When you suffer serious injuries in any incident caused by another party, you may need the funds from an injury claim as soon as possible to cover mounting expenses. Those claim funds can help you cover the cost of medical treatment and decrease the likelihood that you will struggle to pay your other everyday bills.
How long can it take to file a medical malpractice claim and get that much-needed compensation? In many cases, it may take longer than you think.
The Average Time to File a Medical Malpractice Claim
Each medical malpractice claim has unique elements that can impact how long it takes to file a claim. However, on average, it can take between two and three years to reach a settlement agreement in a medical malpractice claim and get the compensation you deserve in your hands.
Many things can influence how long it takes to settle your medical malpractice claim.
- The severity of your injuries. In many cases, it can take longer to settle a claim that involves severe damages and losses since you may need to negotiate more to arrive at a settlement agreement that works for both parties.
- Whether the care provider acknowledges liability. In some cases, the care provider may acknowledge the negligent actions that caused your injuries and the associated damages, which may help your claim progress more smoothly.
- What evidence you have. Medical malpractice claims with clear negligence may proceed more smoothly and quickly than claims in which you have to fight to establish the damages you sustained and how they occurred.
In addition, the medical malpractice insurance company's willingness to cooperate, and even the agent within that company that investigates your claim, can significantly impact the timeline of your claim.
Why Does It Take so Long to File a Medical Malpractice Claim?
Discovering how long it takes to file a medical malpractice claim can surprise some people. After all, you have clear evidence of wrongdoing and a clear list of damages associated with the incident. Shouldn't your claim progress smoothly? Unfortunately, several things can extend the time needed to file a medical malpractice claim and reach a resolution.
Before filing a medical malpractice claim, you will need to collect evidence to establish that your care provider committed an act of negligence while caring for you. Your lawyer may need to access your medical records and talk to an expert in that medical field to lay out exactly what damages you sustained, what treatment you should have received, and where the care provider's actions breached the recognized standard for your care.
Each of those steps can take time.
If your lawyer needs to interview witnesses, it may extend the time necessary to collect evidence related to your claim. Remember that medical care providers and legal professionals typically have busy professional lives. As a result, finding a time that works for everyone may be difficult.
Furthermore, it may take time for your lawyer to find a medical expert to testify as part of your claim. To file a medical malpractice claim, you must have a signed affidavit from a medical practitioner in that field stating that they believe you did suffer medical malpractice. Many doctors do not want to testify against others in their field, making it difficult to find a medical care professional to testify.
Once you have submitted your claim or your intent to file a claim, the medical malpractice insurance company will also begin an investigation. The insurance company generally aims to prove that the practitioner did not commit an act of malpractice that led to your injuries. They may also attempt to show the medical care provider acted within the expected standard of care, given the symptoms you described to your care provider and the concerns you may have raised.
Your Medical Recovery
As part of your medical malpractice claim, you may need to progress through your medical recovery to establish what damages you accrued as a direct result of that medical malpractice. People recover at different rates and experience different recovery levels from their injuries. You want your medical malpractice claim to reflect the damages you suffered, including the costs you paid for your medical treatment. If you file your claim too early, it may not include all of those essential elements, which means that you may not account for the total losses you sustained in the accident.
Medical malpractice insurance companies often negotiate aggressively to reduce the compensation they pay after an accident. While Illinois does put caps on certain elements of compensation, including the contingent fees attorneys can charge, Illinois does not cap medical malpractice damages a victim can claim. The insurance company, therefore, may negotiate hard to reduce its sometimes extreme financial liability.
Your lawyer, however, will fight equally hard to maximize the compensation you can recover. While you may grow frustrated by the slow pace of your claim, keep in mind that taking time to negotiate aggressively can work in your favor. The insurance company may try to wear you down. After all, you may have medical bills piling up and a host of other complications that you have to deal with, including lost income. That negotiation period, however, can prove critical to ultimately walking away with the compensation you deserve for your injuries.
