As medical malpractice lawyers we are often asked by our clients, “how long will it take to get my medical malpractice case settled?”
The answer is, “it depends.”
Technically, a medical malpractice claim can settle at any time – before suit is filed, right after suit is filed, just before trial, during trial, or after a jury trial.
For example, we have settled some medical malpractice claims before ever having to file a lawsuit. Other times we have settled lawsuits shortly after we filed the lawsuit.
Most frequently, however, medical malpractice lawsuits settle in the month or two before a jury trial. This is usually when the defendant feels the most pressure and becomes most open to resolution.
But sometimes you must take your case to a jury in order to get the settlement that you deserve. With that in mind, we have settled many malpractice cases during trial and also after getting a verdict in favor of our client.
What is the longest amount of time it will take to resolve my case?
In our experience, it typically takes between one and a half and two years from the time a lawsuit is filed until the case receives a trial date. So as a rule you should plan on one to two years for case to resolve from the time the lawsuit is filed. But you must be prepared for the case to take even longer than that depending on the unique factors of your case, the specific jurisdiction in which your case is filed, and the behavior of the defendants and their lawyers.
The reason medical malpractice lawsuits take so long to get to trial is because there is a lot of work to do, a lot of different schedules to balance, and the courts often have a backlog that only allows them to schedule so many cases at a time.
When is the earliest time my medical malpractice lawsuit may settle?
Whether your lawsuit might settle earlier in time depends on several factors.
First, it depends on the strength of your case both from a liability and damages perspective. The more obvious and clearer cut the fault is in your case the greater the chance there is of an earlier resolution. As fault becomes more debatable, the more likely it is that the defendants will contest the case to the very end. Keep in mind that the lawyers defending the doctors and hospitals are paid by the hour (unlike your lawyers who only get paid when a recovery is made). Thus, it is to the defense lawyer’s financial benefit to extend the litigation and do more work in defense of your claims to bill more time to the case and make more money.
If the injuries and damages in your case are massive the defendant is going to want to hang on to as much of their money for long as possible. This means the defendant will more likely make lower than full value offers earlier in the case in hopes you may want to be done with the litigation and move on with your life allowing them to settle at a discount. With big damage cases we find that our clients typically get full value only at the time of trial or close to because the defendants typically want to see if you will take less at an earlier point in time.
Second, if your injuries are not catastrophic and are more modest, so long as there is solid liability or a theory of fault, you stand a good chance of being able to resolve your case earlier in the process.
Third, it depends on your lawyer’s abilities and reputation. If your law firm has a reputation for winning jury trials, the defendants will be more likely to want to talk about settlement earlier. Generally, defendants do not like the uncertainty of jury trials and worry that a good lawyer may bring about a verdict much greater than what they would like to pay or could pay in settlement.
On the other hand, if your lawyer has a reputation for being afraid of jury trials or not winning jury trials, the defendants will be emboldened to lowball your settlement offer or force your lawyer to go to trial.
Additionally, if your law firm has a track record of working up cases, spending the necessary money, and historically obtaining great settlements or jury verdicts, the defendants will get the information they need earlier in time to properly assess the claim, assess the risk they face at trial, and more likely work to resolve the case earlier.
Your views on settlement will impact when your malpractice claim may settle
When your case resolves will depend a lot on you. What do you believe would be a fair a reasonable settlement? Everyone will have a different answer to this question.
Some people we represent, understandably, do not enjoy the stress of being involved in an ongoing lawsuit. Similarly, some people have no interest in participating in sitting through a jury trial. To avoid the stress of litigation or trial, many people choose to settle for an amount of money that might be less than what they could have gotten had they stuck out the entire lawsuit process. But it was worth it to them to take less to put the medical malpractice litigation behind them and move on with their lives sooner.
This is a matter of personal preference and there is no right or wrong answer. At the end of the day, the Civil Justice System is intended to help those who have been injured as the result of the carelessness and negligence of others. What the help means and equates to is entirely dependent on the injured person’s hopes and goals.
Other people, have a greater tolerance for the lawsuit process and are OK with going to trial if necessary. Though not always the case, as a rule of thumb, defendants typically offer the most money just before or during a jury trial. The reason is that this is when the greatest pressure (when their feet are being held to the fire) is felt which forces the defense to adequately consider the risk they face of an unwanted jury verdict and judgment.
The reality is, however, that no amount of money from a medical malpractice lawsuit will fully make up for the loss you or your family member has sustained. Everyone we have ever represented in a medical malpractice lawsuit has at some point told us that if they had choice between going on with their life before the medical malpractice versus receiving a huge medical malpractice settlement, they would have absolutely kept their life as it was before. No amount of money ever equals the loss of health and the ability to enjoy life.
This is important to keep in mind because no matter the amount of money, no matter how much is recovered, it will never return life to the way it was before. In our experience it is best when the money from a medical malpractice settlement is viewed to provide relief and improvement of the circumstances you have been left with as a result of the malpractice. Focus on the good the money can do for you or your family rather than what you have been left with.
This is all to say that the amount of money you feel is acceptable to settle your malpractice lawsuit plays a great role in when (or if) your case may settle. The more money you feel you need to settle your case, the less likely it is your case will settle early or at all.
Does the defendant ever refuse to settle?
Unfortunately, there are times when the defendant simply refuse to settle. Maybe they are stubborn. Maybe the see the case differently than we do. Maybe they are making a terribly reckless decision. We have seen it all. In truth, there is only so much you and your medical malpractice lawyers can do to compel a settlement. If a defendant does not want to pay, then there is nothing we can do to force a settlement. The only option in this situation is a jury trial. While most filed medical malpractice lawsuits settle, you must be prepared for the possibility of a jury trial to decide the outcome of your case.
At Lupetin & Unatin, we work your case up to encourage the defendants to offer the most money to settle your case. If the defendant refuses to settle, we have the experience and skills to take your case to trial and give you a great chance of winning. We will explain the pros and cons of your case including the risks of accepting a settlement versus going to a jury trial. We will make recommendations based on our years of settling and trying medical malpractice cases. We will show you exactly what you will receive, in your pocket, after repayment of liens, case costs and our attorney’s fee. In the end, however, the decision is yours whether and when to settle or go to trial.