According to the 2019 Medical Malpractice Payout Report which analyzed medical malpractice claims between 2004 and 2018, over $4 million was paid in plaintiffs in medical malpractice lawsuits in 2018, nearly a 3% increase over 2017.
For medical malpractice to be considered, several factors must be involved. That typically includes a healthcare professional failing to provide the proper standard of care resulting in an injury that causes pain and suffering, disability, and income loss.
For those who believe they’ve been a victim of medical malpractice, these are the steps you can expect from start to finish in a medical malpractice lawsuit.
Contact the Healthcare Provider Involved
Before a medical malpractice lawsuit gets underway, it’s important to talk to the healthcare professional involved. Get an understanding of what might have gone wrong, and allow them to determine whether or not it’s something that can be remedied. The medical provider may be willing to perform services that can provide a solution, and possibly free of charge.
Find a Lawyer
If you can’t resolve the situation with your doctor (or other healthcare professional), the next step is to hire an experienced, reputable medical malpractice lawyer. Ask for personal recommendations from family, friends, neighbors, co-workers, and so on – even if they don’t know a medical malpractice lawyer, they may be able to recommend another type of attorney who can refer you to the attorney you need. You can also check online listings of lawyers, researching online reviews. Be sure to visit your state bar association’s website to find out if the lawyer is in good standing.
Once you have a shortlist of lawyers, set up consultations to discuss your case and find out about the attorney’s experience in similar cases, determine fees and get a feel for his or her communication skills. You’ll want someone who’s honest, upfront, and who you can develop a good rapport with.
Once you’ve hired an attorney, a preliminary investigation begins. All doctors, hospitals, and other medical professionals involved will be contacted so that copies of relevant medical records can be obtained. All of that data will be reviewed, along with pertinent medical literature to determine whether negligence was involved, and if so, what the injury or illness was that resulted from that negligent care. The attorney will then make a decision as to whether or not the case is viable. In many cases, experts will need to be called in.
The opinions of experts can be a critical part of this process. If the expert feels the case is viable, the lawyer will proceed to file a lawsuit. If not, a complete explanation will be provided as to why and the file will be closed at this point.
A Lawsuit is Filed
Assuming your case has merit, the lawsuit will move forward. The defendants will be served copies of related paper and their lawyers will file a response.
Discovery is the step in litigation in which both parties retain relevant information from each other, requesting any pertinent records and documents. Both the injured party and medical professional will be questioned under oath by the opposing attorneys.
Most medical malpractice cases don’t go to trial. This step begins with negotiation – if the insurance company’s lawyer believes the plaintiff has a solid case, a settlement will likely be offered. If a fair offer is not made, the case will go to trial.
When a case goes to trial, experts will be called in to testify in person or by deposition. This can take an extensive amount of time as opening statements, visual aids, exhibits, questions and closing arguments all need to be prepared. There may be focus groups used to get an idea as to how prospective jurors may react. All witnesses will also be prepared for the questions that will be asked, and for cross-examination by the defense. If the decision is in favor of the plaintiff, the plaintiff will most like be awarded financial compensation for damages.