If you’re considering a medical malpractice case against a physician, nurse, surgeon, or other health care provider, there are certain procedural steps that must be followed in Michigan. Let’s look at the stages of a medical malpractice lawsuit.
“Notice of Intent” and Expert Requirements
Michigan law requires medical malpractice cases to begin by mailing a Notice of Intent to File Suit (NOI). This must be in writing and served upon all health care providers who will be sued at least 182 days before the actual lawsuit is filed.
Medical malpractice plaintiffs are also required by Michigan law to submit an affidavit of merit signed by a health care professional qualified under state law with the lawsuit complaint. The medical expert must be a licensed health care professional practicing or teaching in the same specialty as the defendant physician. This expert must also have the same board certifications the defendant has (if any). The affidavit of merit must state the following:
Similarly, the defendant must file an affidavit of meritorious defense, signed by a qualified expert, refuting the plaintiff’s claims.
Filing a Medical Malpractice Complaint
The medical malpractice complaint is a legal document that states the allegations against the doctors and/or hospital. Once the complaint is filed, the lawsuit begins.
Note that a medical malpractice victim shouldn’t delay in contacting an experienced Michigan medical malpractice attorney because there is a deadline to file. Michigan law requires that medical malpractice lawsuits be filed within two years of the health care provider’s action (or failure to act) giving rise to the claim. In the alternative, a medical malpractice claim in the state must be filed within six months of when the patient’s harm was discovered or reasonably should have been discovered (if more than two years have passed), however, the claim must be brought within six years of the act (or failure to act) giving rise to the claim, regardless of the discovery date. The only exceptions to this rule are cases where the health care provider fraudulently concealed the malpractice, or if the injury involves permanent damage to the claimant’s reproductive system.
Discovery will start soon after the complaint is filed, and the defendant files an answer. This is when both sides share information, such as important documents and statements. This will include the victim’s medical records. Getting a copy of your records to your attorney right away allows him or her to start examining the case. It also allows them to solicit medical opinions from doctors or other medical professionals who may serve as expert witnesses in the case.
Note that it’s possible, after a comprehensive review of the medical records, that the plaintiff’s attorney may advise against filing a lawsuit or suggest that the damages may not be the result of a health care provider’s medical negligence.
In depositions, witnesses answer questions from an attorney under oath. The questioning usually concerns the incident and the witness’s background, such as past medical issues. Testimony at a deposition can be later used at trial to impeach the witness or, in certain instances, can be read into evidence.
Mediation is a way of settling disputes, including medical malpractice claims. The process is facilitated by an experienced independent mediator to help the parties come to a mutually satisfactory settlement. A mediation will normally be attended only by the parties, their attorneys, the claims manager for the defendant’s insurance company, and the mediator. An effective mediation session can be completed in a matter of a day or so.
Mediation is non-binding and entirely voluntary, and the mediator doesn’t have the legal authority to make a ruling or to force the side to settle.
A medical malpractice trial starts with jury selection, which is called voir dire. Potential jurors are questioned by the attorneys and the judge.
After the jury is selected, opening statements are next. Both sides will provide the jury with an overview of the case from their viewpoint and describe what they can expect to hear from witnesses.
After the opening statements, the plaintiff’s attorney will present his or her case in chief. This will involve calling expert medical witnesses and offering testimony and exhibits that are designed to establish that the doctor or hospital breached their duty under the medical standard of care and that the plaintiff suffered injuries.
Both sides have an opportunity to question all the witnesses. After the plaintiff’s case has been presented to the jury, he or she will rest, and the defense will present their case or move for dismissal. Both sides have an opportunity to cross-examine the witnesses. After the defense rests, each side will present its closing argument. This is aimed at stressing the strengths of each party’s case.
After closing statements, the judge will instruct the jury as to the appropriate facts and law they are to rely upon when reaching a verdict. Then the jury is sent to deliberate and try to reach a decision.
When the jury reaches a decision, it will allocate damages (how much the plaintiff should receive). Court is then reconvened, and the judge will read the verdict.
The losing party may appeal. When a final judgment is entered, a successful plaintiff can collect damages.
There are a number of steps in a medical malpractice e case, and you should partner with an experienced Michigan medical malpractice attorney. If you or a loved one has suffered harm due to a medical mistake, you should speak with a medical malpractice attorney at Buchanan Firm.
For a free consultation with an experienced Michigan medical malpractice attorney, contact Buchanan Firm. We can discuss your situation if you believe you’ve been serious injured as the result of medical malpractice.
Our firm proudly serves people all across Michigan, including major cities like Grand Rapids, Muskegon, Detroit, Lansing, Holland, St. Joe, and Ann Arbor, and rural towns such as Lowell, Ada, Fremont, Newaygo, Grand Haven, Rockford, and Cedar Springs. We will meet you after-hours, at home or in the hospital to accommodate you.