How Long Does a Medical Malpractice Lawsuit Take?

Injury Attorneys | Restoring LivesTM

October 17, 2019 | Medical Malpractice |

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When you or a loved one are harmed due to an act of negligence on the part of a doctor or other medical professional, it may be considered medical malpractice, and you could potentially pursue a medical malpractice lawsuit.

Navigating medical malpractice law is a challenging process. Medical malpractice suits against doctors or other healthcare professionals in Indiana are complicated, involving multiple phases, timelines, and parties. The process can be overwhelming, but an experienced medical malpractice attorney on your side can help you build a strong case.

If you are interested in pursuing a medical malpractice case in Indiana, seek legal counsel immediately—each state has time constraints on when medical malpractice lawsuits can be filed, and any mistakes can result in significant delays.

The timeline surrounding medical malpractice litigation is tight. But how long does a medical malpractice lawsuit take?

What Is the Average Length of a Medical Malpractice Claim?

Each medical malpractice case is unique, and there is no set timeline for how long a lawsuit will take to reach a settlement or go to trial.

The average length of a medical malpractice claim in Indiana can stretch anywhere from a few months to a few years, with most cases spanning two to three years.

In general, if both parties can come to an agreement, the lawsuit will fall on the shorter timeline. If they cannot agree, the case will go to trial, in which case it takes a longer amount of time.

What Is the Medical Malpractice Statute of Limitations in Indiana?

The statute of limitations is the deadline for victims to file a lawsuit. In Indiana, adult victims have two years from the time of the negligent act to file a lawsuit. If injured patients are children younger than 6 years old, their parents or guardians have until they turn 8 to sue for medical malpractice.

Exceptions to the medical malpractice statute of limitations in Indiana may apply. One example is the discovery rule, which may be applied in situations where the negligence was not discovered until a later date.

Why Do Medical Malpractice Cases Take So Long?

A number of factors contribute to the length of medical malpractice lawsuits in Indiana, in large part due to the fact that Indiana has a medical review panel process, which can cause significant delays in moving forward.

Complex Medical and Legal Issues

It may be difficult to initially determine which physician or healthcare provider was negligent. Similarly, it may take time to discover whether multiple parties were negligent in the care and treatment of the patient. It’s also hard to know how long it will take to request and have a medical review panel convened to review the evidence and make a decision. Additionally, the statute of limitations must be considered before moving forward with the investigation of a case.

These medical and legal issues add additional layers of time and complexity to medical malpractice cases.

Multiple Liable Parties

Medical malpractice lawsuits often involve several parties that could be held liable, which can include doctors, nurses, hospitals, or pharmaceutical companies, among others. It takes time to sort through these parties and determine who acted negligently and contributed to the injury.

Strategic Delays

Litigation fatigue is a real concern. It’s exhausting, time-consuming, and overwhelming to have attorneys and insurance companies digging through an injured victim’s life. Taking a lower settlement offer just to end the process can, at times, be tempting. Defense lawyers and insurance companies are well aware of this fatigue, and they are willing to wait for the results.

Large Number of Witnesses

Medical malpractice cases involve many witnesses, including medical experts. In what is known as a “battle of experts,” both sides get to bring a team of expert witnesses, and all those witnesses are deposed.

Many medical expert witnesses are often doctors or healthcare professionals with busy schedules, and some might be out of state. Scheduling depositions can be a challenge, especially if they are canceled and rescheduled, and it can take several months to interview everyone.

What Are the Four Phases of Medical Malpractice Lawsuits?

In general, the stages of Indiana medical malpractice claims are as follows.

Preliminary Investigation

Your attorney will start a detailed initial investigation by collecting evidence and conducting interviews to determine whether your case falls under medical negligence.

Medical malpractice evidence might include the following:

  • Medical records and bills
  • Timeline of events
  • Photographs and video records of your injuries
  • Witness testimony
  • Hospital notes

The documentation your attorney gathers will include the results of all consultations and tests related to your case.

The next part of the preliminary investigation involves a review of your case. At WKW, we have two legal nurse consultants on staff. This consultant brings both a legal and medical perspective to the review.

Determining whether the doctors or medical professionals in your case breached the standard of care and acted negligently can take a significant amount of time and may require multiple reviews.

Filing a Complaint

After your legal team has determined that you have a strong case of medical negligence, your attorney will file a complaint with the Indiana Department of Insurance that contains a detailed description of the negligence claim.

All medical malpractice victims or their attorneys must go through the Indiana Department of Insurance to pursue a lawsuit. After the agency receives a complaint, it will send copies to all parties involved. Then, within 20 days of when the complaint was filed, either party may request the formation of a medical review panel.

Evaluation by a Medical Review Panel

A panel, made up of three healthcare providers and one lawyer, will render an opinion as to whether the evidence supports the medical malpractice claim. These panel members will review the provided evidence, study the malpractice claim, and convene to discuss the case. They will make an opinion on the following:

  • Whether the physician or healthcare provider’s conduct met the standard of care
  • Whether any breach in the standard of care caused the injuries in the complaint

The opinion of the medical review panel is not the end of the line; either party can bring the case to court. However, the panel’s opinion is admissible in court, and panel members may be called to testify.

Negotiation or Litigation

At this point, depending on the specifics of the medical malpractice case and opinion of the medical review panel, your attorney will likely recommend that you either pursue a settlement, move forward with your case in preparation for trial, or cease further litigation of the case entirely.

If both parties are willing, your attorney may enter into negotiations with the defendant’s insurance company. It’s your decision to accept a settlement offer or proceed to trial. Your attorney can advise you on how to proceed.

If a settlement is not agreed upon by both parties or if either party wants to pursue litigation, the case will proceed to court.

Contact a Medical Malpractice Attorney Today

If you or a loved one have been injured as a result of medical malpractice, contact the Indianapolis Medical Malpractice Attorneys of Wilson Kehoe Winingham. The lawyers at WKW can help you and your family get the compensation you deserve. Call 317.920.6400 or fill out an online contact form for a free, no-obligation case evaluation.

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