Medical malpractice cases often involve components that can make them take anywhere from months to over a year to settle. Factors like the evidence available to both parties, the length of negotiations, and the decision to go to trial can greatly impact the duration of these cases.
So, how long do medical malpractice lawsuits usually take in Illinois? Consider the following elements and how they impact each case.
Factors Impacting the Duration of Medical Malpractice Lawsuits in Illinois
There are a few main factors that can affect the amount of time it takes to settle a medical malpractice lawsuit. These components include:
Complexity of the Case
The complexity of the case can greatly impact how long it takes to reach a settlement in a malpractice case. It can be difficult to prove that a medical professional or facility is liable for malpractice.
Specifically, you must prove the following items in these cases:
- The healthcare provider owed a duty of care established through a doctor-patient relationship
- The provider breached that duty of care
- This breach of duty caused harm to the patient
- The injuries or illnesses resulting from the malpractice led to defined, quantifiable damages
The most challenging item to prove in these cases is a breach of duty of care. You will need sufficient evidence to show how the healthcare provider’s improper conduct led to an injury or illness, which applies to the next element to consider in these cases.
Availability of Evidence
The availability of evidence in these cases will influence the length of time it takes to settle. In fact, it’s one of the most important items in medical malpractice criteria.
There are several types of evidence that plaintiffs can use in these cases to prove malpractice. For example, patients can obtain documentation proving a patient relationship with the provider, medical bills and receipts for treatment, witness statements, their own testimony, and photos or video footage of injuries, among other key pieces of evidence.
By working with an attorney, you can gather enough evidence to effectively prove medical fault in a lawsuit.
The court’s schedule can also determine how long it will take to settle a malpractice case. The court could have a backlog of cases to settle, which can lengthen the process.
Steps of a Medical Malpractice Lawsuit
It’s essential to know the steps involved in medical malpractice lawsuits when you are looking to file a claim. The following are the steps you can expect in these types of cases.
Collecting Medical Records and Consulting Experts
One of the first steps before filing a medical malpractice lawsuit in Illinois is gathering evidence in the form of medical records and expert testimony, among other types of documentation and testimony. You need to gather enough evidence to show how the healthcare provider was at fault for your injury or illness. Experts can also provide you with a certificate of merit or affidavit of merit, which could effectively enable you to move forward with a case.
Typically, an attorney with experience in medical malpractice would work with you to collect all relevant evidence and speak with experts to help determine whether a healthcare provider is at fault. For instance, if the defendant is an ophthalmologist who allegedly caused blindness in a patient, the attorney may consult a seasoned ophthalmological expert to help determine whether the eye doctor acted in a way that others in the field reasonably would under similar circumstances.
Preparing the Complaint
The next step of the process involves drafting and sending a demand letter. This letter will include all details about the case, including the basis for a claim, the harm that the medical professional caused, and the economic and non-economic damages the plaintiff is seeking.
In some cases, liable parties may choose to settle during negotiations before the case goes to trial. However, if the case doesn’t end here, your attorney may opt to begin the legal process with a lawsuit. At this point, your attorney would send a complaint to begin the lawsuit, which would identify the defendants and lay the foundation for a case.
Once the defendants receive the complaint, they have the chance to respond to it, after which point the lawsuit will officially begin.
One of the longest stages in most lawsuits is the discovery phase. During this stage, the plaintiff and defendant will have the opportunity to share information with each other.
Both parties could share documentation such as medical records, depositions, paperwork, and medical exam results from independent parties, among other types of potential evidence. Going through all of this documentation will take time in many cases, especially when extensive paperwork is involved and patients suffer serious harm.
Once the discovery process ends, attorneys on both sides can begin negotiating a settlement before taking the case to trial. The discovery process will give your attorney much of the information needed to accurately identify the liable parties, determine the strength of your case, and the amount of damages you may recover in a settlement.
While it may be ideal to settle before the case ever goes to trial, some cases may not end at this point. The trial process would then further elongate the legal process.
If the case goes to court, the trial process will officially begin. This stage involves both parties presenting their opening arguments, sharing evidence, and questioning witnesses in front of a judge or jury. After presenting each side of the case, the plaintiff and defendant will present closing arguments before deliberation begins.
During deliberation, the jury would review the evidence of the case and reach a verdict. The judge would then read the verdict and detail the specific award amount.
The plaintiff and defendant may decide to appeal the court’s decision at the end of the case, which would lead to an even longer trial process.
Hiring an Experienced Attorney
Medical malpractice cases are difficult to settle. You must prove that a healthcare provider’s wrongdoing led to injuries and damages, and you will need to take steps to prove those damages and reach a favorable settlement. Doing so on your own can put you at significant risk of compromising your case, especially if you have a lack of experience with medical malpractice suits.
To maximize your chances of success with a medical malpractice case, it’s best to consult with an experienced medical malpractice lawyer. The right attorney will be able to review the details of your case and determine what kinds of options you have when it comes to seeking compensation for medical malpractice.
If the attorney decides to handle your case, he or she will help you gather all necessary evidence, identify all liable parties involved, and help you seek total compensation through a claim or lawsuit. The key is finding the right attorney.
Research the Potential Attorneys’ Track Record in Medical Malpractice Cases
As you look for a medical malpractice lawyer to potentially handle your case, there are some vital factors to consider in your selection.
Do some research and look to see what kind of track record each attorney has. What past successes have they seen? A good attorney will advertise his or her successes in the past. Also, look for testimonials and reviews from people online, as the ideal attorney will have a solid reputation that reassures you of his or her expertise.
Most medical malpractice attorneys will also allow you to meet with them in a free consultation at no charge to you. Instead, these attorneys tend to charge a contingency fee, meaning they won’t charge individuals unless they handle the case and succeed with it.
During this consultation, you can take the chance to ask the attorney various questions that can help you gauge whether the lawyer is a good fit. For instance, you might ask:
- “Have you handled cases like mine in the past?”
- “What kind of compensation do you think I can get?”
- “What are the chances of winning a medical malpractice suit?”
When asking an attorney any of these questions, he or she shouldn’t make any guarantees or give you specific estimates. The lawyer should learn as much as he or she can about your case to determine if it’s worth pursuing.
Keep Track of Medical Records and Relevant Documents
To further increase your chances of succeeding with a medical malpractice case in Illinois, maintain copies of all medical documentation, including records, bills, and proof of lost wages.
An attorney may help you organize all of this evidence to help you build a case.
Additionally, if an attorney takes on your case, he or she can detail specifically how long your lawsuit will take.
Chicago personal injury and workers’ compensation attorney Howard Ankin has a passion for justice and a relentless commitment to defending injured victims throughout the Chicagoland area. With decades of experience achieving justice on behalf of the people of Chicago, Howard has earned a reputation as a proven leader in and out of the courtroom. Respected by peers and clients alike, Howard’s multifaceted approach to the law and empathetic nature have secured him a spot as an influential figure in the Illinois legal system.