Medical malpractice cases can take a long time. For the injury victim and their family, the time spent waiting around before they can get the money to pay for their injuries can be difficult. It may seem like nothing is happening for weeks or months before there are any updates. Unfortunately, a lot of the delays are due to the legal process and there is not a lot you can do if you want to take your case to trial.
However, there are steps you can take to try and speed up your lawsuit, get compensation more quickly, and put these unfortunate events behind you. Make sure you talk to your medical malpractice attorney about trying to speed up your lawsuit.
This is why it is so important to make sure you have the right medical malpractice legal team to start your case. You want a lawyer who will communicate openly with you about your case so you can discuss your expectations and what you can do to resolve everything more quickly. Contact experienced trial attorneys about your case, to understand your options and help you recover money for your injuries as soon as possible.
Benefits of Speeding Up Your Case
The benefits of speeding up your medical malpractice lawsuit may be clear to you because you want to get your money as soon as possible. You also don’t want to have to drag a legal dispute on for any longer than necessary. A lingering medical malpractice lawsuit can also be stressful for you and your family. The stress can even make it more difficult to fully recover from your injuries. However, it can be to everyone’s benefit to have the case settled sooner rather than later.
For the defendants, a quick resolution can also help them avoid the stress and inconveniences associated with a pending lawsuit. They may worry about the time needed to handle court proceedings, like reviewing records, attending depositions, and preparing for trial. The defendant doctors may also not know how a jury trial could turn out and how much a negative outcome can impact their professional reputation. The legal costs of a longer court case will also be more expensive.
The court can also benefit from speeding up your medical malpractice lawsuit. Many civil courts across the country are backlogged with more cases than can be heard at trial. A medical malpractice lawsuit can involve dozens of meetings and conferences over the course of a few years, taking up countless hours for the judge and support staff. A settlement can clear the case from the court dockets, so the courts can move on to other cases.
However, speed should not be the only factor you consider. It is important that you get the full compensation you deserve to pay for your losses.
Why Do Medical Malpractice Cases Take So Long?
Medical malpractice lawsuits are nothing like the 10-minute trials that take place on TV, like Judge Judy or Divorce Court. Those shows are for entertainment and are not like real legal proceedings. Real court cases are much more complex and can take months or years. To understand why it takes so long for a medical malpractice lawsuit, it is helpful to understand the process.
Timelines in a Medical Malpractice Case
The first timeline that will determine how long a malpractice case can take is based on the statute of limitations. The statute of limitations is the time limit that is legally allowed to file a lawsuit. If you wait beyond the statute of limitations, your case could be thrown out with no compensation. This is why it is important to contact your medical malpractice lawyer as soon as possible.
For example, in Maryland, the statute of limitations to file a medical malpractice lawsuit is the earlier of:
- “Five years of the time the injury was committed; or
- Three years of the date the injury was discovered.”
There may be additional time for filing a claim if the injury victim was a minor or the victim did not discover their injury until a later date. But before you rely on any dates you find online, talk to your attorney to make sure your claim is filed in time. Don’t wait until the last minute or you risk losing out on your chance to recover compensation.
It can take 2 years or more before a medical malpractice lawsuit even has to be filed and that is just the beginning of the legal claim. During this time, your lawyer will generally review your medical records to evaluate the case and help you determine who might be responsible for your injuries.
Pleadings and Discovery Process
The pleadings are the legal documents and filings that are the first steps to your legal case. This includes the complaint, where your attorney lays out the basis of your claim and demand for damages. The initial complaint may not have all the information and is often amended as more information comes in.
When the lawsuit is filed, it names the possible defendants, including the doctors, hospitals, and staff involved in your care. Not all the defendants may be responsible but it will usually be narrowed down during the initial discovery process. The defendants have a chance to respond to the initial complaint with an “answer.” The answer may also not have much information but can be amended over time.
The next process is known as discovery. This is the exchange of information between the parties, and includes exchanging records, interrogatories, and depositions. Interrogatories are written questions the parties have to answer. Depositions are question and answer sessions recorded by a court reporter.
The amount of records exchanged can depend on the complexity of the case. Some patients end up with hundreds of pages of medical records for a serious medical condition, including lab results, diagnostic imaging, and surgical records. In some cases, the hospital or clinic may be slow to turn over their records, which means your lawyer has to go to court to force them to turn over all the documents, which could cause additional delays.
