Nowadays, nearly everyone knows that they can sue a doctor for malpractice when they suspect that negligence on the part of the healthcare provider caused them harm. However, many people do not understand what a medical malpractice lawsuit requires and what to expect when they file one.
Medical malpractice lawsuits can be confusing and tricky to navigate, especially if you are unfamiliar with the process. That is why you may benefit from contacting a Bronx medical malpractice attorney who understands the legal procedures and knows how to litigate medical malpractice cases.
Each Medical Malpractice Lawsuit Starts with Medical Negligence
Errors by healthcare providers are the third leading cause of death in the U.S. However, not every medical error constitutes medical negligence and warrants filing a malpractice lawsuit.
In a nutshell, medical malpractice refers to a healthcare professional’s failure to provide a proper standard of care, which causes harm to a patient.
But how do you know whether or not the healthcare provider’s conduct was negligent?
To make such a determination, courts examine whether the provider followed all the applicable procedures and standards accepted in the medical practice to keep the patient safe.
The standard of care is what a reasonable provider practicing in the same field should do in a similar situation. If a medical professional’s conduct falls below the accepted standard of care and causes the patient damages, that professional can face a lawsuit for malpractice.
With an estimated 250,000 Americans dying every year due to medical errors and many more suffering preventable injuries, holding professionals accountable for harmful malpractice is critical for both victims and the greater good.
What Happens in a Medical Malpractice Lawsuit?
There is nothing worse than putting the care of yourself or your loved one into the hands of a medical professional only to find out that they made a terrible mistake.
If this happens to you, you need to know what to expect and how you can improve your odds of winning your medical malpractice case.
The process of pursuing a medical malpractice lawsuit typically consists of the following steps:
Meet With an Attorney
Before you sue a negligent healthcare provider for medical malpractice, consider meeting with an attorney with hands-on experience litigating similar cases. The attorney will listen to your story and advise you on the legal options available. After this step, you can make an informed decision about how to proceed with your malpractice lawsuit.
Medical malpractice lawsuits are only successful with proper preparation. Suppose you decide to take legal action against the negligent medical professional. In that case, your attorney will launch an in-depth investigation to collect all available evidence and medical records related to your case.
After all, if you file a lawsuit, you – as the plaintiff – will be burdened to prove that the healthcare provider deviated from the accepted standards of care.
Finding a Medical Expert Witness
If you and your attorney are confident your case has strong merits, you will need expert witness testimony to substantiate your claims.
To prove medical malpractice, an expert witness is typically a medical professional who practices in the same specialty as the defendant.
The expert testimony can help the judge or jury determine whether or not the defendant’s actions fell below the accepted standard of care.
In many states, an expert witness must submit an Affidavit of Merit to the court to certify that the harmed patient’s medical malpractice case has merit.
The Discovery Process
Discovery is a pre-trial stage during which each party – the plaintiff and the defendant – exchanges information about the witnesses, including expert witnesses and all the information related to the case.
Parties may need to give a deposition during the process to answer questions under oath about the treatment provided, the alleged harm suffered by the patient, and other relevant circumstances.
While it is possible for medical malpractice cases to settle before the plaintiff has a chance to file a formal lawsuit, most cases do not resolve so quickly. It is more common for settlement negotiations to occur after the discovery process when each party understands the strength of the opposing party’s arguments.
At this point, the parties can evaluate their chances of winning if the case goes to trial, so they may be more willing to compromise and resolve the issue through a settlement.
Only a small percentage of medical malpractice cases proceed to trial because the parties fear the uncertainty of the trial proceedings. If the parties settle, the settlement will be the final stage in the medical malpractice case.
If the parties cannot come to a mutually acceptable resolution through settlement negotiations, a trial will be necessary to resolve the issue.
The trial process includes:
- Jury selection. At this stage, potential jurors will answer questions, and lawyers will select who will serve on a jury for the medical malpractice trial.
- Opening statements. A trial formally begins with the plaintiff and the defendant making opening statements, during which they discuss the case from their own perspective.
- Presenting the case. Each side of the dispute presents evidence and expert witness testimony to prove their points. The parties are also allowed to cross-examine the opposing party’s witnesses.
- Closing arguments. This stage allows each party to remind jurors about the vital evidence presented during the trial.
