Once you make the decision to file a medical malpractice claim against your medical care provider, your attorney will immediately start working on your case. There may be periods of time in which it might appear nothing is going on with your case, but there is actually a great deal of work being done on your behalf. To help you better understand what is transpiring, here is a general timeline of what occurs.
After you retain an attorney, he or she conducts an investigation into what occurred. Your attorney will obtain your medical records and review them.
Your attorney uses the records and your account of what happened to decide if you truly have a case. It could take months to complete this portion of the case. How quickly your medical care provider honors the records request can impact the assessment period.
If your attorney thinks you have a case, he or she will move to the next step. If not, he or she will inform you of why your claim is not valid.
One of the most important members of your legal team is the medical expert. The medical expert can make the difference between winning or losing your case.
Your attorney will need to hire the expert at this point. The expert will come from the same specialty as the provider who treated you. Your expert will review the medical records and help determine whether or not the provider was negligent and caused you injury.
In the hope of settling your case without a lawsuit, your attorney will send a demand letter to the provider's insurance company demanding payment for your injuries. The letter will detail the actions of the provider, your injuries, and what you want to receive for compensation.
This step usually kicks off a period of negotiations. The insurance company can choose to pay the amount requested, negotiate for a different amount, or flat out refuse to pay.
If the insurance company refuses to pay or negotiate, your attorney will file a lawsuit against the insurance company and medical care provider.
Certificate of Merit
Most states require that the plaintiff in a malpractice case submit a certificate of merit to the court before the case can move forward. The certificate merely certifies that the claim is valid. Your medical expert or another expert chosen by your attorney will complete and sign the certificate.
After discovery, your case will proceed to trial. There might be some variations to how your case proceeds, but this is how it generally progresses. If there are deviations, your attorney will discuss them with you beforehand.