Regular civil suits can take a long time, but medical malpractice lawsuits take even longer. Why?
The simple answer is that medical malpractice lawsuits are more complex and require more time at each step in the legal process.
The first step in any civil lawsuit is investigation and determining if there is, in fact, a legal case to pursue. With a standard car accident case, the lawyer will get copies of the police report, medical bills, medical records, and obtain possible witness statements and photos. This process of investigation is fairly simple and straightforward.
However, in medical malpractice cases, in addition to obtaining medical bills and medical records, the lawyer has to obtain an evaluation from one or more expert medical providers to determine if there has been medical negligence. This extra step of having to obtain an evaluation takes a good bit of time because the lawyer has to find the right expert, make sure that the expert will review the evidence, and then the expert has to actually study the case.
The next step in the legal process is to file the lawsuit and have it served on the parties. This is the same for regular civil cases and medical malpractice cases.
Once the lawsuit has been filed and the parties have an opportunity to file responses, the case moves into the “discovery” phase where the parties try to find out what are the other side’s arguments. Typically, discovery involves interrogatories and depositions. In medical malpractice cases, the interrogatories, which are written questions to the other side, take longer to prepare and respond to. Therefore, more time.
Also, depositions, which are where the lawyers ask witnesses questions under oath, take longer than normal civil cases. In most medical negligence cases, the expert witnesses are from out of town and arrangements must be made to either bring them in to the town where the case is going to be tried or to go to the experts for the depositions. This additional travel requires more time.
An important part of lawsuits is filing what is known as “motions”. Motions can be asking the court to limit what evidence a side is required to produce, asking the court to require that certain evidence be produced, or asking the court to dismiss the case without a trial, etc. Each motion requires time to be filed and for the court to make a decision. Because of their complexity, medical malpractice lawsuits involve more motions that other civil cases.
Finally, there is the trial. Where the trial in a standard car accident case may take a day or two, a medical malpractice trial may take a week or longer. Also, due to the expected length of the trial and the need to bring in out of town expert witnesses, medical negligence trials must be scheduled well in advance. All of this simply requires more time.
The above is general information only. If you have any questions whatsoever, talk with a lawyer licensed in your state.