Real lawsuits are not like court dramas on TV where everything gets settled within an hour-long episode. A real civil lawsuit can take months or years. Even a minor car accident lawsuit can take a year or more. However, medical malpractice lawsuits can take even longer. It may be surprising but the complex nature of medical lawsuits can make them take years to go to trial.
Once you understand all that goes into a medical malpractice lawsuit, the timeline may not be as surprising. You may also be able to have your case settle much sooner if your attorney can negotiate a settlement that works for you. Talk to your medical malpractice attorney to find out about how long your case might take and how you can speed up your lawsuit. Talk to your experienced medical malpractice team for legal advice.
Who Do Medical Malpractice Cases Take So Long?
Most medical malpractice cases do take a long time. Part of the reason is that there is so much unknown information in the beginning that things have to get cleared up before it is clear exactly what happened. Think of going to a hospital for surgery. The patient may stay in the hospital for a few days, and over that time, they may see a dozen doctors and many more nurses, techs, and aides. If one of the healthcare professionals caused an injury, it may not be clear who was responsible.
At the beginning of a medical malpractice lawsuit, the injury victim starts with limited information. Their client was injured as a result of receiving negligent medical care at some point during their treatment. This could have happened at the beginning, in the middle, or somewhere in the end. Because there is a limited amount of time to file the lawsuit and there are laws that prevent the lawyer from adding a party after a certain amount of time, the lawyer has to name everyone possible who may have been involved.
In a complex medical malpractice lawsuit, the initial case may start off naming more than a dozen possible defendants. A nurse or doctor who was named in the lawsuit may claim they were not involved in the injury but it may not be clear until the parties have a chance to review all the information, talk to all the parties, and interview all the witnesses. Only then can the parties who were not involved be released from the lawsuit.
When a medical malpractice case starts out with a dozen or more defendants, each of those defendants may have their own legal counsel. This means the judge involved in the case has to schedule conferences, hearings, and motions with more than a dozen lawyers. As a result, these conferences are often rescheduled or delayed. The judge could also have a conflict in their schedule and also have to reschedule a hearing.
These are just some of the complications and difficulties that medical malpractice lawsuits involve. If you consider an injured patient may have gone through multiple hospital stays, multiple surgeries, and multiple medical visits, this just compounds the complications. Now, we can look at the timeline of a medical malpractice lawsuit to understand how long a medical malpractice case can take.
When Does the Clock Start Running in a Medical Malpractice Lawsuit?
A medical malpractice case starts when the patient receives care from a medical professional that does not meet the standard of care, and results in an injury. This starts the clock on when the injury victim can generally file a lawsuit. However, it may take years before the lawsuit is even filed. This is because there is a statute of limitations that limits how long an injury victim can file a claim.
States have different statutes of limitations for different types of cases. There are also situations where the statute of limitations can be extended because the injury is not discovered until later or the injury victim is a minor. If the injury victim does not file their case in time, they may not be able to recover damages and be left without any help for their injuries. This is why it is so important to contact your medical malpractice lawyer as soon as possible after you find out about a medical error.
Years to File a Chicago Medical Malpractice Claim
Each state has its own laws and rules for the time limit to file a medical malpractice claim. In Illinois, the statute of limitations for most medical error injury victims is 2 years from the date of the injury.
For example, a patient goes in for abdominal surgery on July 1, 2020. One of the surgeons makes an error and severs the lining of the abdomen, causing a severe infection. The injury victim would generally have until July 1, 2022, to file a lawsuit. If the injury victim waited an extra week and took their complaint to court on July 8, 2022, their case could be dismissed without any chance at compensation.
In some cases, the injury victim may have additional time if their injury was not discovered until later. This is sometimes known as the “discovery rule.” The discovery rule does not go on forever. Generally, in no case can a medical malpractice case be brought more than 4 years from the date the medical error occurred. Be careful because you cannot always rely on the discovery rule if you should have found out about the error even if you didn’t know about it until later.
There may also be additional time if the injury victim was a minor. If a child was injured because of a medical error, a claim cannot be brought more than 8 years after the date of the injury. Additionally, in no event may the cause of action be brought after the person’s 22nd birthday. For example, if a 17-year-old was injured by a medical error, they have to file their medical malpractice lawsuit before turning 22 years old.
How Long to File a Medical Malpractice Case in Maryland?
If a patient suffers a serious medical accident in Baltimore or Maryland, they only have a limited amount of time to file a medical malpractice lawsuit to recover damages, including medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering.
