If you or a loved one has been injured due to medical malpractice, it is normal to want the legal process to conclude quickly so that you can move forward with your life. Unfortunately, medical malpractice cases generally take several years from start to finish. While every case is different, and it is sometimes possible to resolve a medical malpractice case quickly, this is the exception and not the rule.
For personalized legal advice about a specific case, contact the Philadelphia medical malpractice lawyers at Youman & Caputo. A lawyer can break down the steps involved in a medical malpractice case to give you a better idea of the timeline to expect in your case.
How Long Does the Average Medical Malpractice Case Take?
No “average” timeline exists for a medical malpractice case. A medical malpractice case can occasionally be resolved in a matter of months, but it is much more common for it to take two to three years from the time you contact a lawyer until the case is resolved either at trial or by settlement. It is important to consult with an experienced medical malpractice lawyer who can assess your individual case, estimate its timeline, and help keep it on track for the fastest and most efficient resolution possible.
Factors That Can Affect a Medical Malpractice Case Timeline
Many elements can affect how long it takes to complete a medical malpractice claim. Legal timelines can vary according to the complexity of the case, whether it settles or goes to trial, and the jurisdiction. A complicated case that involves catastrophic injuries or wrongful death, for example, may take longer to resolve than a more straightforward case.
It usually take several months to obtain the necessary medical records and imaging studies and have the case evaluated for merit by a qualified medical expert. Once a lawsuit is filed, it is not uncommon for a case to take two to three years until it concludes.
Another factor that may affect the timeline of a case is the patient’s medical status. For certain cases, it may be advisable to wait until more information is known about the patient’s prognosis and the treatment he or she needs before initiating a lawsuit. In other cases, filing a claim as soon as possible may be advisable in order to preserve relevant evidence. A lawyer can advise a claimant on the appropriate timing for filing a claim.
General Steps and Processes Involved in a Medical Malpractice Claim
If you are injured due to medical malpractice, such as a medication error or misdiagnosis, learning the basics of the legal process can set your expectations for the process that lies ahead. There is no standard timeline for a medical malpractice case, but the same basic steps take place in each case where a lawsuit is filed.
Below is a generalized timeline of the typical stages in a medical malpractice case:
- Evidence collection: the first step is to gather the necessary medical records, imaging studies and other potential evidence (such as text messages or other communications with the health care providers).
- Expert review: a lawyer must hire qualified medical experts to review the medical records and imaging studies and determine if there was a breach of the standard of care that caused harm. If so, the expert provides a written certificate of merit.
- Filing a complaint: if there are grounds for filing a claim, an attorney drafts the document required to initiate a case.
- Response: the defendant will be served with the legal documents and have the opportunity to either admit or deny the allegations.
- Discovery: once the defendant responds to the complaint, the parties then engage in fact discovery, which is the exchange of relevant evidence and information. Depositions of the parties and other witnesses are completed in this stage of the process.
- Expert reports: After fact discovery is completed, the parties exchange he reports of their experts. In Pennsylvania, expert testimony is required to prove the essential elements of medical malpractice case, including breach in standard of care and causation. There are no expert depositions in Pennsylvania, so expert report must be very detailed.
- Pretrial motions: either side of the case may file pretrial motions to address specific legal issues or seek rulings on evidence.
- Trial: both sides of the case will present evidence, arguments and witness testimony before a judge or jury.
- Verdict: at the conclusion of the trial, the jury will determine if the plaintiff or filing party met the burden of proof and successfully established the necessary elements of the claim.
- Appeals: if one of the parties is not satisfied with the outcome of the case, they may be able to file an appeal of the decision.
At any stage of this process, the parties may engage in settlement negotiations or may agree to submit their case to a private resolution outside of the court system (like arbitration). In general, due to their complexity and the significant injuries usually at issue, medical malpractice cases often do not resolve until at least after the parties serve their expert reports and, very often, not until very shortly before (or even during) trial.
This is a general overview; only a medical malpractice lawyer can give you an accurate idea of the steps involved and the timeline of your specific case. The legal process involved in a medical malpractice case can take several years, depending on the circumstances.
Contact Youman & Caputo for Help From Experienced Medical Malpractice Attorneys
Medical malpractice cases are complicated legal matters that require highly experienced lawyers who know the law and the medicine, who have the resources to see these cases through to the end, and who have the skill to win these cases at trial. An attorney can guide you regarding the timing of your case, such as when to file, when to settle and whether your case would benefit from going to trial.
For more information about the timeline of your medical malpractice case, contact Youman & Caputo to request a free consultation.