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How Long Does a Malpractice Settlement Take in Miami?

How long does it take to obtain a settlement in a medical malpractice case? Sorry to say, but it depends. There is no clear-cut answer to that question.

The right legal team can guide you to obtain a  faster, easier and win you the damages you deserve. Here is some information on what you need to know about a malpractice settlement and what you can expect.

First of all, no one should ever make the mistake of simply expecting a settlement to happen. There are no guarantees here, and the wrong negotiation tactics will backfire and damage your case.

Depending on the facts, whether there is strong liability (negligence by the health care provider), insurance coverage, insurance carrier, who your lawyers are, and the area where the case is based, you may get one or several settlement offers from liable parties. Whether it’s them or an insurance company, it doesn’t matter all that much.

Much of this depends on how the case was investigated, reviewed, evaluated, worked up and presented. In places like Florida, malpractice cases are ruled by a series of statutes that strictly require the injured parties to comply with pre-lawsuit processes.  You can’t just go down to the courthouse and file a lawsuit.  The lawyers have to jump through a lot of hoops, and there have to be evaluations and reviews by experts in the field. They must provide sworn affidavits (written testimony under oath) that there is negligence and it caused your harm.  Only after that can the presuit process get started.

Malpractice cases are complex and can be lengthy.The issue at hand is whether the offers that are made to you are fair. If they’re offering you an unsolicited settlement, the answer is probably no.

That’s why a lawyer and an experienced team are so important. They know what constitutes a fair settlement and how to negotiate your malpractice case successfully.  In order to get even close to a reasonable offer there must be a case that is put together properly, presented to the defendant (or insurance company) and there has to be some urgency.  Insurance companies make money by holding onto their money, not paying claims.

Let’s take a look at the process and what can impact how long things will take.

The Medical Malpractice Case Basics

What is a medical malpractice case?

Malpractice occurs when a doctor, hospital or some other medical professional fails in their duty of care or to provide the standard of care expected in their field.

Sometimes medical malpractice is hard to define. How do you differentiate between an honest mistake and something like negligence? This is a trick question, because both are negligence.  There is, however, a difference between simple negligence (making a mistake) and aggravated negligence (acting in a careless and reckless way, ignoring information, etc.). In the most extreme cases you can sometimes seek punitive damages, which is where the conduct was so extreme it amounts to a callous disregard for someone’s life. Punitive damages are awarded to punish the defendant and deter others from committing the same behavior.

Typically, though, medical malpractice can include things like:

Misdiagnosis

Sometimes deciphering a medical condition and symptoms is challenging. Doctors make mistakes. Malpractice comes into play when, under normal circumstances, a medical professional should diagnose conditions accurately. Either there are enough symptoms, or there are procedures in place to help. Malpractice exists when a doctor or some other medical professional fails to get to a proper diagnosis. Sometimes it is a failure to timely diagnose something and the delay harms the patient.  Remember, negligence is based on a mistake, not an intent to harm. If you run a stop sign accidentally and hit someone’s car, you were negligent….it was a mistake.  Same with health care providers like doctors, hospitals and nurses.

Prescription Medication Errors

It may sound surprising, but doctors writing the wrong prescriptions or pharmacists issuing the wrong medicines happens frequently. When someone is in the hospital, it has been reported that 50% of the time there will be some medication error. Those include minor mistakes like giving medicine at the wrong time, but can include failing to give medication or giving the wrong medicines (or to the wrong patient).

Surgical Errors

Sometimes surgeons operate on the wrong body part, fail to maintain sterile surgical conditions, cut or damage a vessel or organ they shouldn’t, or even leave items in a patient’s body. These are all obvious indications of medical malpractice. Other surgical errors are more subtle and can be difficult to prove.

Inappropriate Procedures

Anytime a doctor or medical professional performs or suggests an inappropriate procedure, you may have a case. Something like failing to take patient history into account is an example, where the patient is not a good candidate for a surgery.  Or where an unnecessary surgery is recommended or performed for profit.

Other examples include inadequate post-procedural care, improper medicine dosing, premature release, and more. There are lots of ways malpractice can happen. Proving it and getting to a successful settlement is another thing.

Having an experienced lawyer manage your case is the best way to know whether you have a malpractice case on your hands. Most attorneys offer free initial consultations or you can talk to them on the phone to discuss the details of what happened. They’ll let you know what to do next.

How Long Does a Malpractice Settlement Take? Possibly Years

If you do a bit of reading, it’s easy to find stories of medical malpractice victims who have struggled for years before reaching a fair settlement.

Medical malpractice is no trivial issue because it ruins people’s lives. Malpractice impairs people for the rest of their lives. Patients are paralyzed, sick, unable to work, and dealing with the trauma of negligence and other medical problems.

What happens when a doctor’s mistake takes away someone’s ability to work or walk? How do you put a number on something like that?

It’s a challenge, and, yes, you’re typically dealing with rather large numbers when the malpractice is severe.

That’s why doctors, lawyers, and insurance providers fight so long. They almost always push back hard against malpractice cases. They know a lot of money is on the line.

These people and the companies that back them often have deep pockets. They’ve got the resources required to prolong the legal process and make victims feel tired and quit.

They know the game, so you have to as well.

