Our experienced malpractice lawyers answer the question, “How long does a medical malpractice lawsuit take?” No two lawsuits are exactly the same, and this is especially true for medical malpractice cases. One of the biggest questions you probably have when you are considering filing a claim is, “How long does a medical malpractice lawsuit take?” The answer to that question will be determined by a number of factors that are unique to your case.
The good news is that the experienced attorneys at Baird Mandalas Brockstedt Federico, LLC are happy to talk to you about your case and provide a clearer picture of a potential timeframe, the strength of your case, and what next steps are available to you.
What Is Medical Malpractice?
Medical malpractice occurs when a healthcare professional or institution causes injury to a patient through a negligent act or omission. There are many reasons that medical malpractice occurs. Depending on the circumstances of the injury, both the injury and the cause might not be discovered immediately.
In order to be able to bring a medical malpractice case, the healthcare professional must have had a doctor-patient relationship with the plaintiff. This relationship establishes that the healthcare professional had a duty to provide the plaintiff with a certain standard of care. If this standard was not met, and that caused the plaintiff’s injury, they may be able to collect compensation.
Types of Medical Malpractice Claims
Medical errors can occur in a number of ways. These are just some of the most common errors that lead to malpractice claims:
- Misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis,
- Surgical or procedural mistakes,
- Chiropractic negligence,
- Prescription drug errors,
- Errors during childbirth,
- Failure to treat a condition,
- Failure to provide follow up-care,
- Anesthetic errors,
- Failure to prevent infection, and
- Nursing home neglect.
There are other ways that medical malpractice can occur as well, especially if the harm is caused by a party who was not the attending physician or nurse. A Maryland medical malpractice lawyer can help.
How Does a Medical Malpractice Lawsuit Work?
How does a medical malpractice lawsuit work? Medical malpractice lawsuits generally start with an insurance claim. Most healthcare providers have special medical malpractice insurance that is meant to be used in situations like yours.
The insurance company will gather evidence regarding your claim and make a settlement offer. It is up to you whether or not you accept the settlement offer or pursue filing a lawsuit. There are a lot of factors to take into consideration before making that decision.
Timeline of a Medical Malpractice Lawsuit
When pursuing a malpractice suit, it is important to understand the timeline of the legal process. Below, we discuss the critical stages of a medical malpractice lawsuit.
Step 1: Finding a Malpractice Attorney
Finding a malpractice attorney is one of the critical steps when pursuing a medical malpractice claim. During your initial meeting, your lawyer will evaluate the details of your case and come up with a plan of action. This step is usually completed within a few weeks.
Step 2: Investigation and Gathering Evidence
After taking on your case, your attorney will begin an investigation. This will entail gathering evidence, obtaining medical records, and reaching out to expert witnesses. Your attorney will be doing all of this to ensure that you have a strong case. This part of the process can take several months, or longer in certain complex cases.
Step 3: Filing the Suit
When your attorney has gathered all the necessary information, documents, and other evidence, they will initiate a lawsuit in court. This entails filing the required documents with the court and alerting the opposing party of the suit against them. This process is relatively quick compared to the other stages of the legal process.
Step 4: Discovery
Discovery can be a lengthy process in a medical malpractice suit. During discovery, each party can request information and evidence from the other party. The primary objective of this phase is to allow each of the parties the opportunity to build their case with all the relevant information at their disposal. Discovery can take months, but sometimes, it can last longer than a year. Discovery involves the exchange of documents, as well as depositions of the parties, fact witnesses, and expert witnesses.
Step 5: Negotiations
Before the lawsuit proceeds to trial, there are usually negotiations about a potential settlement. If a lawsuit is settled outside of court, the parties can avoid the costs and time expenditures of a trial. When a settlement is reached, the case concludes.
Step 6: Trial
If the parties are unable to come to a settlement on which they both agree, the case will proceed to trial. Trial can take weeks or months. After the trial, the judge will deliver their verdict. The plaintiff (the party that filed the suit) will be entitled to a damages award if the judge rules in the plaintiff’s favor.
Step 7: Appeals
In some cases, if one of the parties believes that there was an error during the trial, that party can file an appeal to an appellate court. In Maryland, appeals are initially heard by the Appellate Court of Maryland, and in some cases, may be further appealed to the Supreme Court of Maryland. Appeals can take months to years, but are fortunately rare, as many cases settle either before or after trial.
