When individuals file a medical malpractice lawsuit, they do so with the expectation of receiving compensation for damages they have suffered due to a physician or other medical practitioner’s negligence. However, what they may not be expecting is the long and complex legal process that is often required for justice to prevail.
With thousands of dollars wrapped up in medical expenses and legal counsel, many victims find themselves emotionally drained from the drawn-out process they must endure. Failing to understand this process could cost a victim even more money, if not the entire claim.
It’s not unusual for a medical malpractice lawsuit to take anywhere from 12 to 24 months to complete. Of course, each case is unique, so the length cannot be predicted in advance. But with some understanding of what may transpire, an individual can have a better idea of what to expect as the suit proceeds.
Length of Time to File Your Malpractice Claim
Medical malpractice occurs when negligence by a medical organization, a physician, or other medical professional results in harm to an individual. The legal terminology used for this type of negligence is a breach of the standard of care (SOC). In short, the standard of care is the degree and amount of care that would typically be provided by any other prudent and reasonable health professional given the same set of circumstances that existed in the alleged incident.
The length of time allowed for filing a medical malpractice lawsuit varies depending on each case’s specific details. In the state of Georiga, this type of claim must be filed within the first two years following the injury. However, if foreign objects were left in a patient’s body, the victim is given one full year after discovering the object.
When a law firm accepts a medical malpractice case, they bring in experts to thoroughly research the negligence and the SOC involved. An experienced legal team will collect, organize, and examine all medical records and files and then get experts’ opinions. A crucial part of the case is the ability to show a direct relationship between the negligent action and the patient’s resulting harm.
Discovery and Acquiring Medical Records
Once the lawsuit is filed and all of the involved parties are notified, the discovery process formally begins. During this process, both sides of the case are allowed to view and investigate all evidence and facts. A medical malpractice lawyer can prepare for trial through the discovery process and determine the amount of settlement that will accurately compensate the victim.
Discovery involves requesting and sharing all information pertaining to the case. From the information and facts exchanged, a case is built by both sides. A typical discovery period can last from six months to a full year.
Opinions From Experts
Two specific questions will be addressed by medical experts who are brought into medical malpractice cases. These questions are:
- Did the physician or medical professional follow the same standard of care that other physicians in the same position would have used?
- Did the injury occur due to the physician’s failure to follow the expected standard of care?
Both sides of the lawsuit will use expert witnesses. Each set of lawyers will contact experts to bring information and understanding to help build the case for or against the claim. If there is an agreement by all expert witnesses that negligence occurred, one of two results will happen. Either a large settlement figure will be reached, or a trial will follow. Typically, a settlement results in such cases. On the other hand, if there is disagreement among medical experts, a trial normally results.
Potential Early Medical Malpractice Settlement
At any point after a lawsuit is filed, a settlement can take place. Generally, medical organizations and professionals want to collect all available evidence first to determine if the patient’s claim is valid. Since defense law firms are paid by the hour, they typically have no incentive to hurry and settle a case. Doctors also have no incentive to settle quickly, so they often gamble and let a case slowly make its way to trial in court.
Skilled malpractice attorneys know how to determine a fair settlement amount and are well equipped to mediate and negotiate for a higher potential settlement figure. If both sides cannot agree on an amount, they then prepare for trial. Trials are not cheap and can drag on for months and years. During this lengthy trial phase, many malpractice victims find themselves financially stretched and emotionally stressed due to overdue bills and accumulating household expenses. The pressure could push hurting plaintiffs to quickly settle for an unjust, low amount. However, a victim’s attorney can provide information regarding available options to help prevent the need to accept the defense’s first settlement offer, which is usually lower than what the plaintiff should receive. Plaintiffs who need financial assistance during a medical malpractice lawsuit can look into lawsuit funding from companies such as The Legal Funding Group.
Medical Malpractice Settlement Payment
Various factors come into play where payment of medical malpractice settlements is concerned. The age of a plaintiff, laws in a specific jurisdiction, and the type of injuries help determine whether a settlement can be paid through a structured settlement, a lump sum amount, or some combination of these two.
In some states, insurance companies are not allowed to pay out future medical care costs over a period of time. Instead, a lump sum must be paid. Other states prefer to see a monitored system used where these costs are paid as they occur. When plaintiffs are minors, courts may order current medical expenses paid now and a general payout when the minor reaches legal adulthood age.
Paying Legal Costs and Lawyer Fees
Medical malpractice lawyers are usually only paid after the case is settled or is won. Typically, the expenses for preparing the case and hiring expert witnesses are paid first. Afterward, the law firm receives its specified percentage from the balance of the settlement amount or court award.
Contact a Medical Malpractice Lawyer
The complexity of a medical malpractice lawsuit is usually best handled by a legal representative who is skilled and experienced in all aspects of such a case. The Eichholz Law Firm has decades of experience in handling these types of claims. For more information and to schedule a free consultation, call our legal team at (855)-551-1019 or fill out an online contact form.