Medical Malpractice Lawsuits: How Long Can They Last and What Should I Expect?
Posted on: March 13th, 2015 by Richard Cuthbert
Victims of medical malpractice expect compensation for the harm brought upon them by a negligent doctor or medical practitioner, but the process often takes longer than expected. After spending thousands on medical bills and legal counsel, victims may be impatient with the long, drawn out legal process. However, not understanding the process of a medical malpractice lawsuit could cost you hundreds of thousands of dollars, if not your entire claim.
A medical malpractice lawsuit typically takes between 12-24 months from start to finish. Because each malpractice case is different, the length of the lawsuit and time it takes to resolve the case will very. Prepare for the case by getting an idea of what to expect during the lawsuit below.
How Long You Have To File
Medical malpractice – – It occurs when a medical professional or organization commits negligence that results in harm to a patient. In the legal community, this negligence is called a breach of the standard of care (“SOC”). The SOC is that the degree of care which a reasonable and prudent health care professional would have provided under the same or similar circumstances (that led to the alleged negligence). The medical malpractice statute of limitations depends on the details of the case, but most lawsuits must be brought within two years of injury. If the case involves foreign objects left in the patient, the law states the plaintiff must file within one year from the date of the object’s discovery.
After you hire a law firm to take your case, we will hire medical experts to independently research the SOC and the negligence at issue. This research includes organizing medical files, examining medical records, and getting expert opinions as to the SOC and causation. Causation can often be the most difficult part of a medical malpractice case. (Determining a causal relationship between the negligence at issue and the harm that resulted.)
Obtaining Medical Records and Discovery
Once you file a medical malpractice lawsuit and all parties involved have been notified, the discovery process formally begins. This process allows both the defense and the plaintiff to investigate all the facts. Discovery helps your medical malpractice attorney prepare your case for a potential trial and decide what a fair settlement figure to accept in lieu of a trial. (If a settlement is offered). Both the defense and plaintiff request and share any information that relates to the lawsuit during discovery. Each side builds a case based on the facts and information exposed during the discovery process. Expect this process to take at least six months to a year.
Expert medical witnesses play for both teams. Each side has its own experts who help the lawyers build the case and understand the medicine at issue.
If all expert medical witnesses agree that medical negligence has occurred, either a large settlement will be agreed upon or the case will go to trial. (This rarely happens). If these experts disagree (this happens most of the time), the case will typically go to trial.
Possible Early Settlement
Settlement could occur at any time after the lawsuit is filed, but typically medical professionals and organizations want to gather all evidence and review it to ensure the patient has a valid claim. Defense firms also bill by the hour, so there is a built-in disincentive for them to settle before thoroughly working a case. Another disincentive is the fact that many physicians have the ability to decide if a case settles. Often times a physician has nothing to lose by rolling the dice and taking the case to trial.
An experienced lawyer provides guidance to his clients as to what a fair settlement offer is. We act on your behalf to mediate and attempt to raise the potential settlement offer. In the case of a settlement not being agreed upon, both sides prepare for trial. Keep in mind that trials are costly and can take months, even years, to resolve. Many times, with little to no income and the stress of overdue bills, plaintiffs feel pressured to settle for unjust compensation. Your lawyer can provide you with options to prevent settling too early and losing out on fair reparations.
Collecting the Money
If you are successful in your lawsuit, there are two payment options that are typically put in place. Lump-sum payments and structured payments. Lump-sum payments are exactly as they sound, leaving the plaintiff with a lump-sum at the end of the lawsuit. Structured payments disburse money over a long period of time. Generally, more money is released in total, but the recipient must wait longer to receive it. The courts choose this method of payment to make sure the child’s long-term medical care can be covered and a trustee will use the settlement to provide for the child’s basic needs.
Paying Attorney Fees and Legal Expenses
Medical malpractice attorneys work on a contingency fee basis, meaning we only get paid if the victims recover money. Generally, your lawyer will pay off all expenses that occurred preparing your case for trial, and then they will receive a percentage of the remaining settlement amount.
Medical malpractice lawsuits are tricky because of the time, expense, and expertise involved in taking a case to trial. Expect to spend 12-24 months for the entire lawsuit to play out. In these cases, you will need a professional medical attorney to help you get the justice and compensation you deserve. If you believe you have been mistreated by a doctor and have a valid medical malpractice lawsuit, speak to an attorney about representing your case today.