No medical malpractice cases are exactly the same. In fact, medical malpractice is one of the most complex areas of the law which means that resolution to medical malpractice lawsuits can take a substantial amount of time.
Expert medical opinions are commonly required, and the process of investigating the relevant medical records can be extensive.
In some instances, parties to a medical malpractice claim are able to negotiate a settlement relatively quickly. Sometimes, however, a trial is the only way to reach a conclusion. In these cases, the resolution of the case could take years.
Whether attempting to negotiate a settlement or recover damages in court, the skill of an experienced medical malpractice attorney will prove invaluable.
Estimating the Length of the Process
After you have obtained legal representation, your attorney will thoroughly ask you about the medical condition you sought treatment for, and the treatment you received. Next, your attorney will work to obtain your complete medical records regarding any treatment you have ever received for the medical condition at issue.
As you might imagine, this process may take some time – even months – especially if you have received treatment many times in different locations over many years. As the records come in from the different places you have received treatment for your medical condition, your attorney will be able to more carefully assess the viability of a medical malpractice claim.
If, based on your attorney’s thorough assessment, you do have a viable medical malpractice claim, the search will begin for the appropriate medical expert to offer a professional opinion on the treatment you received for your condition.
Negligence in Medical Malpractice Cases
Medical Malpractice is contextualized in terms of the legal doctrine of negligence. Negligence occurs when damages result from the breach of a duty that is owed.
So, the medical expert reviewing your medical records and interview will provide an opinion as to whether you were the victim of negligence in the medical context. Context is important because the duty element of negligence is a factor of the medical standard of care doctors and other health professionals must provide.
Filing the Lawsuit
If your attorney and medical expert are of the professional opinion that you have been the victim of negligence of the medical malpractice variety, your attorney will then file a lawsuit. This is a key juncture in your settlement timeline as it starts the countdown on when your case will go to trial if a settlement can be reached with the physician and treatment center’s insurance provider.
After you have filed a lawsuit, the parties you have brought claims against will want to do everything your attorney and medical expert have already done. In other words, they will want to interview you about your medical condition and the treatment you have received. This process can be lengthy, taking many months – even more than a year – and involving formal interviews, whether in the form of interrogatories or depositions.
It is often only then that real settlement negotiations begin, several months to several years from the time you contact your attorney. That is not to suggest that every case will take this long. Some matters that involve less serious injuries and less complex medical procedures may be resolved more efficiently. But you should at least be prepared for the longer process.
Settling the Lawsuit
Because of this cumbersome time frame, many people opt to settle the case. The settlement can come at various points of the suit and will usually depend upon who has the upper hand with evidence. Many parties choose to settle before ever going to trial.
In this type of situation, the lawsuit can take as little as a few weeks. It is a much less involved process and circumvents the court in many ways, providing people with the payout that they want without all of the legal hassle.