Why Does it Take So Long to File a Lawsuit?

What happens after you sign the contract?

Once you sign the contract, our office starts immediately requesting you or your loved one’s medical records. Why do we need the medical records? In a medical malpractice case, we need evidence that a wrongdoing occurred to you or your family member. This helps us see if you have a case against the hospital, nurses, or doctors  you are claiming were at fault. Typically, getting medical records from many hospitals and doctors can take many weeks and months.  Sometimes there are thousands of pages of records to review. We enlist experts trained in what specifically happened to you or a family member to review these records and determine whether negligence occurred. This takes a lot of time and careful review to uncover every bit of evidence needed to see if there is a case. Once it has been determined that you have a case, we file the lawsuit and serve the responsible parties.

Once the lawsuit gets filed why doesn’t it just settle?

In the ideal world wouldn’t this be nice? Of course, it would but the hospital or doctor isn’t just going to admit blame and pay you for your losses and unnecessary bills. It is more involved than that. The responsible parties have their own lawyers, and those lawyers hire their own experts. Each side will now work to prove its side is the correct one. The lawsuit will move on to the “discovery” phase. This includes exchanging documents, information, witness statements, and investigation by all sides. Witness statements include taking your deposition, your family members’ depositions, the doctors, the nurses, and other witnesses. Really, any witness to what was involved will be asked to make a sworn statement. Evidence will be gathered and both sides will put up a fight.

Why do the lawyers have to take depositions?

It is important to have your testimony on the record, as well as that of the nurses, doctors, or representatives of the hospital that you are suing. This also includes taking the depositions of any experts that each side has retained to prove their case.

Why do the lawyers have to do research?

A good lawyer does research. Lots and lots of research. Medical research.  Legal research. Expert witness research. Government research. Would you want a lawyer who didn’t research your case? I wouldn’t. As I have seen at our practice, the lawyers here are constantly up-to-date on medical malpractice issues happening and are always reading articles on any new data and research.

What is the purpose of mediation?

The purpose of mediation is to try and settle your case before the trial. This typically lasts all day and all parties are required to show up. Both sides go back and forth trying to reach an agreed upon settlement. There’s no requirement to settle. If the defendants don’t offer enough money, the lawyers may advise you to forget about settlement and go to trial. There are risks and benefits of going to trial or settling your case. Each situation is different, and it’s important to ask your lawyers questions to understand what decisions you need to make. Sometimes settlement negotiations go on until trial starts.  Sometimes settlement happens during trial.

What happens if mediation fails? How long is the trial?

If no settlement is reached during mediation, then we move forward to trial. Trial, depending on the case, can take anywhere from a few days to several  weeks depending on how complicated the case is and how much evidence needs to be presented.

If you settle your case,  how long does it take to get settlement money?

This varies. Once a settlement is made, your lawyers determine if any insurance or governmental entities have to be paid back, such as Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security, or your private health insurance. Most of these programs require you to pay back any medical costs associated with negligent medical care. If there are minor children or a mentally incapacitated person involved, you and all the lawyers will have to go before the judge to approve the settlement. If there are minor children involved, by Texas law the children cannot typically receive settlement funds directly until they turn 18 years old. There are many ways to invest the money until the child turns 18, including holding the money in the registry of the court, investing the money in a court-approved trust, or purchasing a court-approved annuity that pays out over time. Many options exist depending on the severity of the injuries, the amount of the settlement, the situation of the family, etc.  Once all the paperwork is signed, it typically takes 4-6 weeks to fund a settlement.

So, finally, why does it take so long to file a lawsuit?

Well, as you can see from the above topics there are many components to filing a lawsuit. The reality is that a real lawsuit is not like a TV show or a movie. Have a realistic and patient view of the process. If you expect to be compensated for your loss in days or even months after contacting a lawyer, you need to know that most likely isn’t going to happen. But don’t let this discourage you—a serious injury or wrongful death case deserves careful research, deliberate planning, and experienced lawyers. Please contact us at 713-529-1177 and we would be happy to answer any questions you may have.

Related Article