Many patients have long and close relationships with their medical provider. So it is understandable that the patient might feel conflicted about commencing suit against a doctor. The decision never comes easily.
Experienced medical malpractice attorneys also know that there is an air of mystery that which surrounds the civil litigation process. The practice of law is complex and non lawyers are not expected to understand the law suit process.
However, the process can be broken down into a distinct set of critical “events” that every case must involve. Every major juncture in the case might not be reached, however. This is because most cases do not make it to trial and a verdict. Many cases are settled before reaching the court or a jury. Additionally, some cases are appealed and carry additional steps that others did not.
After contacting an attorney, an initial investigation, and a determination that the case is not frivolous, the first major point in the suit is commencement. Generally speaking, a suit is commenced when the necessary paperwork is filed with the court clerk; however, please note that commencement can vary depending on the court. It is important to file in the proper court that has jurisdiction over the parties and the matter itself. Whether or not the statute of limitations has been satisfied will be judged by the date of commencement.
The second critical item is notifying the defendant of the suit. This is done by serving the defendant with the complaint and a summons; the paperwork that was filed at commencement. Such must be done in accordance with all laws.
The next major step in the civil litigation process is the defendant’s answer. After commencing suit, the defendant must answer to the allegations and there is a short period in which to do this. This is where the defendant can deny the allegations, admit to them, or a little of both. Note, however, that the defendant can file a motion to dismiss the case prior to sending an answer.
This process will be followed by the discovery phase of the litigation where both parties must comply with each other’s request for information about the facts of the matter; they disclose to each other what they are required to reveal about the incident. If the case continues, the court will be called upon to intervene and depositions will be required from specific persons and parties.
If the case isn’t settled or dismissed by this point, the case will be put on the court calendar for trial upon the filing of a “note of issue”. This may be a long time in the future.
There are more steps in the process, as these are just main points. Also, the trial itself has unique procedures that merit a separate discussion.
But what do you think? I would love to hear from you! Leave a comment or I also welcome your phone call on my toll-free cell at 1-866-889-6882 or you can drop me an e-mail at [email protected] You are always welcome to request my FREE book, The Seven Deadly Mistakes of Malpractice Victims, at the home page of my website at www.protectingpatientrights.com.