As you can see, a medical malpractice case is usually complicated from the get-go, and usually takes some time to get through. You have a lot to prove. And the defense usually doesn't pay up without a fight. You can bet the doctor or medical professional you're suing - usually, it's that person's insurance company who defends the case - will do everything possible to show that the doctor didn't make a mistake or cause your injury. The defense will use its own experts to do this.
It may take months or even years for the case to be over. And you can't wait forever to file the case, either. The "statutes of limitations" set out how long you have to file a lawsuit against someone else, including a malpractice claim. The time period varies from state to state, but generally it's two years from the date of your injury.
These cases aren't cheap, either. Experts cost a lot of money, sometimes over $1,000 per hour, especially if you need them to take off work and come to court to testify. Plus there are all kinds of other costs, like filing and other court costs, as well as discovery.
As a practical matter, though, you may not have to worry too much about these costs, at least not immediately. Most lawyers take medical malpractice cases on a "contingency fee" basis. This means that your attorney will pay most if not all of the costs of the case up front, and he won't charge attorney's fees unless you win the case. If you win, she'll take a percentage of the amount of money you win as her fees and reimbursement for the costs she paid. Generally, if you lose, you'll still have to pay the court costs, but not the fees.
Don't let the potential costs and complexity scare you away from a case. If you've been injured by a medical professional's mistake or failure to act, talk to an attorney to see if you have a good case. Not only can you get money or "damages" for medical bills, lost wages and pain and suffering, but you can help make sure the same mistake doesn't happen to another patient.
Questions for Your Attorney
- Do I have to tell the IRS about any money I get from a malpractice lawsuit?
- I traveled to another state for medical treatment. Can I file a malpractice suit in my home state, or do I have to file in the other state? Can you represent t me in the other state?
- I heard that our state has "tort reform" laws that limit how much money I can get in a malpractice suit? Is that true? How much is it? What if that doesn't cover all of my medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering?