If you have been injured or your loved one has died unexpectedly while under medical care, you may have a malpractice claim. Your next step will be to find out how to proceed with your potential claim.
How Long Does a Medical Malpractice Lawsuit Take?
The Indiana Medical Malpractice Act defines medical malpractice in our state and sets forth what procedures are to be followed if you believe you have a malpractice claim. Medical malpractice is generally described as a healthcare provider who fails to use the degree of care and skill that a reasonably careful, skillful, and prudent healthcare provider would use under the same or similar circumstances.
Pursuing a medical malpractice lawsuit for doctor patients is a lengthy and complex process. It requires patience and perseverance and it is important to work with an attorney experienced in handling medical malpractice cases. Because Indiana law generally requires a claim based on medical negligence to be filed within two years of the date of injury, it is crucial to get started on your legal claim as quickly as possible.
Three Phases of Indiana Medical Malpractice Case
There are three distinct phases to a medical malpractice case. The steps below are a general outline of the actions involved in an Indiana medical malpractice claim. For a step by step list of how to file a medical malpractice injury claim visit our page on the steps to file a medical malpractice lawsuit.
The first phase involves the gathering of information and evaluation of records. We start by collecting your medical records and obtaining relevant facts. We make a written request to the hospital and any other medical offices or health care providers involved for all records related to you and the procedures involved in your case. The records include all consultations and tests, including any medical professional who referred you to the doctor(s) or medical institution that would be the defendants in your case.
At the Law Office of Kelley J. Johnson, our staff will initially review the medical records and discuss their findings. If after our in-house review we suspect medical malpractice may have occurred, we hire an independent medical professional with expertise in the appropriate area of medicine and send your records to that individual for additional review. As an experienced medical malpractice law firm, we have a network of medical professionals with whom we work, including professionals at universities such as Harvard, Yale, Stanford, and UCLA, among others.
The goal of a medical review is for a medical expert to determine whether the medical professionals involved in your treatment failed to follow the recognized standard of care, and whether your injury would have occurred if the health care provider had not been negligent. If the medical expert finds that there was negligence and it caused significant damages, the expert will be available to assist us as needed throughout your case. The case may require multiple reviews depending on the complexity of the case. The Law Office of Kelley J. Johnson will only charge for having medical experts review your medical records if we recover monies on your behalf.
2. Medical Review Panel
Once we have reviewed your medical records and confirmed from an expert review there was malpractice which caused your injury we will advise you to proceed to the filing of a legal claim against the healthcare provider. Indiana law requires that a patient must submit the proposed complaint to the Indiana Department of Insurance Division of Medical Malpractice and have the complaint reviewed by a medical review panel. The agency will forward a copy of the proposed complaint to each health care provider named as a defendant and to their malpractice insurance companies. Within 20 days of filing the complaint, either side may request the formation of a Medical Review Panel.
Indiana law requires a Medical Review Panel to review your case and report its opinion before your medical malpractice lawsuit can proceed to court. The panel consists of three health care providers who are decision makers and one lawyer who manages the panel process.
It may take one to three years to work through this entire process and receive an opinion from the Medical Review Panel. The Medical Review Panel’s opinion is admissible in court and its members may be called to testify.
The panel’s opinion is not the final word. But a negative opinion makes prevailing in court more difficult in a plaintiff’s case.
The third phase involves going to court. If you and your attorney believes your case has merit, your attorney will file the lawsuit with the court and keep the case moving towards a trial. The defendant’s insurance company may contact your attorney and inquire about settling. Your medical malpractice attorney will negotiate with the defendant’s attorneys and report any settlement offers to you. We will advise you whether we believe a settlement offer is reasonable, but whether to settle is ultimately your decision. A settlement saves time and expenses, removes the unpredictability of a trial outcome and can bring closure to a stressful situation.
If a settlement cannot be reached, your lawsuit will proceed to court. A medical malpractice trial involves a complete presentation of the evidence, with testimony on behalf of the plaintiff and the defendant. The testimony will include expert witnesses who will testify on the medical aspects of the case. After each side has presented evidence, the jury will render a decision. The jury’s decision will be announced in court, and if the plaintiff prevails, the court will enter a judgment for a monetary award. Unless one of the sides appeals to a higher court, this concludes the case. The defendant’s insurance company will transmit payment of the award through your attorney.
Most medical malpractice cases are handled on a contingency fee basis with the attorney receiving payment and reimbursement of expenses only after obtaining compensation for the client. The contingency fee and expenses are deducted, other healthcare-related liens imposed while your case was pending are settled and the remainder is paid to you.
What Can I Do to Speed Up the Medical Malpractice Claim Process?
As you can see, filing a medical malpractice lawsuit is a lengthy process and requires patience and perseverance and your cooperation.
At the Law Office of Kelley J. Johnson, we work to move cases forward as quickly as possible. It is important to gather all medical records and evidence as early as possible in the process. But your lawyer does not control how long the individual review steps take, how long the Medical Review Panel takes to render an opinion or how long it takes to obtain a trial date in court. You should understand that this is a lengthy process and there is very little your lawyer can do to speed up the claim process.
It can take up to five years for a medical malpractice case to go to trial in Indiana so it is important to work with an attorney who has the resources and commitment to see a case through to resolution.
Your Rights as an Indiana Citizen
You have a right to appropriate medical care and to have a doctor present the medical facts about your condition in clear, understandable language along with an explanation of the risks of any treatment, drug or surgery so you can make an informed decision. But doctors and hospitals are unlikely to admit a mistake in your treatment. If you suspect that you or your loved one has been harmed by a health care provider’s error, you have a right to discuss the matter with a medical malpractice attorney and to have your medical records reviewed by independent medical experts. It is the only way you are likely to discover whether you have been a victim of medical negligence.
With more than 15 years of experience as a litigator, Kelley J. Johnson has the skill and knowledge to investigate medical malpractice claims and hold healthcare providers accountable for the physical, emotional and financial harm they have caused a patient.
To schedule a free and confidential review of your case, call the Law Office of Kelley J. Johnson in Indianapolis today at our toll-free number or fill out our online contact form.