovery stage, lawyers may begin negotiations for a settlement on behalf of the patient. This may be done informally through phone calls or emails, or the parties may come together for a formal mediation, where the patient’s presence is required.
If the two sides do not reach a settlement, the case proceeds to trial. It’s important to note that many other factors may affect the set date and push it further than anticipated.
With the above information, it should be relatively easier to understand the approximate amount of time that your case may take to finalize, considering the factors mentioned above. However, it’s crucial to keep in mind that every case is unique, and the best lawyer is the one who not only emphasizes working towards securing an expedient settlement but also ensures their clients get the maximum benefit possible.