Factors that Influence Settlement Timelines

Occasionally, malpractice lawsuits end in settlements rather quickly. It usually happens when a case is especially egregious. Sometimes settlements happen fast when there is clear evidence of a mistake.

That, however, is not always the case, and each malpractice case will take less or more time depending on the medical issues at hand. Here are some of the factors:

  • Multiple Health Care Providers Involved

Anytime there are more parties involved in a settlement, it’s going to take longer. Not only do you have to ask the question, “How long does a medical malpractice settlement take?”, when you’re talking about one provider, but now you’re dealing with multiple parties.

Each of them has their own interests, separate legal teams, and insurance providers they work through. You’re negotiating with many people instead of representatives of one team.

  • Complex Medical Issues

Timelines stretch if your cases involve esoteric medical terms, rare conditions, or complex medical procedures. It’s likely going to take longer to understand the long-term impact of any malpractice. You also have to understand how far the medical providers strayed from their duty of care.

  • Assigning Liability

Let’s use a simple example of taking the wrong prescription medicine. You go to see a doctor, and they prescribe some pills for your condition. Then you take a trip to the pharmacy and pick up your medicine.

After a few weeks, your condition doesn’t improve and you feel worse! What happened? You discover that the medicine you’re taking is not at all related to your condition.

Did the doctor prescribe the wrong medicine? Or did the pharmacist read the wrong order and dispense improper medicine? All of this evidence finding takes time. Ultimately, it can take quite a while to finalize who is liable for what happened and begin settlement negotiations. Each one will be blaming the other, or the patient themselves.

  • An Experienced Lawyer Will Shorten the Timeline

If you think you have a medical malpractice case, you must find an attorney with experience representing other people in your situation. Malpractice doesn’t happen in a vacuum. If it happened to you, odds are it’s happened to someone else before. Find the legal team that represented others and achieved successful outcomes.

The best malpractice lawyers are those who specialize in this field and prepare every case as if it is going to trial.

Here are some things you should look for in an attorney:

Track Record

Ask lawyers you talk to about their track records. How much did they win for their clients in other settlements? How long did it take? Never be afraid to ask questions. Ask away until you are comfortable.

Reputation

Do the law firm and the individual lawyer have a good reputation? These days, thankfully, it’s easier than ever to look at reviews and read about others’ experiences with a specific firm. Stick with firms that have a good reputation. Find out if these are lawyers respected and known in their field.  Have they received peer recognition by other lawyers and those in the legal community? Do they have high ratings with Martindale-Hubbell and AVVO, lawyer rating groups). Hav they received recognition by the legal publications like SuperLawyers, Best Lawyers, or other publications in the state where they practice?  Have they written articles or lectured in the field? These are indications that the lawyer may be well-regarded and skilled.

Clear Expectations

When you’re a medical malpractice victim, it’s relatively easy to want to believe people who over-promise. The best lawyers, however, set clear expectations and are straight shooters. You’ve got to feel like they’re giving you honest answers and not promising the world.

Trial Experience

A lot of medical malpractice cases end in settlements, but not all of them. Find a lawyer with courtroom experience who won’t be afraid of taking your case to trial if negotiations stall or fail. If the defense knows that the lawyer doesn’t try cases, there will almost never be as good a settlement.  Excellent lawyers prepare every case as if it will be going to trial.

How Long Does a Malpractice Settlement Take? – The Final Word

While it’s true that there’s no timeline, you can expect your malpractice settlement to take months or even years. In Florida there is an 18-month rule for cases, which means it is supposed to take 18 months or less from the time a lawsuit is filed until conclusion. This is a loose guideline and in many cases it takes longer.  In some states it can take 5 years or more to get a case to trial.

When the stakes are this high, you can’t afford to take chances. It can prolong your settlement by potentially years and cost you significant amounts of money in terms of damages.

The right legal team will know how long your case should take based on the impact, symptoms, and liable parties involved.

They should also help set realistic expectations so you and your family can prepare for the process.

It’s not always an easy road, especially for people facing things like long-term disability and financial hardship as a result of their case.

Find a lawyer who will represent you aggressively and win you fair damages for your pain and suffering.

Leighton Law has successfully represented medical malpractice victims for years. We’ve won some of the most significant judgments and settlements for malpractice clients in Florida. Talk to us today about your situation and we’ll discuss whether you have a case. If you do, we’ll guide you on your best next steps and get the process started immediately.

 

Article by:

John Leighton

A nationally-recognized trial lawyer who handles catastrophic injury and death cases. He manages Leighton Law, P.A. trial lawyers, with offices in Miami and Orlando, Florida. He is President of The National Crime Victim Bar Association, author of the 2-volume textbook,Litigating Premises Security Cases, and past Chairman of the Association of Trial Lawyers of America’s Motor Vehicle, Highway & Premises Liability Section. Having won some of the largest verdicts in Florida history, Mr. Leighton is listed inThe Best Lawyers in America (14 years), “Top Lawyers” in the South Florida Legal Guide (15 years), Top 100 Florida SuperLawyer™ and Florida SuperLawyers (14 years), “Orlando Legal Elite” by Orlando Style magazine, and FloridaTrend magazine “Florida Legal Elite

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