It may take years from the time you were injured in a medical accident until the case is finally settled. After you finally come to an agreement with the insurance companies, how long will it take to finally get your money? In most cases, it will only take a few days before you finally get a check for your injuries. However, in some cases, it can take much longer.
The time it takes to get your money after a medical error can be frustrating. If you need money to pay your bills or get medical care to fix your injuries, talk to your medical malpractice attorney. You should not have to suffer because of the doctor’s negligence. Your hope for recovering compensation starts with a phone call to your medical malpractice lawyer to get started on your case. Contact experienced trial attorneys to help you recover money for your injuries as soon as possible.
How Long Can a Malpractice Case Take?
It may seem like a simple question: How long does it take to get money after a medical malpractice injury? However, the timing of a medical malpractice case depends on a lot of factors. A major factor is based on whether the case ends in a settlement or it goes to trial. Other factors include:
- Complexity of the case
- Extent of the injuries
- Ongoing injuries and harm
- Number of defendants
- Cooperation of the doctors
For example, in a case where a doctor made an error during a mole removal surgery, it may have caused additional pain, scarring, and infection. The injuries could have healed up in a matter of days, leaving the injury victim out of work for one day and with unnecessary pain. However, the injury is relatively minor and the injury victim may be able to settle their case in a short amount of time.
Compare that hypothetical with a serious birth injury. In a negligent delivery case, a doctor could have negligently delivered a baby, causing the child to suffer oxygen deprivation resulting in brain injury. It may take years before the extent of the damage is even understood. The damages may amount to millions of dollars and require medical attention for the rest of the child’s life, including care after the parents pass away. This kind of birth injury medical malpractice case could take years to come to a conclusion.
Process of a Medical Malpractice Case
There are different times when an injury victim can get compensation for their injuries. At the earliest (and least likely scenario), the doctor or hospital may agree that there was an error and want to proactively settle even before you talk to a lawyer. This is rare but it is possible. Even in that scenario, you should get legal advice about whether you should take a settlement offer before giving up your legal rights to file a lawsuit.
The next time when you may be able to get a settlement is after a demand letter. A demand letter generally comes before filing a lawsuit. Your medical malpractice attorney may write a letter to the negligent doctor or hospital that lays out your basis for a lawsuit and demands compensation to pay for your losses. The hospital could agree and negotiate a settlement. However, in serious medical malpractice cases, the hospital will just refer the case to their insurance company.
The next phase in medical malpractice cases is filing a lawsuit. At this point, the case is official. Your attorney can file a “complaint” with the civil court to start the lawsuit. The complaint lays out the basis of the case, including an overview of the injuries, allegations against the medical care providers, and request for damages. This document is filed with the court and served upon the defendants. The defendants then have a chance to respond by filing an answer
If your case gets to this point, you may end up waiting months or longer before you finally get clarity about when you will get your money.
Discovery and Extensive Medical Records
In a simple medical malpractice lawsuit, there may only be a few pages of medical records for the patient. However, most medical malpractice lawsuits are not simple. Instead, they involve medical care for patients over days, weeks, months, or even longer. There may even have been multiple errors that contributed to the patient’s injuries.
Discovery is the part of litigation where the parties exchange information, including depositions with the parties, interrogatories to get answers to specific questions, and document exchange to review records. Discovery can involve reviewing medical records that surrounded the medical error, any follow-up treatment, and even financial records to show how much money the injury victim lost because of the doctor’s carelessness.
Discovery in medical malpractice lawsuits sounds simple but it can take many months or more. Some of the causes for delays include:
- Extensive medical records
- Multiple defendants and co-defendants
- Delay tactics of the malpractice insurance company
- Scheduling conflicts
- Court caseload
- Continuing medical care
- Continuing financial losses
Delays in Medical Malpractice Lawsuits
If you’re thinking it’s not fair that it takes so long to get compensation after suffering an injury through no fault of your own — you’re right. A doctor in a hurry for a golf vacation may not be paying attention during your surgery and accidentally cut through the internal lining in your body. The doctor takes off after the surgery but you have to suffer through pain, infection, and additional surgeries.
After the error is finally corrected, you may be left with a pile of medical bills and other expenses from not being able to work for a month. Why does it take so long to get the doctor to agree they made a mistake and pay you for your losses? Part of the problem is cultural. Doctors and hospitals often take a “deny and defend” position as soon as someone brings up a possible mistake.
A more responsible approach would be “communication and response.” However, as soon as doctors get defensive, the case is no longer in their hands because it is turned over to their malpractice insurance company. Anyone who has experience dealing with the insurance company understands they are only in a hurry when it comes to collecting money, not paying out claims.
