Medical malpractice is rare but can be very costly to both the victims and those who have committed the offense. Only 1.53% of physicians in the United States face a medical malpractice claim each year, with 92% of the cases being settled out of court. However, despite being rare, medical malpractice suits are costly. In 2019, approximately $4.03 billion was paid out in medical malpractice lawsuits, with an average payout of $348,065 per case. The most common types of malpractice claims are related to diagnosis, surgery, and treatment. In this article, you will find information regarding how to start a medical malpractice lawsuit, how long the case should take, and helpful resources for victims of medical malpractice.
How to Start a Medical Malpractice Lawsuit
Medical malpractice lawsuits are very complex legal proceedings that involve allegations of medical negligence or gross misconduct by healthcare professionals. It is important to understand the steps involved in starting a lawsuit if you or a loved one has been a victim of medical malpractice. This section will cover some of the most important steps when deciding to start a medical malpractice lawsuit.
Understand what constitutes medical malpractice
Medical malpractice occurs when a healthcare professional, such as a doctor, nurse, or hospital, deviates from the standard of care expected in their field of practice, resulting in injury or harm to the patient. This deviation must be proven to be a breach of duty owed by the healthcare professional to the patient.
Consult with a medical malpractice attorney
Medical malpractice cases require specialized knowledge and expertise. It is important to consult an attorney with experience in handling medical malpractice cases. They can evaluate your case and determine if you have a valid claim. Additionally, the attorney will have more knowledge about your state’s statutes on filing a medical malpractice claim and what limitations you may have in your case.
Gather medical records and other evidence
Gathering medical records and other evidence is the most vital part of your medical malpractice case, literally being a make-or-break aspect. Your attorney will need to gather medical records, such as doctor's notes, lab results, and imaging studies, to determine if there was a deviation from the standard of care. Other evidence that may be helpful includes witness statements, expert opinions, and documentation of the harm or injury suffered.
Formally file the complaint
Once your attorney has gathered the necessary evidence, they will file a complaint in the appropriate court on your behalf. This document outlines the allegations against the healthcare professional, the harm or injury suffered, and the damages sought. Filing an official medical malpractice complaint can be challenging, so consulting with an attorney specializing in medical malpractice cases should be a priority. Not doing so could result in reduced compensation or having the lawsuit dismissed.
Proceed with the discovery process
The discovery process is the pretrial phase of the lawsuit, where both sides exchange evidence and information about the case. This includes depositions, requests for documents, and other forms of discovery. This part of the lawsuit is when you want to make sure that you come with all of the relevant information and evidence you would need to have a strong enough case to warrant either a settlement or a chance to go to trial. In many cases, medical malpractice lawsuits are settled before going to trial.
How Long Does a Medical Malpractice Case Take?
A medical malpractice case can typically take from several months to years to resolve. The length of a medical malpractice case can vary due to a number of different factors. Factors include the complexity of the case, how many parties are involved, the availability of evidence or witnesses, and the court’s schedule. There are several stages involved in a medical malpractice lawsuit:
Investigation and Filing of the Lawsuit: The initial stage of a medical malpractice lawsuit consists of gathering medical records and evidence, consulting with experts, and filing a complaint with the court. This process can take several months, depending on the complexity of the case and the availability of evidence.
Discovery Phase: The discovery phase is the pretrial phase of a lawsuit, where both parties exchange information and evidence related to the case. This process can take several months to a year or more, depending on the complexity of the case and the amount of evidence involved.
Pretrial Motions: Before trial, either party may file motions to dismiss the case or exclude certain evidence from the trial. These motions can take several months to be resolved.
Settlement Negotiations: Many medical malpractice cases are settled before going to trial. Settlement negotiations can take several months, depending on the parties' willingness to negotiate and the complexity of the case.
Trial: If the case goes to trial, the length of the trial will depend on the complexity of the case, the number of witnesses, and the court's schedule. Trials can range from a few days to several weeks.
Appeals: If either party is unhappy with the verdict, they may appeal the decision. Appeals can take several months to a year or more, depending on the complexity of the case and the appellate court's schedule.
Will My Medical Malpractice Case Go To Court?
Many medical malpractice cases end up getting settled before going to court. Many factors can influence whether or not your specific case will go to court. Some factors to consider are:
Strength of evidence: Medical malpractice cases are typically based on proving that a healthcare professional deviated from the standard of care and caused harm or injury to the patient. The strength of the evidence can influence whether the case will go to court, as more substantial evidence may increase the chances of a successful outcome and a settlement offer.
Willingness to negotiate: Many medical malpractice cases are settled before going to trial. The willingness of the parties to negotiate can be influenced by many factors, including the strength of the evidence, the likelihood of success at trial, and the potential cost of going to trial. The case may not go to court if both parties are willing to negotiate and reach a settlement.
Complexity of the case: Complex cases may be more likely to go to trial as they may require more time and resources. Factors that can increase the complexity of a case include multiple parties, conflicting evidence, and disputed expert opinions.
Court schedule: The schedule can also influence whether a case goes to trial. If the court is busy and has a backlog of cases, it may take longer to schedule a trial date. If the court's schedule is open, the case may go to trial more quickly.
Resources for Victims
For victims of medical malpractice, it can be tough to know what to do after an accident or where to go to find the best resources to help with your case. In this section, you will find resources to help you with your medical malpractice lawsuit and additional resources to help with your mental or physical recovery. If you or a loved one has been the victim of medical malpractice, use these resources to find the resolve you are looking for.
Medical Review Foundation
The Medical Review Foundation offers credible expert medical witnesses for malpractice lawsuits and can supply attorneys to victims if needed. They have nearly four decades of experience in assisting both victims and doctors in malpractice lawsuits to assist in improving the healthcare system in America. They have helped in cases involving Medical & Hospital Malpractice, Wrongful Death, Nursing Home Negligence & Personal Injury. They feature a team of medical professionals who have consulted on over 165,000 Medical & Hospital Malpractice, Wrongful Death, Nursing Home Negligence & Personal Injury cases since 1976. To contact them, you can visit their website located here.
Washington Law Center
The Washington Law Center is a law firm based out of Washington State that specializes in a wide variety of law areas, including medical malpractice, personal injury, auto accident, wrongful death, and more. They offer many resources to victims of medical malpractice on their website, including video resources and personal injury blogs, and can even perform a free medical malpractice case evaluation to see if your case is one that should be taken to the courts. This is a perfect resource if you or a loved one is a medical malpractice victim located in Washington State. Contact the Washington Law Center by visiting their website located here.
National Medical Malpractice Advocacy Association
The National Medical Malpractice Advocacy Association (NMMAA) was founded in 2013 by a collection of people who were victims of medical malpractice or knew someone who was. According to them, the NMMAA is the first non-partisan civil rights organization of its kind with patient advocates throughout the United States. Their organization dedicates itself as a national network to end medical malpractice through partnerships with local and national organizations across America. The NMMAA is the first and only organization that has received numerous proclamations from states across the United States for its advocacy related to medical malpractice. Find out about their mission on their website, located here.
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