Victims of malpractice typically suffer severe injuries and find themselves struggling with medical bills and lost income. It is normal to want to know how long a malpractice case may take, from beginning to end, or when it might settle out of court. Even if a case does settle out of court, a plaintiff still must first go through the process, which can take some time.
The time it takes to resolve a medical malpractice case depends primarily on the complexity of the case and the capacity of the court in the jurisdiction where you reside. However, your malpractice attorney works to strike the correct balance between securing the compensation you need quickly – while ensuring you receive the amount you deserve for your injuries.
Process of a medical malpractice lawsuit
The following should familiarize you with the general proceedings of a medical malpractice case.
Examine medical records. After your consultation with your malpractice attorney, he/she will spend time investigating your medical records, history, bills, and anything else related to your injuries or condition.
Note: Unlike some other states, South Carolina does not require you to file a certificate of merit with your complaint for the purposes of verifying that a medical expert has reviewed your case and believes it holds merit. The testimony of a medical expert is typically reserved for a trial.
File the lawsuit. Your lawyer then files the lawsuit, also called the Complaint or Writ. This is when your lawsuit “officially” begins. Depending on the bandwidth of the court system, it may take anywhere from one to three years for your case to go to trial.
Discovery. Once all involved parties are notified of the lawsuit, both sides begin discovery. During this process, each side requests evidence, information, and any other related documents from the other in order to gather facts and begin building their cases. All involved parties will give depositions, as well as any witnesses. This is also where expert medical witnesses consult or advise on the merits of the case.
Discovery can last for a year or more, as it may involve going back and forth to court to file motions regarding requests for further information.
Negotiate a settlement. Often, as the discovery period goes on, the strength of your medical malpractice claim becomes more clear to the defense, who may then attempt to settle your case out of court. As with any negotiation, the defense’s attorneys will work to their utmost to minimize the amount of money their client will have to pay out. However, they may not want the expense of a trial, either. You and your malpractice attorney can consult on the pros and cons of going to trial versus settling.
Trial. A medical malpractice trial, again, can last anywhere from months to years, depending on how complex your case is and the backlog of the court schedule. Do note, though, that the defense may offer a settlement negotiation at any time during the trial.
If you believe you are a victim of medical malpractice, the attorneys at McGowan, Hood & Felder, LLC are happy to speak with you. We will help you hold the guilty parties responsible. Call us at 803-327-7800 or complete our contact form to schedule a consultation at one of our offices throughout South Carolina.