Going to Court
Most medical malpractice claims, like other types of injury claims, settle out of court. Care providers, including doctors and hospitals, generally want to keep those claims out of the public eye if possible. They do not want a long, drawn-out court case with the world watching. Furthermore, going to court generally increases the legal cost of a claim, and a judge or jury may side with the injured party.
Because of the extensive funds often requested as part of a medical malpractice claim and the difficulty of clearly establishing medical malpractice, you may need a court to help recover the compensation you deserve for your injuries. If you do have to go to court over your claim, it may mean that your claim takes longer to settle.
First, you will generally go through mediation. Mediation usually serves as a last-ditch effort to reach a settlement agreement before taking the case to court. During the mediation process, you and your legal team will sit down with the insurance company and a mediator with extensive experience in medical malpractice law. Usually, that means working with a judge, former judge, or an experienced medical malpractice attorney. The mediator will try some last negotiating strategies and advise about any possibility of settling the claim.
If you cannot resolve through mediation, you will need to file your claim in court. That means waiting for a court date and presenting your claim to the court. It can take months to secure a date for your court appearance, further extending the timeline for a settlement. However, once you go to court, they will rule on the compensation the insurer owes you for the medical malpractice injury.
What Should I Do During the Claim Process?
The medical malpractice claim process can take considerable time. In the meantime, here are some ways to protect your claim.
Avoid posting about the claim on social media.
Today, many people share the details of their lives with dozens, hundreds, or even thousands of social media followers. While that information can keep your followers updated about your progress and the progress of your claim, it may also work against you in court.
The medical malpractice insurance company may use any information shared on social media to establish that you may not have suffered the damages you claim. You may end up losing the compensation you deserve. To help protect yourself, avoid posting on social media after your injury and while your claim is active.
Keep up with any medical treatments you need.
After suffering medical malpractice, especially misdiagnosis or failure to treat, you may struggle to trust your medical care providers. If they have committed negligence, can you trust that they will take care of you in the future? However, getting those needed medical treatments can be essential for two reasons. First, getting that medical care will aid in you making as full a recovery as possible.
Second, getting needed medical treatments will establish that you have done your part to recover from the injuries you sustained. If you neglect those needed treatments, the insurance company may claim that you have self-limited your recovery and that you do not deserve the compensation you ask for due to that limiting behavior.
Keep track of your medical records.
In some cases, after a medical malpractice claim, medical records may go missing. You may have to fight to get your hands on the records you need to establish medical malpractice. Keep copies of your medical records whenever possible to help make your claim progress more smoothly. Electronic documentation has made it more difficult, though not impossible, to change medical records. However, you may want to ensure that you have that information in hand.
In addition, make sure you continue to track the medical bills you face, particularly those that result directly from the medical malpractice event. Keeping careful track of your medical bills can make it easier to justify your claim.
Talk to your lawyer about how to handle your medical bills.
You may have several options for managing medical bills related to medical malpractice. In some cases, you may use your medical insurance to continue covering most of your care. If you have extreme medical bills related to the malpractice event, your lawyer may need to submit a letter of protection. This notice establishes that you intend to pay your medical bills once you receive compensation through the medical malpractice claim.
A medical malpractice claim will not require the liable party to pay your medical bills for you. Ultimately, you need to keep up with those bills and cover the ongoing cost of treatment. Talk to your lawyer to learn more about your next steps and how you can protect yourself financially as you manage those bills.
Contact a Lawyer for Help with Your Medical Malpractice Claim
When you suffer injuries due to medical malpractice, you need a lawyer on your side who can help you navigate that claim and raise the odds that you will get the full compensation you deserve for those damages. Medical malpractice claims can prove extremely complex. You need an experienced lawyer to fight for you and hold the liable party accountable. Did you suffer injuries due to a medical care provider's negligence? Contact a medical malpractice lawyer as soon as possible to learn more about your right to compensation and how you can best protect yourself.