A caller to my office last November was seeking “the best Chicago medical malpractice law firm.” There’s no such thing, but there are a handful of elite ones and I connected him with one of those. He saw their website and incredible track record of success and was impressed by them.
He called me the other day very frustrated. It had been six months and the firm I referred him to had not yet completed their investigation. In his mind, he felt as if they didn’t think that he had a case. It shouldn’t take this long he reasoned.
I explained to him that this was not only normal, but that it would be odd if he had heard something by now.
Illinois medical malpractice lawsuits are marathons, not sprints. It takes a long time to gather every relevant medical record. Once you do that, most firms we recommend have an in house team (often of nurses or doctors) who take an initial review of the records. They then determine if the case should be referred out to an expert for review.
Experts are usually doctors in the same field of medicine that the malpractice involves. In some cases you might need more than one expert because lots of mistakes happened. Or it could be because we don’t know which medical provider (if any) was negligent.
These experts serve as witnesses and you can’t file a lawsuit until one of them says that you have a case. They are extremely important so your lawyer, if they are doing their job, will find a good one.
The problem is that the best ones are in high demand and also have very busy medical practices. So if you send them records to review on May 1, it might not be for a few months until they actually get to them.
So in general it takes 6-18 months to really pull a case together. This is why it’s so important to find a good law firm as soon as you suspect that negligence has occurred. Malpractice lawsuits are nothing like a car accident where you can file a lawsuit the next day. The need for an expert serves as a safety net for making sure that frivolous lawsuits aren’t filed, but it also makes these cases take a long time.
Even once you have an expert, in most cases the case has only just begun. Going to trial takes a lot of time and it’s not unusual for it to be years before you get in to court. The more complex the case or the more defendants that there are, the longer it will take. Our firm was recently involved in a case that was started in 2004 and settled this year. That’s a really long time and not normal, but it can happen.
This can be frustrating and I get that. But the long term goal is making sure justice happens and that we prevent this type of negligence from happening to someone else. If the case is rushed or handled by the wrong firm, it will go nowhere. So be patient and know that if it’s taking a long time, it’s unfortunately the way these cases work.