If you must file a medical malpractice claim against a doctor or other medical care provider, it is important to understand that these cases can be more complicated than other personal injury cases. It can also be helpful to understand how the resolution of these cases work. Here, we discuss the important steps in a medical malpractice case.
How a Medical Malpractice Case Works
Before you can realistically expect to settle your medical malpractice claim, you need to retain an experienced medical malpractice attorney. The following are common steps in a medical malpractice claim:
- Investigation of your claim. Your attorney will interview you about your medical treatment and condition. He will also conduct a thorough investigation by obtaining and reviewing your medical bills and records before determining whether you have a sufficient claim of medical malpractice.
- Medical expert. In Virginia, you almost always must have a medical expert who can testify as to the standard of care for your medical treatment and how the doctor or other medical provider violated the standard of care before filing a lawsuit. This expert must be knowledgeable in the specialty of the negligent doctor.
- Demand letter and negotiation. Your attorney will begin the process of trying to settle your case by sending a demand letter to the insurance company and trying to negotiate a settlement. However, these cases can be more challenging to settle because of the possible high stakes to a doctor, which are the potential loss of his license and much higher insurance premiums.
- Review panel. In Virginia, either party can request a claim be heard by a review panel appointed by the Virginia Supreme Court to assess the merits of a claim. While it is not binding, its findings can be used in a court hearing. Even if you do not request this, the negligent medical provider could ask that your claim goes before this panel.
- Lawsuit. If your case does not settle, which is common in these cases, your attorney will file a lawsuit in civil court. Once the doctor or other medical provider is served with the complaint, he will file a formal answer raising his defenses.
- Discovery. During discovery, the parties can send written questions to answer and requests to produce documents. In addition, depositions are often taken of the defendant, witnesses, and expert witnesses. The discovery time period can be lengthy in a medical malpractice case.
- Settlement attempts. When your attorney believes it is productive, he will continue to try to settle your claim with the defendant. In addition, the judge may schedule a settlement conference—sometimes with him—or send your case to a mediation hearing in an attempt to settle your case before setting a trial date.
- Trial. If you are unable to settle your case, it will be decided at a trial, which is often a jury trial. The jury or judge would decide whether you proved your medical malpractice claim, and, if so, the amount of compensation that you should receive.
If you must file a medical malpractice claim, you need an experienced medical malpractice attorney who has a track record of success in settling and litigating these cases. Call our office or fill out our online form to schedule a free consultation to learn about our experience and how we can help you fight to obtain the compensation that you deserve.