How Long Does a Medical Malpractice Case Take?

how long does a medical malpractice case take

Suffering a medical malpractice injury is a confusing ordeal for many people. Medical malpractice leaves people with serious, expensive injuries. Medical bills, lost income, and many other problems arise when a medical professional fails to do their job correctly. That’s why many clients ask us, “How long does a medical malpractice case take?” It’s difficult to understand a tentative timeline for these cases without the help of an experienced medical malpractice lawyer.

At Curcio & Casciato, we have extensive experience handling medical malpractice in Chicago. Because of our deep knowledge and understanding of these cases, we’re able to advocate on behalf of our clients in an effective manner. Many times, the length of the case depends on its complexity and the court’s jurisdiction. With the help of a Chicago medical malpractice attorney, we’ll work to achieve the right balance between compensation and a timely settlement. To schedule a free consultation with us, please call 312-321-1111 today, or fill out our online intake form.

The Timeline of a Medical Malpractice Case

Many victims don’t understand the process of medical malpractice cases, as we don’t hear about them as often as other types of injury cases. However, we’ve provided an outline of what the average medical malpractice case looks like.

Find the Right Injury Lawyer

Because of the complexity, we encourage clients to avoid taking on medical malpractice cases without the help of an experienced medical malpractice attorney. Sometimes, victims can handle smaller, simpler cases without the need for an attorney. However, medical malpractice isn’t something you want to take on by yourself. With the help of an attorney, you’ll have a much better chance of success with these cases.

Investigation of Medical Records

First, we will ask about the incident in question. We cover the medical condition or injury which led you to seek medical attention. We also ask about the treatment you received during which the medical negligence occurred. Then, we request copies of your medical records and billing statements that relate to the incident. Sometimes, we also ask for related medical records about other health conditions that potentially impact your case. This process often takes months to complete.

Once those requested records come in, we carefully review them in order to determine whether or not you have a case. Undesirable health issues do not always equal a valid medical malpractice case. If you do have a case, we move on to the next step.

Seeking Out a Medical Expert

If your lawyer believes you have a malpractice case, he or she will look for and engage an expert medical witness, generally a doctor who operates in the same field as the defendant. A qualified expert must evaluate the medical records and state a viewpoint that the health care provider’s conduct missed the mark of the appropriate medical standard of care in order for your case to succeed. In some jurisdictions, in order for a medical malpractice lawsuit to be filed in the first place, you must call a medical expert.

Consider a Settlement Negotiation

Many personal injury claims are resolved prior to the filing of a lawsuit. Pre-suit settlements in medical malpractice lawsuits are uncommon, but they do happen. The physicians’ insurance companies are usually not interested in negotiating settlement until after the lawsuit has been filed and they have completed their pre-trial investigation. This is especially true in larger medical malpractice instances.

File the Lawsuit

The medical malpractice lawsuit will subsequently be filed by the lawyer. A Complaint is the document that initiates a lawsuit (and contains the affected patient’s accusations). When a lawsuit is filed, the clock starts ticking on when the case will go to trial. Pre-trial processes vary by state, but a medical malpractice case will typically take between a year and a half and three years to reach trial once the complaint is filed.

File the Certificate of Merit

This certificate’s purpose is to ensure the legitimacy of your case. In Illinois, we submit either a medical expert’s opinion of negligence or an affidavit stating that we discussed your case with a medical expert. Some states require a pre-lawsuit panel that takes the allegations into consideration before filing.

Discovery Process

After the pre-lawsuit processes have been completed, litigation commences, and the parties engage in “discovery,” a practice in which each party analyzes the legal claims and defenses of the opposing party. They exchange questions and document requests, and they depose all relevant parties and witnesses in the case, starting with the plaintiff and defendant.

Unfortunately, this part of the process can take more than a year for some clients. It depends largely on the deadlines of the court, and sometimes requires both parties to approach the judge for assistance. The judge hears the responses from both sides, then makes their decision. If one or both parties are dissatisfied with the answers, they often request more information, and the process continues.

Negotiation and Mediation

As the discovery process draws to a close, the attorneys will most likely begin discussing a settlement. Attorneys can sometimes settle a matter simply by discussing between themselves, but in other situations, they will resort to mediation, which is a procedure in which both clients and lawyers go before a mediator to try to settle the issue.


Mediation is frequently successful, but if the two parties are too far apart, the matter is set for trial. One thing to keep in mind regarding trials is that just because a case is set for trial does not guarantee that the trial will take place on that date. Because of the court’s timetable and delays in the case’s progress, they frequently postpone trials.

What Is the Average Length of a Medical Malpractice Case?

Without knowing the details of an injury case, it’s very difficult to provide an estimate for how long the whole process will take. Different studies on this question have very different results. For example, one study found that the average length of time between the medical injury and the resolution of the case was 5 whole years. Despite this, we do not recommend assuming that your case will take that long to resolve.

The main reason for this is that settlement opportunities often arise during multiple points throughout the process. Sometimes, agreements happen very quickly. In other cases, it happens well into the trial phase. 

What Is the Medical Malpractice Statute of Limitations?

In Chicago, you must bring a medical malpractice lawsuit within two years after the negligence occurred. In some situations, however, there are exceptions. For example, if nobody found the error until later, the two-year term may be extended. Medical malpractice lawsuits must be filed within four years following the occurrence, regardless of the circumstances. Therefore, the medical malpractice statute of limitations in Illinois is 2 years after the negligence occurred, unless you discovered the injury later. Then, you have 4 years to file.

What Factors Affect the Medical Malpractice Settlement Timeline?

As with nearly any type of legal matter, the more complex a case, the longer it takes to settle. This is not a hard-and-fast rule, but rather a good point to keep in mind. Certain factors tend to complicate medical malpractice cases, which we list below.

  • Novel or obscure medical issues
  • Novel or obscure legal issues
  • An unusually large number of witnesses, including medical experts
  • More than one health care provider, with each potentially being liable for negligence

Does the Settlement Timeline Affect the Lawyer’s Fees?

Many attorneys operate on a contingency fee basis. This basically means that the attorney does not accept payment unless they reach a settlement on behalf of their client. Then, an agreed-upon portion of the settlement goes to the attorney. Whether your case takes five days or five years, legal professionals operating on a contingency fee basis will not receive payment unless a case resolves in your favor.

Elements of a Successful Medical Malpractice Claim

In general, there are four elements of a successful medical malpractice claim. We cover these elements below.

  • Duty of Care: Your healthcare practitioner owes you a duty of care. This is true in any doctor-patient relationship.
  • Breach of Duty: The healthcare practitioner with the duty of care to their patient failed in their duty. This occurred by not exercising the degree of care or skill that another medical professional in an equal specialty would have used in that situation.
  • Damages: You suffered physical or emotional injury as a result.
  • Causation: Solid proof must exist that links the breach of duty by the medical professional to the patient’s injury.

Contact a Chicago Medical Malpractice Lawyer Today

Our Chicago medical malpractice attorneys at Curcio & Casciato have extensive expertise pursuing medical malpractice cases against hospitals, nursing home abuse, emergency department workers, physicians, nurses, surgeons, and dentists. For our wounded clients, we have obtained millions of dollars in settlements and jury judgments in Chicago medical malpractice cases. Whether you experienced a birth injury, cancer misdiagnosis, or other injury, we’re here for you. To speak with a qualified attorney, please call our Chicago office at 312-321-1111 today.

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