No case plays out exactly the same. Especially with medical malpractice claims, the processes involved in collecting, analyzing, and (on the defense side) challenging evidence can take a very long time. As personal injury lawyers in Columbus, Ohio, we advise clients to expect to wait two years between filing a personal injury claim and receiving an insurance settlement or jury award.
Understanding why settling or winning a case takes so long requires understanding everything a personal injury lawsuit involves. Here are brief descriptions of the multiple steps.
Filing Personal Injury Claims Within the Statute of Limitations
In Ohio and many other states, personal injury and medical malpractice victims have two years from the date of an accident or medical error to file a claim. A shorter or longer statute of limitations may apply depending on what caused the injury and when the injury became apparent. Anyone who believes they have a claim should consult with a personal injury attorney who knows the relevant laws.
Conducting Settlement Negotiations With the Insurance Company
An insurance claims adjustor may offer a settlement during the first phone call or email. Taking the initial offer is almost always a mistake. The amount of money will probably not cover all the medical bills, replace lost wages and provide just compensation for pain and suffering.
Filing a Personal Injury Lawsuit and Doing Discovery
When settlement negotiations drag out over several months, or when the insurance company states that it is not willing to settle at all, it becomes time to partner with a personal injury lawyer and sue. Submitting the paperwork to the court is followed by both the plaintiff (the injury or medical malpractice victim) and the defendant (the person or company who caused the accident or made the medical error) exchanging documents that could reveal evidence to present to a jury.
A settlement can be offered and accepted at any time after a lawsuit is filed and before a jury issues its decision. Many of the cases we handle in Ohio settle during trial once it becomes clear that jurors will decide in favor of our client.
Depositions are extended transcribed interviews with the plaintiff, the defendant, witnesses, investigators, and experts who might testify in court. Much of what jury members see and hear comes from depositions.
Making Pretrial Motions
Lawyers for both the plaintiff and the plaintiff will ask the judge handling the case to decide on what evidence can be presented to jurors and how that evidence can be resented. The personal injury or medical malpractice victim does not need to attend most pretrial hearings.
Attempting Mediation or Arbitration
Plaintiffs and defendants in personal injury lawsuits are often encouraged to pursue alternate dispute resolution processes. Doing this keeps the case from going to a full trial. In addition, a mediated settlement is an outcome that both sides agree is mutually acceptable.
Going to Trial
A personal injury or medical malpractice trial rarely lasts longer than two weeks, and it often wraps up in a couple of days. An appeal may follow the jury’s verdict, especially if the award is very large.
Gregory R. Mitchell is a lawyer and partner at Agee Clymer Mitchell & Portman represents clients in medical malpractice, Social Security Disability Insurance, personal injury and workers compensation lawyers in Columbus, Ohio.