Factors That Impact the Timeline of Your Medical Malpractice Lawsuit
Medical malpractice lawsuits are complicated cases that involve expert opinions, evidence of injury, expense analysis, and proof of negligence. The legal system is not known for its speed, and medical malpractice lawsuits can take several months to process before the case is filed. Here are some things that may impact how long your medical malpractice case takes:
- Whether or not the medical malpractice resulted in wrongful death,
- Whether the injury has been resolved or will require ongoing care,
- Whether the injury resulted in permanent disability,
- Which party or parties are liable for the injury,
- The speed of settlement negotiations, and
- The court schedule.
There are plenty of other factors that could speed up or slow down the process. It helps to have an experienced Maryland medical malpractice lawyer who can keep the process on track.
Financial Assistance During a Lawsuit
When you are waiting for your malpractice suit to resolve, medical expenses, rent, and other bills can pile up. Further, your financial situation may be worsened if you are unable to work. Thankfully, there are a couple of options for financial assistance during that time. Below, we discuss how your lawyer can help you get the necessary funds to support your case.
Contingency Fee Agreements
In a medical malpractice suit, you will likely enter into a contingency fee arrangement with your lawyer. These arrangements allow the victim to obtain legal representation with no up-front fees. In addition, under these arrangements, it is common for the law firm to front the costs of litigation.
One of the best features of a contingency fee arrangement is that you have to pay your attorney only if they win your case. If you don’t win, you don’t owe them their legal fees. However, if your case is successful, your lawyer will usually take a portion of your settlement or damages award in exchange for their legal services.
Some lending companies offer advance funding to clients in a medical malpractice suit. Otherwise known as lawsuit loans, this type of funding can help a client cover necessities while they wait for their lawsuit to resolve. Unfortunately, the interest expense on these types of loans is often very high, based on the risk to the lender, and so attorneys often advise their clients to avoid these loans unless it is absolutely necessary.
Do Not Accept Less Than What You Deserve
When looking at the legal process from the perspective of someone who has recently sustained a serious injury due to medical malpractice, it is normal to feel like you need more immediate financial relief. Insurance companies hope you feel that way and that you will be open to accepting a settlement that is well under the actual value of your claim.
The benefit of accepting a settlement offer is that you get the money quickly. The downside is that when you realize the funds do not actually cover the full extent of your injury and suffering, you cannot go back and negotiate for more.
At Baird Mandalas Brockstedt Federico, LLC, we understand this delicate situation. We are experienced in dealing with medical malpractice insurance companies and know what you are up against. Allowing us to negotiate on your behalf will give you the upper hand.
How to File a Medical Malpractice Lawsuit
The most important step in filing a medical malpractice lawsuit is hiring a medical malpractice lawyer who understands the Maryland legal system. This person, or team of legal professionals, will play a crucial role in determining the best strategy for your specific case so that you can receive maximum compensation for your injuries.
Your attorney will evaluate the facts of your case and discover who the liable party or parties are. Healthcare professionals such as doctors, nurses, anesthetists, pharmacists, physical therapists, emergency medical staff, in-home care providers, and others are all held to a professional standard of care. Medical organizations and institutions, such as hospitals, can also be held liable for medical malpractice.
File an Insurance Claim
Once you have determined who to file the claim against, you or your attorney will start the insurance claim process, followed by settlement negotiations. If a fair settlement cannot be reached, you can choose to start the process of filing a lawsuit.
Start the Litigation Process
When answering the question of “how long does a medical malpractice lawsuit take?” it is important to take state-specific proceedings into account. The state of Maryland requires that you first file your lawsuit with an arbitration panel instead of filing in court. You must also file a certificate from a qualified expert within 90 days of filing a claim. This form verifies that a qualified doctor in the area believes that your injury was caused by a breach of the standard of care.
Under Maryland law, a victim of medical malpractice is required to file a lawsuit within five years of the date of the injury or three years of the date the injury was discovered, whichever comes first. This time can pass quickly, so it is a good idea to start the legal process as soon as reasonably possible.
Baird Mandalas Brockstedt & Federico Is Here For You
At Baird Mandalas Brockstedt & Federico, we believe that patients are entitled to proper care when being treated by a medical professional. When substandard care is given, that’s when we come in. Our firm is a leader in medical malpractice litigation, and we have won some of the biggest settlements and verdicts in the Maryland region. From misdiagnosis to surgical errors, we are here to help you get the justice you deserve.
To see if you qualify for a free consultation, contact our office online or by phone at 442-412-8696. There are critical legal deadlines to meet in every medical malpractice case, so please do not hesitate to reach out to us today.