Of all the different types of personal injury lawsuits that can be filed in the United States, medical malpractice lawsuits are often considered the most complex. Their complexity comes from the fact that so many factors go into determining how medical care is provided as well as how it should be provided. Both elements are crucial for determining why a mistake occurs and if that mistake could have been avoided, and both elements can take a great deal of time to investigate.
That said, if you are in a situation where you believe you or a loved one has been harmed or has suffered due to the negligence of a medical professional or team of professionals, do not let this fact deter you from getting in touch with an attorney who may be able to help. Medical malpractice cases may be complex, but an experienced law firm like Pittman Roberts & Welsh, PLLC will not hesitate to fully investigate your claim and hold the negligent party accountable if they believe a lawsuit is warranted.
If you are considering reaching out to an attorney about a potential case, one of the questions you may be wondering is how long an average medical malpractice lawsuit takes. The short answer to that question is that a case’s length depends on multiple factors. A shorter medical malpractice (often shortened to “med mal”) case may take one or two years while a longer, more complex case may take three or more years.
Let’s look at some of the factors that determine the time length of a medical malpractice case:
Factors that Affect the Timeline of a Medical Malpractice Lawsuit
As mentioned above, many factors need to be taken into consideration when investigating a medical malpractice claim. If the combination of multiple factors makes a case more complex, it will often take longer. This isn’t always true, but oftentimes we find that the more complex a case is, the longer it will take to settle in general.
Some of the factors that may make a med mal lawsuit more complex include the following:
- A complex medical issue (one that would require multiple medical experts’ opinions, for example)
- A case involving multiple doctors or medical professionals from the same medical group
- A case involving multiple medical groups or hospitals
- A case involving a medical issue that’s considered rare or novel
- Multiple witnesses
- A complex legal issue, such as state laws that interfere with county laws or hospitals in different states
- Legal issues that are considered rare or novel
One other factor that often affects the time length of a medical malpractice lawsuit is how cooperative the defendant is as well as their legal representation. In the case of a medical negligence claim, the defendant will be the doctor, nurse, medical professional, hospital, or institution that is being sued for negligence. Since hospitals and medical professionals are often supported by powerful legal groups, defending attorneys will often use tactics to delay the lawsuit or add additional steps that make the case more complex in an attempt to not be held accountable.
This is one of the more unfortunate facts about the complexity of medical malpractice lawsuits in the U.S. These types of lawsuits are often a battle. For this reason, many attorneys hesitate to take on medical malpractice lawsuits altogether.
The Timeline of a Typical Medical Malpractice Lawsuit
While the exact steps of any lawsuit will differ based on the type of case, the evidence available, and other factors, below is a generalized timeline of the steps that make up a standard medical malpractice lawsuit:
- Discovery. After all parties are notified about the lawsuit after the initial complaint is filed, both the plaintiff (the person filing the lawsuit and their attorney) and defendant begin the process of discovery. Discovery is the process of collecting evidence, information, and documentation that will support their side of the case.
- Investigation. Third-party expert medical witnesses will be called upon to investigate all the details of the case and establish a standard of care. A standard of care sets in place what a care provider should have sensibly done in the situation that occurred. The facts of the case are then compared against that standard of care to find out if a mistake occurred and whether that mistake happened due to negligence. For a med mal claim to be successful, it must be proven that negligence did occur. It must also be proven that the negligence led to the harm or suffering that occurred.
- Settlement Negotiation. After all evidence is investigated, an attempt to reach a settlement outside of going to trial will likely be made. The defense will try their best to reduce the amount of money they pay to the plaintiff. Both sides will negotiate the terms of the settlement to see if a trial can be avoided. It can be in favor to both parties to settle before going to court if a settlement amount in favor of the plaintiff can be reached since courtroom trials take a considerable amount of time and are expensive to both parties, but it’s crucial that the plaintiff’s concerns are addressed.
- Settlement Payout or Trial. Depending on negotiations, the case will end here, or it will proceed to trial.
Hiring the Right Legal Counsel
It’s important to hire a medical malpractice attorney who has trial experience whether your medical malpractice lawsuit goes to a courtroom trial or is settled beforehand. Experience can make a massive difference in complex lawsuits. If you are looking for an experienced law firm, Pittman Roberts & Welsh, PLLC has the experience your case and situation deserve. If you have any questions or would like to schedule an initial case consultation with us, don’t hesitate to get in touch with our Jackson law office today.
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