If you or someone you know has recently been harmed as a result of a doctor or other medical professional’s negligence, it is vital that you proceed cautiously and carefully with your next steps.
One of the most common questions presented by victims or family members of victims is, "How long does a medical malpractice lawsuit take?" There is no doubt that there are immediate impacts to real or believed medical malpractice. For example, if a doctor fails to diagnose you in a timely manner, you could've missed out on important opportunities to get early treatments. Likewise, if you were subject to a surgical error, you could be dealing with the consequences immediately, such as having to stay in a nursing home because of a serious infection.
One leading reason to ask about how long a medical malpractice lawsuit takes is that there are statutes of limitations in place that require you to file a lawsuit in a timely manner and because you may be curious about what you can expect in terms of your recovery and potential legal consequences. There is no one-size-fits-all length to a medical malpractice lawsuit. There are many different factors that can influence the outcome of a medical malpractice lawsuit.
In many cases, hospitals and other physicians have extensive legal teams in place and potentially even malpractice insurance which complicates the ability to resolve these cases quickly. There will often be a thorough investigation by any clinic or hospital involved in the lawsuit or employing the medical professional in question. You should be prepared for a potentially long road ahead and extensive research and evidence-gathering phases in this project.
First Step in a Medical Malpractice Lawsuit
If you believe that medical malpractice has occurred, you might have already shared these concerns with the hospital or medical professional that you were accusing. However, this is an entirely different matter from opening a medical malpractice lawsuit. You will need to visit with a medical malpractice attorney in your area to discuss the specifics of your case. You will likely need to sign releases or provide copies of medical records. That law firm will likely do an initial pass through the medical records to determine whether or not an issue has occurred. If they believe that further insight is needed, they will then send these records on to an independent medical examiner who will, as a neutral party, review all of this material and come back with a recommendation. In many cases, the independent medical examiner will be someone who has experience in that area of health care.
For example, if you argue that a heart surgery went wrong because of a surgeon's malpractice or negligence issues, it is likely that someone who evaluates this as an independent medical examiner will have a background in heart surgery as well. Based on the outcome of this thorough review, the next step would be to file a lawsuit if all parties involved believe that malpractice has occurred. It can take anywhere from a few weeks to a few months to even get through this phase of a medical malpractice lawsuit, particularly if multiple independent medical examinations are required. During this time, it is strongly recommended that you do not communicate with anyone from the hospital except as required to do so.
Do not sign any releases before presenting the paperwork directly to your medical malpractice attorney. Particularly if the loved one in question died as a result of this alleged medical malpractice, you may also need to inform creditors associated with probate that things are on hold until that issue can be addressed in full. Any of these complexities can add a great deal of time to the evaluation in conclusion of a medical malpractice lawsuit.
The Next Step: Filing a Case
Once a case has been filed, early stages of the case need to be managed, such as depositions and interrogatories. During this early part of the case, this is when you will be gathering any key evidence and your lawyer will be interviewing witnesses. At any point in this process, a settlement conversation can occur.
Settlement conversations are typically prompted when the health care provider or legal representatives serving that person believe that there is too much uncertainty or are concerned about the length of time required to go to trial. Bear in mind that you are not obligated to take any settlement offer presented to you by the other side, and it is up to you to evaluate these things carefully with your lawyer. If you believe that you have not been presented with a fair settlement offer, you can counter that offer or decline it altogether. Your lawyer will then continue proceeding as planned with your case in court. At any time, future settlement conversations can occur as well.