Medical malpractice cases are complicated and have high requirements for experts, evidence, and proof. As a result, they don’t typically settle or resolve without a substantial investment of time and resources.
In my experience, district courts in Houston, Harris County, Texas schedule malpractice cases for trial about one year after they are filed. That doesn’t mean the case will be reached, though, because many other cases will be set for the same time.
When time allows, an experienced Texas medical malpractice attorney will do a lot of investigative and procedural work before filing a new lawsuit.
At least 60 days before the lawsuit is filed, for example, a plaintiff is required to mail a notice of claim letter, accompanied by a detailed health authorization, to everyone he or she intends to sue. Assembling the information for the statutory health authorization is a task in and of itself, because it requires listing every provider that the plaintiff saw five years before the negligent incident.
The law firm also must order and obtain all the relevant medical records and radiology images. Hospitals and physician offices widely vary on how quickly they respond to records requests, so this seemingly straightforward task can take a few months.
Once the records are in-house, they need to be organized and analyzed before being presented to appropriate medical, nursing, and other expert witnesses for review. At a minimum, Texas law requires a plaintiff in a medical malpractice case to have the very early written support of at least one medical expert.
More specifically, the deadline set by Texas Civil Practice & Remedies Code chapter 74 is 120 days after each defendant answers in a lawsuit. By then, the plaintiff has to serve at least one medical expert report addressing the standard of care, how the healthcare provider defendants missed the mark, and how that caused injury or damages to the plaintiff.
I prefer to have all that work done, whenever possible, before filing the lawsuit. That can easily take six months or even longer if there are uncontrollable delays in obtaining records or with medical experts.
This means that a typical medical malpractice case should be wound up within 18-24 months of hiring an attorney.
Of course, there are situations where clients come to us shortly before the statute of limitations, which means we don’t have the luxury of doing all the work in advance. If circumstances allow, we try to help those people. For example, this month, Painter Law Firm successfully settled a medical negligence lawsuit for well over $1 million. Our client only hired us nine months ago, just eight weeks before the claim would have been barred by limitations.
The take-home message I want to leave with you is that it’s always better to contact an experienced medical malpractice attorney earlier, rather than later. Once you hire an attorney, it will still take a while to resolve your case by settlement or trial.
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Robert Painter is an award-winning medical malpractice attorney at Painter Law Firm PLLC, in Houston, Texas. He is a former hospital administrator who represents patients and family members in medical negligence and wrongful death lawsuits all over Texas.