There is nothing usual or typical about medical malpractice cases. They are technically complicated and require resources such as time and money in substantial amounts at every stage of the litigation. In addition to doctors and nurses, hospitals may also be held legally responsible for harm caused by professional negligence.
This is another part of an article discussing the events that occur in the timeline of a typical medical malpractice case. Today’s installment addresses obtaining the Certificate of Merit and filing the lawsuit.
Before a medical malpractice lawsuit may be filed in Pennsylvania and before any pretrial investigation may occur, the plaintiff’s lawyer must submit an offer of proof in the form of a Certificate of Merit.
The purpose of the Certificate of Merit is to ensure the legitimacy of the medical malpractice case. Pennsylvania requires that an expert must state that after reviewing the facts of the allegations, he or she believes that there is some basis to conclude that the care, skill or knowledge exercised by the professional in the treatment of the patient failed to achieve professional standards and was a cause in bringing harm to the patient. A Certificate of Merit must be signed and verified by the expert witness.
Once a qualified medical malpractice lawyer has obtained a Certificate of Merit; once a qualified medical malpractice attorney believes a viable case exists and moving forward is in the client’s best interests, then the lawyer will file a complaint asserting a claim based on the elements of professional negligence.
Once the complaint is filed, the defendant will have a certain amount of time to file its answer. In Pennsylvania, this time period is twenty (20) days. But this is just the beginning. Generally, it will take between eighteen months and three years after the lawsuit is filed for a medical malpractice case to proceed to a trial.
At this time, the defendants’ insurance companies will conduct their pre-trial investigation and determine whether a settlement is their best interest. If they refuse to settle, then to litigate or mediate is the question. To be continued. . .
Powell Law’s attorneys have unmatched experience assisting individuals who have suffered damages caused by the negligence of medical professionals. James F. Mundy, Esq.