Depending on the complexity of the case, pleadings and discovery could take 6 months to 2 years or more. With more parties involved and any disputes, it can delay the process even further.
The Trial Process
If your case does not settle and goes to trial, the trial can take weeks or months to even schedule and may be rescheduled depending on the availability of the witnesses, attorneys, and the judge. Even selecting the jury can take multiple days. If the trial starts, it can take days or weeks, depending on the type of case.
Even after a trial is over and the jury makes a decision, that is not necessarily the end. The parties have an opportunity to appeal, which could make the case drag for months longer. If you have questions about the appeals process, your medical malpractice lawyer can give you an idea of what you can expect.
Settlement Offers Before a Malpractice Trial
Your medical malpractice lawsuit doesn’t have to go to a trial before a jury in order for you to recover money damages. The truth is that the vast majority of medical malpractice cases never go to trial. Instead, medical error claims are generally settled before they get to trial through a settlement offer.
A settlement is an agreement between the medical provider’s malpractice insurance provider and the injury victim. In exchange for the settlement amount, you will release your legal claims against the negligent doctor. Your lawyer will negotiate with the insurance company to try and get as much as possible for your damages. Like any other negotiations, it may involve some back and forth discussion about the strengths and weaknesses of the claim and the value of the case.
It is important to know that while your lawyer will do the negotiations, the decision to accept the settlement offer is up to you. Your attorney will advise you of your options and may give you a good idea of what your case might be worth but if you are not happy with the offer, you don’t have to accept it.
Taking the First Offer to Speed Up the Case
The first opportunity to get a settlement may only take a matter of days or weeks. The doctor, hospital, or insurance company can make an initial settlement offer after a demand letter or the initial claim. In some cases, the insurance company will realize they do not have a good case and would rather settle the claim now instead of paying for years of legal costs, just to lose at trial. However, you should talk to your legal counsel before accepting any legal settlement that will waive your rights to sue.
Before you take an initial settlement amount, make sure you understand the full extent of your injuries. Some injuries can have long-lasting effects that are not fully known at the time of the accident. If you take a settlement and years later develop chronic pain, it will be too late because you released your legal rights to sue the doctor.
Settlement Offers Before the Trial
Most malpractice cases are settled somewhere between when the case is filed and before trial. In many cases, the real settlement negotiations begin after discovery is completed, when all parties have the available information and can make offers based on the strength of the case.
If you are so close to trial, why would you want to take a settlement instead of going to court? There are a lot of reasons why a settlement can be in your best interests. The first reason is because you can rely on the settlement offer and you might not be able to rely on the jury. Jury decisions can go either way. A settlement is a sure thing and doesn’t leave your chance at recovery up to the jury.
Another important reason is that the settlement can save you time and money. A court trial can take weeks and a lot of legal preparation, which can increase the legal costs of your case. A settlement will also be faster than waiting for a court date and going through the trial process. If you want to speed up a medical malpractice lawsuit and you have received a good offer, taking the settlement can save you months of waiting and uncertainty.
Arbitration and Mediation for Medical Malpractice
Arbitration and mediation are types of alternative dispute resolution (ADR). Arbitration is a process where both sides present their case to a neutral 3rd party. The arbitrator then decides the case, including how much the injury victim can receive in damages. Mediation uses a third-party mediator to get the sides to come to a mutual agreement.
Some contracts and agreements require settling disputes in arbitration. Businesses and corporations generally prefer going through arbitration because it can expose them to less liability. However, arbitration agreements between patients and health care providers are not always valid. Even if the hospital says you have an arbitration agreement, make sure you talk to an attorney to understand your legal options, including your options to take the case to court.
Arbitration and mediation are not always beneficial for the plaintiff in a personal injury case but they might be an option in some cases. The benefit of arbitration is that it can resolve your case much faster than going through court, even saving months or years. However, the injury victim’s damages may be lower than if the case went to a jury. If you have questions about arbitration or ADR options, talk to your medical malpractice lawyer for advice.
When Time Is Limited to Get Your Compensation
If time is an important factor in your medical malpractice claim, make sure you talk to your medical malpractice lawyer about how to speed up your case. An experienced medical malpractice attorney will help evaluate your claim, explain your options, and fight to get you the maximum compensation available for your injuries, without any unnecessary delays. If you want to know about your legal options for a quick settlement, contact an experienced legal defense team for a case evaluation. Do not hesitate to contact Gilman & Bedigian today for a free consultation.