In Maryland, the statute of limitations allows a medical malpractice claim to be filed within five (5) years of the date the injury occurred, or within three (3) years from the date the injury was discovered, whichever is earlier. This means that most medical error victims only have 3 years to file their claim from the time of the negligent medical treatment unless it is discovered later.
Again, minors may have more time but not an unlimited time limit to file a malpractice claim. When a child is under the age of 11, the time limit begins to run when the child turns 11. This restriction can seem ridiculous when you consider an 11-year-old child being told that they have 3 years to file a lawsuit, even if that child has no idea what the consequences of their injury might be.
For example, if a 40-year-old airline pilot suffers an eye injury because of negligent care and is blinded in one eye, they may never be able to work as a pilot again. Part of their damages would include the loss of income for the 20 or 30 years they would have continued in their profession. What is the loss of income damages for a 12-year-old? There may be no real way to know how much they will lose because of an injury caused by a negligent surgeon.
Time to File a Philadelphia Medical Malpractice Claim
In Pennsylvania, the time limit for filing a medical malpractice lawsuit is 2 years. Victims of a medical malpractice injury have to file a lawsuit within 2 years from the date of the injury. However, the statute of limitations will not begin to run until the injury is discovered or reasonably should have been discovered.
For example, a patient in Philadelphia is having surgery to remove a tumor in their abdomen. During the surgery, one of the surgeons is negligent in accounting for surgical material and leaves behind some surgical gauze inside the patient’s body. The patient is sewn up without anyone noticing the foreign body left behind. The patient continues to suffer pain, infection, swelling, and other ill health effects for years after. If the patient later finds out that the doctors left behind a foreign object, the statute of limitations would begin to run from the date of discovery.
For minors who suffer a medical error, the statute of limitations does not begin to run until the minor turns 18 years old. This generally means that minors would have until before their 20th birthday to file a medical malpractice lawsuit for their injuries suffered as a child.
Which Malpractice Cases Take the Longest?
No two medical malpractice cases are the same. Each case is different because each patient is different. Different patients could suffer different injuries from similar medical errors. However, in general, some types of malpractice cases are more complex, and therefore, take longer. Some of the medical malpractice cases that are the most complicated include:
- Birth injury errors
- Brain injuries
- Stroke malpractice cases
- Errors causing paralysis
- Cancer diagnosis errors
- Wrong-site/wrong-patient injuries
- Foreign body left behind
- Anesthesiology errors
- Neurosurgery errors
- Plastic surgery medical errors
- Emergency room errors
For example, in a birth injury accident, one of the issues that can complicate the case is understanding the extent of the injuries. A child who suffered a brain injury because of lack of oxygen during delivery will have possible mental and physical injuries that may not be obvious when the child is a newborn. It may take 5 years or more before the parents even understand what types of damage the child has suffered.
Another issue is that there may have been multiple possible causes of an infant’s injuries. The child could have suffered brain injuries during pregnancy, during delivery, or because of complications after the child was delivered. The possible causes of the child’s injuries have to be determined before those responsible for the injuries can be determined.
With so much at stake in a birth injury lawsuit, the defendants, or rather, the insurance company, will fight much harder to avoid liability. While a medical malpractice insurance company might be more willing to settle a medical error case involving minor injuries, the insurance company will not be so willing to accept responsibility when the child may have suffered millions of dollars worth of damages.
When Can I Settle My Medical Malpractice Case?
It may take years for a medical malpractice lawsuit to get to trial but in reality, most medical malpractice cases settle before they get to trial. A settlement is an agreement between the parties to settle the claim out of court. In a medical malpractice lawsuit, it generally means that the defendant or defendants offer the injury victim a set amount of money for their damages in exchange for releasing their legal claims.
A settlement can happen at any time. A patient who is injured because of a medical error could even get a settlement offer before any lawsuit is filed, for example, after their medical malpractice lawyer sends a demand letter. The settlement could happen after the lawsuit is filed, during discovery, or even in the hours before the trial is supposed to start.
When you can settle your lawsuit is up to you. In a medical malpractice case, your lawyer can’t settle your claim without your consent. Your lawyer can advise you and will negotiate to get you the highest settlement award but the decision is ultimately up to you.
If you want to know how long a medical malpractice lawsuit will take, or how you can speed up the settlement, talk to your lawyer. Make a phone call to experienced trial attorneys who have successfully represented medical error victims and their families to recover financial compensation from doctors, hospitals, and insurance companies. Your attorney can also let you know how much your claim might be worth so you can move on with your life after a terrible injury. For a free consultation, contact Gilman & Bedigian online or at 800-529-6162.