- Deliberation. After hearing and seeing all the relevant evidence and arguments, the jury goes to a separate room to discuss the case and decide on the verdict.
If the jury decides in the plaintiff’s favor in a malpractice lawsuit, they will also award the plaintiff an appropriate type and amount of damages to compensate them for the harm caused by the defendant.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About Medical Malpractice Lawsuits
As someone who has suffered harm by inadequate medical care, you may have dozens of questions but very few answers. The section below addressed some common questions asked by people who believe they have been a victim of medical malpractice.
If you do not find the answer to your question in the FAQ section below or wish to clarify anything, consider scheduling a consultation with an attorney.
My medical procedure has not been successful; is that malpractice?
A healthcare provider is not automatically negligent whenever a medical procedure is unsuccessful or the patient is unsatisfied with its outcome.
A procedure can go wrong even when doctors provide the highest degree of care and meet all applicable standards.
To have a valid medical malpractice claim, you must prove that the procedure was unsuccessful because the provider deviated from the accepted standards of care.
Who can face a lawsuit for medical malpractice?
You can sue any healthcare provider who commits malpractice, including:
- Other hospital staff members
Anyone whose conduct falls below the accepted standard of practice in the medical community can be named as the defendant in a medical malpractice lawsuit.
In many cases, the plaintiff can also sue the hospital or another entity that employs the negligent healthcare provider. Doing so requires proving that the professional acted within the scope of employment when the malpractice occurred.
What damages can I recover?
Medical malpractice can dramatically affect the patient’s life and the lives of those around them. Fortunately, the law recognizes the need for fair compensation for every patient who suffered harm as a result of malpractice.
Plaintiffs in medical malpractice cases can recover:
- Compensatory damages reimburse or compensate the plaintiff for the harm they have suffered due to malpractice. Such damages include medical bills, lost income, diminished quality of life, pain and suffering, loss of consortium, and many other tangible and intangible losses.
- Punitive damages punish the defendant for especially harmful behavior and deter similar behavior. State laws differ as to the requirements for seeking punitive damages. Some states also impose caps on punitive damages in medical malpractice cases.
Consider contacting an experienced medical malpractice attorney to calculate the proper amount of compensation to pursue. Often, plaintiffs do not fully understand the actual value of their case until they speak with an attorney.
Will my medical malpractice case settle or proceed to trial?
The decision to settle or take a case to trial is up to the plaintiff and the defendant. While most medical malpractice cases settle before they reach trial, some head to trial.
When deciding whether or not you should settle or take your case to trial, assess your options carefully.
A skilled attorney can provide an honest assessment and evaluate your chances of securing maximum compensation in a lawsuit instead of accepting a settlement.
How long do I have to file a malpractice lawsuit?
The statute of limitations is worth considering when you suspect you or your loved one might have been the victim of medical malpractice. This statute refers to the timeline for the harmed patient or their family members to pursue a medical malpractice lawsuit.
The deadline varies from one state to another and usually begins on the date the medical error happened or the victim reasonably discovered their injuries.
If a plaintiff misses the deadline and fails to file a medical malpractice lawsuit within the time limit, they will typically lose their chance to have their case heard in court.
How long do medical malpractice lawsuits take to resolve?
The timeline of any legal case, including a medical malpractice lawsuit, depends on the circumstances and facts of the case.
Generally, medical malpractice cases that settle out of court take less than a year to resolve. In contrast, cases that go to trial can take one to two years or even longer, depending on the jurisdiction and the case’s complexity.
However, everyone’s circumstances are unique, and only an experienced attorney can give you a rough estimate of how long it will take to resolve your malpractice lawsuit after analyzing the facts of your case.
Do I need to hire a medical malpractice attorney?
Technically, nothing prevents you from filing a medical malpractice lawsuit alone. However, it is likely not in your best interests to do so. Medical malpractice cases often involve complicated, intricate legal and medical nuances that can be difficult to navigate alone.
A skilled attorney with extensive knowledge of medical malpractice law can provide the guidance you need throughout every step of the process. Your attorney will act as your advocate to bring you peace of mind and address all of your concerns in ways that make sense.
Seek Your Consultation With a Medical Malpractice Attorney
If you suffered harm due to medical errors, an experienced personal injury lawyer will assess your rights for free. Time is short, so act now to receive your free consultation.