Stages of a Medical Malpractice Case in New York
Understanding the stages of a medical malpractice case will help you and your family prepare for your legal battle. Malpractice cases can take years to settle, and working with a medical malpractice attorney can help make that time less frustrating.
Consultation with a Medical Malpractice AttorneyWhen you believe a medical professional or facility has done harm to you or a loved one, you should contact a medical malpractice attorney as soon as possible. The statute of limitations in New York allows you only 2.5 years in which to file a claim, so getting started right away is important. Your attorney will review the evidence you provide and listen to your concerns before providing a professional recommendation. Many injured patients are reluctant to bring claims against their doctors because they have a good relationship or they fear that they may be overreacting. It is in your best interest to talk to an attorney to review whether you may have a valid case of medical malpractice. In the event the attorney finds grounds to further investigate your loved one's medical care, he or she will begin gathering further evidence.
Investigation of Your CasePerhaps the most important piece of evidence in a medical malpractice case is the medical records of the patient harmed or killed by the alleged negligent doctor or facility. Your attorney may request various types of medical records or hospital records, including video surveillance tapes, medication records, imaging records, doctor notes, and even past medical records. An attorney may even hire a medical expert to testify about your case and whether the doctor was in violation of the standard of care and caused you harm. Once your attorney feels he or she has gathered sufficient evidence to present a case against the negligent doctor or facility, he will file the claim or lawsuit.
Negotiation and LitigationAfter filing your case, the medical malpractice insurer or doctor's attorney may negotiate a settlement with your attorney. This may lead up to and during the litigation phase that takes place before a judge and, in some cases, jury. Part of the litigation process is the discovery phase where your attorney will share his or her evidence and have an opportunity to request that the defense do the same. There may also be depositions of the doctor and others involved in the patient's care. Each side may present their evidence before the court. The injured party may have to testify in some cases. Others, like medical expert witnesses, may testify as well. The medical professionals responsible for the injured patient's care may also provide their testimony before the court.
Settlement or JudgmentIn some cases, settlement may come before going to court. If the accused party wishes to settle out of court, you will not have to go into litigation. If the out-of-court settlement offer is sufficient - your attorney will discuss this with you - you will sign the agreement and your case will be over. If your attorney advises that the amount offered is not enough, and s/he is confident that taking the case to trial can obtain a higher settlement, you will need to take the case to litigation. In some cases, the other party does not offer any settlement and you will have to take the case to litigation to resolve it.A judge and jury will hear the evidence and testimony and then decide whether to award you damages. If you are not happy with the outcome, you may be able to appeal. But first discuss this option with your attorney.