If you’ve been harmed by a doctor or other medical professional in South Carolina and you’re trying to decide whether you want to pursue a medical malpractice case against them, you’re probably wondering what will happen if you decide to do so.
To help you understand what’s involved, clear up any misconceptions, and relieve your natural anxiety over the unknown, we’ve created a basic outline of what a medical malpractice lawsuit looks like so you know what to expect. In this article, we’ll outline the five primary steps involved in filing a medical malpractice lawsuit and explain each one.
If you’re not sure whether you are a victim of medical malpractice or medical negligence, read our recent blog article on this subject for more help.
Step One: Get a Free Initial Case Review from a Medical Malpractice Attorney
There are some types of lawsuits that people may be able to handle on their own without help from an attorney, but a medical malpractice suit isn’t one of them. These cases are very complex and require the attorney to gather lots of medical evidence, get testimony from expert medical witnesses, and negotiate with large insurance companies who have their own experienced legal teams.
Fortunately, you should be able to get an initial review of your case from an experienced medical malpractice lawyer without having to pay anything or sign any agreement. Your lawyer should also handle your case on a contingent fee basis, which means you won’t pay anything unless your lawyer gets you compensation through a settlement or verdict at trial.
At the Law Offices of David L. Hood, we always offer free initial consultations with no strings attached for medical malpractice cases. During this time, we’ll listen to your story and advise you about your legal rights and options. We also represent medical malpractice clients on a contingent fee basis. That means you won’t pay any attorney’s fees or case expenses unless we achieve a financial recovery in your case.* This is the least we can do since many medical malpractice victims are suffering financially as well as physically and emotionally when they come to see us.
Of course, you may want to speak with or meet with multiple lawyers before you commit to one, and there’s nothing wrong with that. A medical malpractice case can be a long and complicated journey, and you should feel confident in your lawyer’s credentials, resources, attitude, and professionalism.
From this point on, the steps in a medical malpractice case may sound complex and intimidating, but your attorney should be able to guide you through them and offer informed advice at every step.
Step Two: Investigating Your Case and Reviewing the Medical Evidence
Your lawyer will need to get a complete and accurate picture of your health and your medical conditions, both before and after the incident that harmed you. They’ll want to sit down for an in-depth conversation with you about your medical history, and they’ll also contact your doctors to obtain all your medical records.
Most people don’t realize how complicated it is to gather and organize a person’s complete medical history, especially if they’ve recently received lots of treatment (which is usually the case for medical malpractice victims). This process involves lots of time and paperwork, and it can take months of hard work.
After this in-depth investigation and review, your lawyer should be able to give you a more informed assessment of your case’s strengths and weaknesses and advise you about whether you should go forward. While your lawyer should have reviewed your case during an initial consultation, they will now have a much more accurate picture of the evidence and your medical history. This is the time for them — and you — to make a final determination about how to proceed.
Step Three: Hiring Expert Medical Witnesses
If your lawyer thinks they can prove that you were the victim of medical negligence and that this negligence caused you harm, they’ll seek out and hire medical experts who can testify to this in court.
Often, your attorney will hire doctors who specialize in the same area of medicine as the medical professional who harmed you. These experts can review the negligent person’s conduct and explain exactly how it deviated from accepted standards of practice.
While it’s impossible to successfully file a medical malpractice lawsuit without testimony from medical experts, these experts don’t work for free, and their fees often add up to thousands upon thousands of dollars.
Fortunately, your attorney should cover these costs as part of your case expenses. Depending on where you live and which attorney you work with, you may have to pay these expenses later even if you don’t win your case. But when you work with the Law Offices of David L. Hood, you only have to pay case expenses if we achieve a financial recovery in your case.*
Step Four: Negotiating With the Insurance Company
Now that your lawyer has secured expert medical witnesses, they’ll put together all the evidence. Using all the facts in the case, they will negotiate with the doctors’ and/or hospitals’ insurance companies to see if they will offer you a fair settlement that meets your financial needs and addresses the losses you’ve suffered.