According to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), “Communication and Optimal Resolution (CANDOR) is a process that health care institutions and practitioners can use to respond in a timely, thorough, and just way when unexpected events cause patient harm.” Unfortunately, many hospitals have not adopted this approach, which is one cause of delayed payouts for injury victims.
According to one study of patients who suffered injuries from medical errors, “98% indicated they ‘desired or expected the physician’s active acknowledgment of an error.'” From a simple acknowledgment to various forms of apology, this rarely happens. Instead, the case will be dragged out over the course of months or years as the insurance company tries to figure out how they can pay out as little as possible.
If the Case Goes to Trial
If the case cannot be settled and goes to trial, it will be up to the jury to decide how much to award you for your medical injuries. A trial can take days or weeks, depending on how complex the case might be. At the end of a jury trial, the jury has to determine whether the doctor is liable for damages. Negligence in a medical malpractice case generally requires proving the following elements:
- Did the doctor owe the patient a duty of care?
- Did the doctor deviate from the standards of medical care in treating the patient?
- Did the deviation cause the patient’s injuries?
- Was the patient harmed as a result?
If the jury determines there was medical malpractice and the doctors, nurses, or hospital were liable for the damages, the jury then determines the award. The award is based on the patient’s damages. Damages can include economic damages and non-economic damages.
Economic damages include the financial losses associated with the medical error, including medical bills, lost wages, future loss of income potential, future medical treatment, and property damage. These damages include clear numbers for past losses and estimated losses for future damages. For example, damages may include estimates for how much money the injury victim would have made over their working life if they had not been disabled by the medical error.
Noneconomic damages include losses related to pain and suffering, mental distress, loss of consortium, and other such losses. The jury will hear the evidence from the parties on the victim’s losses and come up with a number to award for these damages. Unfortunately, some states, like Maryland, put a limit on these types of damages. If the jury awards an amount over the noneconomic damages cap, the judge will cut the award so the injury victim does not get the full amount awarded.
Delays If the Case Is Appealed
Even after the jury awards money to the injury victim, they may not immediately get the money they were awarded. If the defendants appeal the decision, it will add further delays. Some insurance companies use this tactic only to force the injury victim into negotiating the settlement amount. By delaying the outcome of the case, the plaintiff may eventually have to settle for a lesser amount instead of going through months of legal proceedings and additional legal costs.
If you are concerned that your case may be delayed by appeals from the doctor’s malpractice insurance company, find out what options you may have to settle the case.
Once the Settlement Is Made
A settlement is an agreement between the injury victim and the defendants to agree to drop the legal claims in exchange for an amount of money. This is the most common outcome for medical malpractice lawsuits. There are benefits for the plaintiff to settle before trial, even if they may be asking for more money. Benefits of settlement can include:
- Guaranteed payment
- Faster resolution
- Avoiding the cost of a trial
- Avoid the delays of a trial
- Avoid the stress and pain of going through trial
Talk to your medical malpractice attorney about how much you might be able to get in a fair settlement offer. Your attorney can advise you of your options and may give you a good idea of what your case might be worth. However, the final decision to accept the settlement offer is up to you.
Once you finally come to an agreement with the insurance adjusters and are finally getting a fair settlement offer, how long until you get a check in your hands? In many cases, it will only take a few days after the settlement is reached and you sign an agreement before the insurance company will cut a check. In general, the check will be paid to your medical malpractice attorney, who will then make a payment to you.
There may be some fees that need to be taken out of the settlement check before you get the money in your bank. Your attorney will take out the legal fees and expenses associated with the lawsuit, including filing fees, expert fees, and copying records. There may also be medical payments made to the hospital, your health insurance provider, or Medicare for any payments that were already made relating to the injury.
Finally, once the settlement is made and fees are deducted, you will finally get the payment you have been waiting for. This money will help you pay your medical bills, compensate you for lost wages, and offer you some compensation for your pain and suffering.
Get Started With Filing Your Malpractice Case
A medical malpractice case gets started when you contact an experienced medical malpractice attorney. Your attorney can get started to investigate your case, get medical experts to review your records, and file a lawsuit in court. The sooner you contact your attorney the sooner you can get your settlement check. Make sure not to wait too long because each state has a time limit to file a medical malpractice lawsuit under the statute of limitations.
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 payment for your injuries, contact an experienced legal defense team for a case evaluation. Do not hesitate to contact Gilman & Bedigian today for a free consultation.