The Five Stages of a Medical Malpractice Case

Medical malpractice cases are often complex – they require thorough investigation, expert testimony (in most states), and can take a lot of time to resolve. Before a medical malpractice case even begins, it is imperative to select a skilled, experienced attorney to guide you through your case.

A. – Preliminary Investigation

Your attorney will need to collect information to gain an understanding of the facts of the case. This may involve accessing medical and hospital records, researching applicable federal and state laws and reviewing medical literature. Your attorney may also initiate communication between any relevant parties (experts, possible defendants, etc.) to begin the process.

B. – Filing the Lawsuit

Based on the preliminary investigation, your attorney will advise you if he or she thinks you have a medical malpractice claim. A lawsuit will then need to be filed with the court. Copies of the lawsuit will be served to all defendants and applicable parties. Filing the lawsuit begins the case and puts the next steps into motion.

C. – Discovery

After the lawsuit is filed, the most time-consuming yet important part of the case begins – discovery. Your attorney will continue to gather information and evidence to support the claims made in the lawsuit and will perform a deeper dive into applicable medical malpractice case history, state and federal law, and the details of the case itself. Most likely, discovery will include taking depositions (questioning parties under oath), interviewing expert witnesses, and submitting “interrogatories.” Interrogatories are requests for copies of applicable records and written responses to specific questions written by the attorney. Both sides of the lawsuit participate in the discovery process and may request interrogatories and conduct depositions.

D. – Negotiations and Settlement

Most lawsuits are resolved, or settled, before ever reaching the courtroom. Medical malpractice cases are no exception. As discovery progresses and more facts come to light, attorneys for all parties negotiate with one another and attempt to come to an agreement to avoid going to trial. The costs of going to trial, particularly with the involvement of insurance companies and healthcare facilities, are often not worth the time and effort a trial demands, so it is much more common to settle the matter outside of the court. If the case is settled, a settlement agreement and possibly a release of liability is signed by all parties involved and the case is completed.

E. – Trial

If the case does go to trial, the facts of the case are argued in front of a judge and jury. Witnesses may be called to testify, and once both sides have presented their arguments, the jury will deliberate on a judgment. Depending on the type of malpractice claim, the jury may call for a monetary award for the plaintiff or dismiss the case altogether.

Remember, it is vital that you find a qualified attorney to help you navigate the complicated arena of medical malpractice lawsuits.