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Medical Malpractice Lawsuit

If you are considering a medical malpractice lawsuit, you may have have questions as to how a lawsuit works and what is the process after the lawsuit is filed. This page will explain the exact steps of a lawsuit.

 

How Does A Lawsuit Get Filed In Court?

After the investigation of the case is finished and it has been determined that a lawsuit can be filed, then there is a process that has to be followed.  The first decision is to decide where the case will be filed. Most Maryland medical malpractice cases are filed in State Court. Sometimes, a case can be filed in Federal Court if the parties are from different states. This is known legally as diversity of citizenship. Federal cases have separate rules and procedures that are not dealt with on this page. The focus will be on State Court.

Most of the time, the case is filed in the Maryland county where the medical negligence occurred.  What does filing mean? The first step is that the lawyer will prepare the lawsuit called a Complaint. This is a written document which is very detailed. It must include a description of the parties involved, the facts of the case, the legal theories, and the money damages sought.  The Complaint has to be filed with the appropriate Court. This is done electronically through the Maryland Judiciary website. 

What Happens After Filing?

Once the Complaint is filed. it has to be served on the parties being sued (called defendants).  This can be done by hiring a company to physically serve the papers or by mailing it under certain conditions.  Once the Complaint is served, the defendants have the right to file an answer to the Complaint.  The answer is also a written document that is electronically filed with the Court,

If there are any defects in the Complaint, the defendants can file a motion to address those defects. The motion will be decided by a judge. Often times, it can weeks or months to have a motion decided, so delays are to be expected.

After all of this completed, the case moves on to discovery.

What Is Discovery?

Discovery is the longest part of any medical malpractice case. Discovery can take many months, even up to a year. What is discovery? It is a process under the Maryland Rules of Civil Procedure https://govt.westlaw.com/mdc/Browse/Home/Maryland/MarylandCodeCourtRules?guid=ND4CC33B09CCE11DB9BCF9DAC28345A2A&transitionType=Default&contextData=(sc.Default)

Discovery allows each party to learn about all aspects of each other's case using various tools, both written an oral. The discovery methods that are most relevant to your medical malpractice case will be explained below. Discovery must be taken seriously and done within the time limits issued by the Court in a scheduling and discovery order.

Interrogatories

Interrogatories are written questions that are prepared by each side and sent to each other. The answers must be in writing, signed by the party (not the lawyer), and sworn to under oath. It is important that you prepare the answers carefully and read them thoroughly before signing. Interrogatories can be used in at a trial.  Interrogatories seek to find out the following information:

  • Names and addresses
  • Employment History
  • Criminal background
  • Civil litigation history
  • Clear description of the allegations
  • Clear description of defenses
  • List of witnesses
  • List of expert witnesses
  • Summary of expert witness opinions
  • List of documents in your possession
  • List of photographs in your possession

Interrogatories are done early on in the medical malpractice lawsuit process. Later on come depositions.

Depositions

You will be required to give testimony before trial. This is what a deposition is.  Your attorney will also be able to take the deposition of the other. Both sides can also take depositions of other witnesses they choose.

The deposition will take place in your lawyer's office or the other lawyer's office. There will be a court reporter who will swear you in. Everything you say will be recorded by voice and on paper. Your lawyer can make certain objections, but cannot interrupt or interfere with the process. The same goes for the other side. There is not a judge or jury in the room. Although it is done in a lawyer office, you must act as if you are in court. Your lawyer will prepare you well in advance.

The deposition can also be used in Court. It can be used by any party for any purpose. It can also be used to impeach a witness if their testimony on the stand changes.  Depositions are powerful tools in the discovery process. It can helpful to read a sample of a deposition transcript as you prepare for yours.

What Happens After Discovery?

After the long discovery process, in most medical cases, the Court will require the parties to attempt to resolve (settle) the case by mediation. Mediation is non-binding, which means that there is no obligation to continue the process if you feel its no longer working for you.  The mediator who will try to help you settle the case is chosen by the lawyers. The mediator is an independent third party neutral who has no stake in the outcome.

During the mediation, there will be many discussions about the case and many money figures will be given to you for consideration. In mediation, there is no judge, no rulings are made, no testimony is required. If you do not want to accept any settlement offer, you do not have to. Its completely up to you.

If the mediation results in a settlement, the case is over. If not, the case will proceed to trial.

Trial

If the case does go to trial, you will have to be available to attend every day.  The first thing that happens at trial, is the selection of a jury. In Maryland, juries in medical malpractice cases consist og 6 persons, not 12.

After the jury is selected, the case will begin. Both sides will have the opportunity to give an opening statement. After opening statements, the jury will hear evidence from witnesses, they will be given written exhibits and may watch trial videos.

Once the all evidence is in, the lawyers will give closing arguments. The jury will be given instructions on the law. After all of this, the jury will deliberate and decide on a unanimous verdict. They all must agree on each questions. Juries decide whether there is medical malpractice and the amount of money damages.  A trial can take 2-3 weeks.

If you win the case, the other side has the right to appeal. If you lose, you have the right also. Appeals are not retrials. On appeal, a higher court will decide whether there were any errors during the trial. 

An appeals court can uphold the verdict, reverse the case, or send the case back for another retrial.

Conclusion

I hope that this page has provided you with useful information as to a how a lawsuit gets filed and the process afterwards.

If you have any question please contact me.

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Frank Spector Law is committed to answering your questions about Medical Malpractice, Birth Injury - Cerebral Palsy, Birth Injury - Erb's Palsy, Birth Injury - Development Delay, Wrongful Death, Surgical Errors, Emergency Room Malpractice, Misdiagnosis, Medication Errors, and Nursing Home Neglect law issues in Maryland.

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