While the insurance company may have made you an initial settlement offer, it was probably far too low and wouldn’t have come close to paying for your medical bills, lost wages, future medical expenses, and pain and suffering. However, now that your lawyer has gathered extensive medical evidence and hired witnesses with strong credentials, the insurance company may take your case more seriously and may decide to make you a fair offer.
In most medical malpractice cases, though, your lawyer will have to file a lawsuit and begin preparing for trial before the insurance company will make a serious settlement offer, and many medical malpractice cases do end up going all the way to trial.
Pre-Trial Part One: Discovery
You may have heard of the discovery phase of a lawsuit before. This is the part of the legal process where each side learns what the other side plans to argue in court and what evidence they’ll present. The discovery process usually involves lots and lots of documents, requests, and paperwork going back and forth between the two sides with the judge mediating the process.
During the discovery process, you will probably have to attend a deposition where the attorneys for the other side will ask you lots of questions. Your lawyer should be with you every step of the way before, during, and after the deposition. They should help you prepare and understand what to expect beforehand, and they should be there to protect your rights and advise you during the deposition itself.
A deposition can be a stressful process for a medical malpractice victim, but if your lawyer knows how to handle the process, it’s nothing to be afraid of. This is your chance to tell your side of the story on the record, and you should have the two most important assets on your side: an experienced lawyer and the truth.
Pre-Trial Part Two: Negotiation and Mediation
Before the trial begins, your attorney will talk one more time with the lawyers from the other side and see if they’re ready to offer you a fair settlement. In some cases, this part of the process might also involve mediation, which is where the attorneys from both sides work with a professional mediator to try and settle the case.
If negotiations go nowhere and mediation doesn’t work, then your lawyer will take your case to trial.
Step Five: A Medical Malpractice Trial
Compared to the very long build-up that often takes more than a year, the trial itself will be a quicker process. Most medical malpractice trials last from two to four weeks, although some can be shorter or longer. Your trial also may not go forward on the originally-scheduled date; it’s common for trials to get rescheduled, sometimes multiple times.
While the trial is a very involved process, your attorney should be doing all the heavy lifting at this point. Your lawyer will have put in lots of work to prepare for the trial, and they’ll be working very hard during the trial. But the trial shouldn’t be a difficult or stressful process for you. You may have to testify in court if the defense calls you as a witness, but your attorney will prepare you for this if it happens.
Just because your case has gone to trial doesn’t mean a settlement is out of the question. The other side can still make settlement offers, and if they decide to make a fair offer that will address your losses and create a stable financial situation for you, then you and your attorney may decide to take it, which will end the trial.
If the other side never makes a fair offer, then your attorney will continue to argue on your behalf in court and present evidence, and then it will be up to the jury to decide what happens.
However, even after the jury’s decision, the case isn’t necessarily over. The losing side may still be able to file an appeal, which will delay payment of any damages until the appeal is resolved.
Contact the Law Offices of David L. Hood If You’ve Been Harmed by Medical Negligence or Medical Malpractice in South Carolina
A medical malpractice lawsuit can be a very complicated process, but that doesn’t mean you should ever have to feel stressed out or overwhelmed. You deserve justice and fair compensation for the harm you’ve suffered. At the Law Offices of David L. Hood, we, our co-counsel, and our team of experts will fight for you during every step of a medical malpractice claim so you can focus on your health and well-being with the confidence that your case is in good hands.
If you or someone you care about has suffered because of medical negligence, please schedule your free consultation by calling the Law Offices of David L. Hood at (843) 491-6025 or filling out our brief online contact form. We handle all medical malpractice cases on a contingent fee basis so you won’t pay any fees or expenses unless we make a financial recovery in your case.* Let Attorney David L. Hood put his years of experience to work for you!
*Clients are not liable for any expenses, unless there is a recovery in their case; however, if there is a recovery in their case, clients will be liable for expenses. Attorney’s fees are based on a percentage of the recovery, which will be computed before deducting expenses.
The content provided here is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject.