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What’s the Process and How Long Does a Medical Malpractice Case Take?

March 1, 2021

Wouldn’t it be nice if we could put an exact time on when a medical malpractice case will conclude or how long a certain part of the case will take?

We know taxes are due on April 15th and babies arrive in about nine months, but unfortunately, the law doesn’t work that way. Sure there’s a statute of limitations that says a medical malpractice lawsuit must be filed within two years of the health care provider’s action (or inaction) that gives rise to the claim, or within six months after the plaintiff discovers or should have discovered the existence of the claim, whichever is later. That’s a hard deadline, as are all the filings with the court. Such as if you were personally served with a summons and complaint, you have 21 days after receiving the summons to file an answer.

But the time it takes to conclude a medical malpractice lawsuit depends on the complexity and strength of the case, as well as the court’s schedule. Let’s look more closely at the process and the amount of time a medical malpractice case may take in Michigan.

Resolution Before Trial

Some Michigan medical malpractice lawsuits end up with the parties negotiating a settlement before (or even during) trial. However, this still means that both parties will file motions and proceed through the discovery process of depositions, interviews, and investigation.

An experienced and skilled Michigan medical malpractice attorney will continue to balance the benefits to an injured patient and/or their family of a fair settlement versus undergoing the lengthy task of preparing and conducting a trial.

On average, a medical malpractice lawsuit can take two to three years after the lawsuit is filed for a case to get to trial. And, with Covid-19, lawsuits are delayed because jury trials continue to be stalled for safety.

Sometimes, a medical malpractice victim will be offered a settlement early, but often this may be for significantly less money than the case is worth. Your attorney will help you decide if an offer is fair. If it isn’t, a successful jury verdict at trial may have a much greater payout; however, again, that can take several years to collect.

What’s The Process?

There are several basic steps in the process of a medical malpractice case:

  • Consultation;
  • Investigation;
  • Preparing the Notice of Intent;
  • 182-day waiting period after Notice of Intent is sent;
  • Filing lawsuit Complaint;
  • Written and Deposition Discovery;
  • Case Evaluation;
  • Settlement Conference required by Court; and

Meeting with a Michigan Medical Malpractice Attorney. The initial step is for the injured patient and his or her family to speak with an attorney. The attorney and his team will have a thorough conversation to determine the key facts and understand why it is the injured patient believes that a physician, surgeon, hospital, or other health care professional or organization was negligent and caused them injury.

When you talk to an experienced Michigan medical malpractice attorney, he’ll know what to look for, the right questions to ask, and how to proceed.

Investigation. If the attorney believes you have a case—that is your injuries were the result of a doctor or hospital’s negligence—he’ll begin an investigation. This includes a review of all of your relevant medical records, such as the hospital’s records, all doctors’ notations, nurses’ records, medical staff visits, lab results, tests, and the medications administered, as well as anything else that can help the attorney determine where the negligence occurred.

Once all of this information has been collected and reviewed, the attorney will consult with the appropriate medical experts, such as surgeons, specialists, pharmacists, and other practitioners. After these experts have reviewed the file and provide a green light for proceeding, the attorney will prepare the Notice of Intent letter and serve it on all negligent parties. Once the Notice of Intent letter is mailed, the plaintiff is required to wait 182 days before filing a lawsuit complaint in the appropriate circuit court.

Fling Complaint and Discovery. After the 182 waiting period, the Complaint is filed in the appropriate circuit court.  The defendants are required to answer the complaint in 21 or 28 days, depending on the method of service. After answering the Complaint, the next step is the stage of litigation in which the parties request relevant information from each other. It may include documents and medical records. Also, the injured patient and his or her family and friends will be deposed or questioned under oath by the doctor or hospital’s legal counsel. Likewise, your medical malpractice attorney will depose the doctor and ask questions about the care he or she provided to the patient and the details of the procedure or treatment. After fact witnesses are deposed, the attorneys move on to depose the expert healthcare providers hired by both plaintiff and defendants.

Exploring Settlement. After discovery is completed, sometimes settlement with the parties is explored. Again, an equitable settlement is always preferable to a trial because of the time and expense, not to mention the stress and anxiety experienced by the patient and his or her family. However, the doctor, hospital, or insurance company sometimes won’t agree to a fair settlement, and a plaintiff is forced to proceed to trial.

An experienced and skilled Michigan medical malpractice attorney can help you weigh the options, and based on his judgment from years of medical malpractice litigation, give you a sense of what a fair settlement will be, the strength of your case, and your likelihood of a successful outcome at trial.

Trial. Of course, at trial, both sides give their arguments and provide testimony and evidence to support their arguments. Both the patient and the doctor or hospital will introduce the opinions of experts that also support their theory of the case. After this, the jury will deliberate and come to a conclusion or verdict as to whether the doctor or hospital in fact acted negligently and if that negligence caused the patient’s injuries. If so, the jury will usually award money damages.


As you can see, there are several complicated steps that must be taken—in the right order and on time—in a Michigan medical malpractice claim. Because of this, you should work with an experienced and skilled Grand Rapids medical malpractice attorney.

If you or a loved one has suffered harm due to the negligence of a physician, surgeon, nurse, clinic, or hospital, you should speak with a medical malpractice attorney at Buchanan Firm. For a free consultation, contact us.

Our Grand Rapids injury attorneys proudly serve 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.