A medical malpractice trial process comes at the end of an often strenuous, sometimes even adversarial, lawsuit. A case physically goes to trial months — or even years — after a pre-trial investigation began looking into whether or not a medical professional or organization failed to provide the required standard of care that resulted in an injury or other suffering.
What is a malpractice case?
Medical malpractice refers to lawsuits brought against doctors, nurses, health care providers, hospitals, and other medical facilities. Medical malpractice can occur anywhere the action or inaction of medical staff or facility results in avoidable patient injuries.
When healthcare professionals or facilities — through a negligent act or the failure to act — cause a patient to experience unnecessary suffering, injury, or worse, it is considered medical malpractice. Negligence can be the result of diagnostic, treatment, or health management errors.
While many medical malpractice cases can result in significant personal injury, death, or damages, it’s essential to remember that not all unfavorable medical outcomes are caused by medical malpractice. Sometimes, despite the highest standard of medical care provided, complications can still occur. Medical care is never guaranteed to be perfect, even when procedures are common enough to be considered “routine.”
Trial process for medical malpractice cases
Medical malpractice cases progress in the following manner involving each of the following areas.
The discovery process begins the medical malpractice trial process.
Once you file your complaint and have notified all the parties involved, each side begins the discovery process. During discovery, each side can request evidence, information, and related documentation from the other side as part of fact-finding and case-building.
During discovery, both sides hire medical experts who consult and advise on the case's medical negligence merits.
Expert medical witnesses
Medical witnesses are neutral participants in a medical malpractice case.
Both sides typically call on expert medical witnesses to review the case's details, establish the standard of care, and ascertain whether medical negligence, as outlined by the claim, actually happened.
Expert witnesses can either be medical generalists or specialists in the particular medical area involved in the lawsuit. Examples of expert medical witnesses include general practitioners, obstetrics and gynecology specialists, anesthesiologists, ophthalmologists, emergency medicine/ER specialists, etc.
Expert witnesses help establish negligence and help determine whether that negligence resulted in the patient experiencing unnecessary injury or damages.
If both expert medical witnesses determine that the defendant met the medically accepted standard of care and that negligence did not occur, the lawsuit will usually be dismissed. If both medical experts agree that negligence likely occurred, the medical malpractice trial will proceed.
The settlement negotiation phase follows the discovery and medical experts stages in the medical malpractice trial process when the case is viewed to have merit. This is the point at which the legal defense team begins to look at settlement.
Defense attorneys will attempt to minimize the amount of money their clients will have to pay while attempting to avoid a court trial expense.
On the other side, the plaintiff's medical malpractice lawyer considers their case's overall strength when weighing a settlement amount. If your attorney doesn't think the defense has offered a reasonable settlement, they will likely suggest taking your case to trial.
Court cases are lengthy and expensive, which is why many cases settle out of court. And those cases that do go to trial are often only those that cannot settle.
However, if your case stands a good chance at winning at trial, and the defense's settlement offer is insufficient, a trial may be necessary.
If a settlement cannot be reached and both the plaintiff and defendant are far from reaching an agreement, your case would then be scheduled for trial. It's important to remember that even though you have a trial date scheduled, it doesn't mean your trial is guaranteed to happen on that date. Trials can be rescheduled for many reasons, including court scheduling conflicts or delays in the case's progress.
The role of the jury
At the medical malpractice trial, both sides will present their arguments. They will also offer evidence that supports their position. The medical experts hired by each side will present their professional opinions. The jury will then debate and decide whether the doctor or medical facility acted negligently and, if they did, was that negligence the cause of the plaintiff's injuries.
The jury then decides in favor of one side or the other. If the plaintiff is successful, money damages are often awarded.
Compensation or Awarded Damages
Once a decision has been reached, the case is considered finished. This is when you can expect to receive payment for damages as awarded by the court.
Payments are usually issued as either a lump-sum or through a structured payment schedule.
A lump-sum payment is an uncomplicated way to collect your settlement money. Many people who file medical malpractice claims opt for this method because it provides the most flexibility for accommodating future medical care or supporting ongoing expenses.
Structured settlements are often preferred payment methods for birth injury cases as they help ensure the child has sufficient money to handle long-term medical expenses.
Once the settlement is issued, if your attorney is working on a contingency basis, like the medical malpractice experts at Grover Lewis Johnson, it's time to pay legal fees.
At Grover Lewis Johnson, we get paid when your case is closed, and you've received a compensation, not before. That means you don't need to worry about legal fees while you're going through the medical malpractice trial process. You can focus on the important things, such as taking care of yourself and your family. We'll focus on the court case.
How long does a medical malpractice trial last?
The length of time required to complete a medical malpractice trial lawsuit depends on the case's complexity and strength and the court's capacity to hear the trial. While most medical malpractice trials end in settlement, i.e., settle out of court, both sides will still need to file motions and go through the discovery part of the court process.
Your medical malpractice attorney will strive to find the balance between getting compensation for you or your family while ensuring you get a fair amount if settling out of court.
Sometimes, both parties agree to settle a case for less money than initially requested to resolve the matter more quickly. Alternatively, trial cases tend to have payouts that exceed the initial damages claim but can take several years before injured parties receive any of that money.If you believe you've experienced medical malpractice, get in touch with the medical malpractice experts at Grover Lewis Johnson and schedule your free, no-obligation consultation today. We put our 25 years of medical malpractice experience to work for you to help you get the best result for yourself and your family.