When you or a family member has suffered physically, mentally and financially, one of the most common questions asked is how long will my malpractice case take? As each case is unique to its facts and circumstances, there is no generic answer. A medical malpractice case can take as few as several months or possibly even years to resolve.
Typical Medical Malpractice Timeline
The only “typical” part of the medical malpractice timeline is that there is no typical time involved. While the statute of limitations governs the initial lawsuit filing and other court related filings have pre-set time limits associated with them, the actual progression of a malpractice case depends on its unique facts and circumstances. The amount of time a medical malpractice lawsuit will take depends on your jurisdiction. An experienced medical malpractice lawyer knows the process well and how to stay on track to get to settlement or trial as quickly as possible.
Elements That May Affect Your Case’s Timeline
The complexity of the case combined with the requested damages can elongate the process. The plaintiff must offer evidence to support all their claims, including the damages. In cases where significant awards are made, the losing side may file an appeal which further lengthens the process. On the flipside, in a straightforward and fairly uncontested matter, the parties may be able to reach a mutually acceptable settlement before trial and conclude the case in a time effective manner.
The Medical Malpractice Claim Process
In general, medical malpractice claims proceed in the following order:
- Hiring a Medical Malpractice Lawyer
- Medical Records Review
- Filing of a Medical Malpractice Lawsuit
- Discovery Process
- Obtaining and Utilizing Expert Witnesses
- Settlement Negotiations
- Payment in a successful case
Hiring a Medical Malpractice Lawyer
Given the complex and time intensive process of a medical malpractice lawsuit, hiring an experienced medical malpractice attorney greatly assists many plaintiffs. An advocate who will fight for your rights and is dedicated to your case can be the best investment you make.
In determining whether medical malpractice exists in your case, our team at The Villari Firm will analyze the following:
- Was there a failure to adhere to the standard of care? Doctors must meet certain standards of care when treating a patient. If a healthcare provider or facility failed to meet the applicable standard of care, you might have a medical malpractice claim.
- Did harm result, and what were the damages? Evidence must include the harm suffered as a result of the failure to meet the standard of care.
- Certificate of Merit: Our team works with experts in the state of Pennsylvania to obtain a signed certificate that supports the validity of your claim.
Review of Medical Records
Medical records are vital to your case. These records generally contain a significant amount of evidence needed to show the harm that occurred and where the standard of care was not followed. You have the right to obtain a copy of your medical records. Your medical malpractice attorney reviews your medical records, along with medical experts, as a critical initial step of the legal process.
Filing Your Lawsuit
Filing a lawsuit in the proper court of law is a primary area where an experienced medical malpractice attorney can assist you. Parties to the lawsuit are the plaintiffs (you/your family/your child) and the defendants (the medical provider whose conduct may have caused the harm).
Once the case is filed, notice will be made to the defendants. It will outline the charges in the lawsuit and give the defendants a specified time to issue a response. Should the defendants fail to respond in the specified time, judgment may immediately be entered for the plaintiff.
During the “discovery phase,” the parties will request potential evidence from the opposing side, to prepare their cases. Examples may include documents, reports, possible witnesses, depositions, and utilized experts. As the burden of proof in a malpractice case is on the plaintiff, this is a critical part of the process.
Discovery can be a very time and detail-intensive process. The attorneys handle this process for both the plaintiff and the defendant and are subject to many legal rules. An experienced medical malpractice attorney can best protect your rights and pursue that legally required evidence is provided.
Expert Medical Witnesses
Medical malpractice cases are fact and situation driven. Providing evidence to the Court, in the form of expert witnesses, will help to show how, where, and why errors in your treatment occurred, along with the harm that resulted to you and where the standard of care was not followed.
Our medical malpractice attorneys at The Villari Firm have working relationships with a host of qualified expert witnesses to review and testify in your malpractice case and help you determine your best strategy based on your case’s unique facts and circumstances.
Negotiating the Settlement
Settlement negotiations or a process called mediation is generally entered into before the trial begins. The goal is to provide an opportunity for the parties to reach a mutually acceptable agreement without going through the time and expense of a full trial. In general, a settlement in a medical malpractice case provides benefits to both parties. At The Villari Firm, we represent your interests at all steps. If the correct resolution for your case is not achieved through pre-litigation settlement, the case may proceed to trial.
Each trial is unique to the facts of the case. Some trials may resolve quickly while others can take significantly longer to conclude.
During a trial, a judge and jury will carefully listen to and examine all the evidence presented by each party. The Court has many rules that both parties must follow as they put on their respective cases which your experienced medical malpractice attorney can help you navigate. Once each side has had the opportunity to present their cases, a verdict is reached and a judgment/award entered.
While nothing can undo the harm and suffering from medical malpractice, damages may be awarded that address your expenses and provide closure. Recoveries in successful cases can be significant but also vary greatly as each malpractice case is unique.
Common examples of damages include:
- Past/Future Medical Expenses
- Lost Wages, both past and future
- Pain & Suffering
- Other Non-Economic Damages such as loss of ability to enjoy quality of life or lifestyle
Payments can generally payout in a “lump sum” or in structured payments. With a “lump sum”, the monies awarded pay out at one time. This can assist with paying off large medical debt and cost of living expenses. Structured payments pay on a mutually agreeable schedule over a period of time. This type of agreement may be useful for a long term maintenance type of matter or in birth injury cases. Some structured payment settlements can be converted to a lump sum at a later time, but in general the amount of the lump sum payment will be a reduced amount.
Why You Should Consider Taking a Medical Malpractice Settlement
While each case is unique to its own merits, there are instances where taking a medical malpractice settlement may benefit you. Some cases can be long, drawn out events and the ability to have a mutually agreeable settlement that addresses your needs, sooner rather than later may be to your benefit. Cases which are appealed by the losing party may also be overturned (judgement reversed) at a later time. Settlements reached by the parties can shorten this process and get you the financial relief you need. Accepting a settlement is important to discuss with your medical malpractice attorney. Ensuring that your rights and interests are protected are key considerations.
Summary of How Long a Malpractice Settlement Takes
There is no general rule on the length of time a medical malpractice case takes. During an initial consultation, an experienced medical malpractice attorney will carefully listen as you explain the life-altering events that you have experienced, analyze the facts of your case, consult with respected experts, and work directly with you to develop the best possible strategy. They can best advise you on a time estimate for your unique case.
To speak with an experienced medical malpractice attorney about your case, call the law offices of Heidi Villari at (215) 600-1363 or online by clicking here. We offer a free, no-obligation consultation to review your case.