The timeline for resolving a medical malpractice case against a doctor will vary from a year to several years with the average case taking approximately two years. Why the variation? Each case is unique. There are several factors that impact the timeline in a case.
Were there several doctors or healthcare providers involved in the care? In other words, are there multiple healthcare providers that could be at fault in the medical malpractice case. It is rare that a case is clear-cut against a doctor. Usually there are multiple doctors, a hospital or nursing home, physical therapy, occupational therapy, home health and other providers of care involved in a case. As a result, the case must be thoroughly reviewed to determine who is believed to be at fault for the adverse result. Often, it is more than one healthcare provider.
What experts do you need in a case? In North Carolina, you are required to obtain expert witnesses that are willing to testify to the doctor’s negligence or malpractice prior to a lawsuit being filed with the Court. First, you must find a doctor within the same subspecialty. In other words, if you believe an orthopedist committed malpractice, you must find another orthopedist to testify against the doctor. In addition, the expert physician must be willing to testify that the doctor accused of medical malpractice deviated from the standard of care. This is the medical and legal professions way of saying the doctor accused of malpractice acted in a way that was different from the way other physicians within the same subspecialty would have acted. If there are several doctors or healthcare providers involved in the medical malpractice case, you must find experts in each field of practice.
Am I re questions must I answer and how much information am I required to provide? Filing the lawsuit does not usually take that long. However, the process of interrogatories or questions and production of documents can take some time. In other words, you and your attorney must respond to questions and a list of information requested by the defense attorney. In addition, you and your attorney will submit interrogatories and production of documents to the defense. The process of submitting and reviewing these documents may take some time. And often, the responses lead to additional questions and requests for documents.
How long does it take for questioning and information before the trial? Prior to the trial, the defense attorney will usually question or depose you about the case. They will usually depose any family or friends that were with you at the time along with the experts you have hired in your case. In addition, your attorney will depose the doctor accused of malpractice, the experts the doctor has hired and others involved in your case. This process is time consuming since you must coordinate with multiple parties which often requires travel to other areas of the state or country.
How long will the trial take? If your case goes to trial, you must first seat a jury. This often takes two or three days. The trial itself is usually one and one half to four weeks depending on the complexity of the case. Obviously it can take longer if there are multiple defendants or there is an extraordinary amount of testimony required in the case. The jury will often deliberate for a few days in the case.
As a result of these factors, you can understand why it takes so long to sue a doctor and get to trial in a medical malpractice case.