What Should You Expect When Filing a Medical Malpractice Lawsuit? A Guide

Are you suffering from an injury caused by the professional negligence of a healthcare worker? When these providers deviate from their profession’s defined standard of care, the results could be devastating. 

Whether the event is caused by a negligent act or omission, your next steps will be the same. A medical malpractice lawsuit can help you recoup any damages you’ve experienced as a result of your injury, including the cost of medical bills, lost wages, and more.

An experienced medical malpractice lawyer can help you navigate every step of this process. Today, we’re sharing what you should expect at every stage. 

1. Consulting With Your Lawyer

Before you file a medical malpractice lawsuit, it’s in your best interest to hire a medical malpractice attorney. This legal expert will be well-versed in how the process works, and what you need to do. They can also guide you on who to speak to, as well as how much to share.

The legal process can be complex and convoluted. Without an experienced and reputable lawyer by your side, it can be easy to be overwhelmed by the jargon, paperwork, and red tape. Our team can take care of the administrative aspects of the claim for you, so you can focus on getting better.

Make sure you fully understand the fee structure of any prospective lawyer you meet. Once you find the right one, you’ll usually sign a contingency agreement before moving forward. 

2. Reviewing Your Medical Records

After you hire a lawyer, your next step will be going into detail about the events that occurred during the alleged malpractice. You will need to authorize your attorney to gain access to your medical records, as well as any bills related to the incident(s).

Keep in mind that it’s important to complete this step as early as possible. It can take up to a year or longer for your attorney to obtain all of the records that are relevant to your claim. This will include medical files detailing any preexisting conditions or other medical care concerns that could impact the case. 

Once your lawyer has those records in hand, they can begin to pore over them. As they do, they will look for details that suggest whether your medical malpractice case is viable. Note that an unfavorable diagnosis isn’t always linked to an instance of negligence, which is why this step is so important.

3. Hiring Expert Witnesses

If your lawyer decides that you have a valid case, then they’ll proceed with it. To learn more about what might have occurred, they’ll often hire a medical expert witness.

This expert is typically someone who has experience in the same medical field as the defendant. Along with your lawyer, they will review your medical records, listen to your account, and use their expertise to determine if the healthcare worker indeed acted below the regulated standard of care.

The opinions and statements of your medical expert witness can majorly influence the outcome of your case. Your lawyer will work diligently to choose the right professionals for this role.

4. Potential Pre-Trial Settlements

In some cases, medical malpractice cases are settled before a lawsuit is even filed. This most often occurs in smaller cases, where the insurance companies don’t have as much to lose.

With bigger cases, the defendant’s insurance company will need time to conduct a pre-trial investigation of their own, and they won’t want to pursue a settlement until they’ve been able to do so. For this reason, most medical malpractice cases do culminate in a lawsuit, which your attorney will file on your behalf.

During the pre-trial phase, your attorneys will continue to gather and review evidence, record your deposition, and handle any legal issues that may arise. 

5. Filing the Medical Malpractice Lawsuit

If there isn’t a pre-trial settlement, then your lawyer will file the lawsuit. You’ll work together to file a document that’s known as a Complaint. Within this document, you’ll share the details about what you allegedly say happened during the malpractice.

While it might seem like time is crawling, it’s important to be patient once your lawsuit is filed. It can take a few years for a lawsuit to go to trial, primarily based on the complicated measures that must take place during the pre-trial discovery phase. Depending on your case, this step can take up to 18 months or longer.

Depending on where you live, you may also be required to submit what’s known as a Certificate of Merit. In this document, the physician you hired as an expert witness will share their opinion, stating that:

  • They reviewed your medical records
  • They believed the defendant was more likely negligent than not

While some states will require this report, others will only need to know that your lawyer contacted a physician about the details surrounding your case. California does not require a Certificate of Merit report. Still, while their sworn testimony isn’t required, it’s in your best interest to include any supportive details they can provide. 

6. Potential Post-Discovery Settlements

Once the timeline is up for the pre-trial discovery, there may once again be talks about settlements. Often, the lawyers on both sides can work together to devise a favorable resolution.

If this doesn’t happen, then the case may go into mediation. During this phase, you’ll work with an assigned mediator to discuss the case and seek a harmonious agreement with the other party. If this step doesn’t change the outcome, then your medical malpractice case will finally go to trial.

7. Going to Trial

While many trials take place in front of a jury, some are held in private. This includes any type of lawsuit that involves a federal employee.

You can expect your medical malpractice trial to last a few weeks. During this time, both sides will share their account of what happened. Once each party rests, the jury will perform a careful review of any evidence provided. 

Then, they’ll communicate and deliberate to determine the outcome of your trial. The verdict and the awarded amount will be read out loud in court. If you’ve won your case, then you’ll collect your award and release the defendant from any type of future liability.

Do You Need a Medical Malpractice Lawyer?

If you or a loved one have suffered at the hands of a negligent or incompetent medical professional, then it’s time to take action. A lawyer can help you file a medical malpractice lawsuit so you can heal and move forward in confidence. 

Now that you know what to expect during this process, are you ready to get started? Contact us today for a free consultation. 

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