Increased Demands on Medical Professionals during COVID-19
The COVID-19 pandemic has not only impacted how busy nurses and physicians who work in the ER or ICU are, it is has had a widespread increase in demand on medical staff throughout all medical practice areas. Hospitals and other medical facilities are dealing with a new and unusual landscape and are implementing policies, procedures and protocols to deal with the increased demand on medical professionals. This means that most nurses and physicians are busier than ever.
The Need for Expert Witnesses in Medical Negligence/Malpractice Cases
Medical negligence lawyers rely heavily on opinions from medical experts, for their cases, in order to prove medical negligence/malpractice. You must retain these experts to comment on both standard of care and causation. Standard of care experts will focus on the care that should be provided by a prudent and reasonable medical professional, with similar training and experience, at the time the incident occurred. Causation experts will opine on whether the alleged negligence caused or contributed to the injuries sustained.
Often times, medical malpractice lawyers will retain a number of physicians and nurses to act as expert witnesses. This is because multiple doctors and nurses, from various specialties, may have been involved in a patient’s care. Therefore, medical negligence lawyers will obtain expert opinions from all specialties at issue. For example, in birth injury cases, counsel may consult with obstetricians, neurologists, obstetric nurses, neonatologists and radiologists.
Thinking Outside the Box to Keep Medical Negligence Cases Moving Forward
In general, even under “normal” (i.e., non-pandemic) circumstances, medical negligence cases can take twice as long to settle or go to trial, compared to other types of personal injury lawsuits. This is because medical negligence cases involve a great deal of front end investigation. In other words, medical malpractice lawyers will consult with a number of medical experts prior to issuing a lawsuit in court. This is to ensure that counsel has a strong case on liability against the potential defendants. This investigation can sometimes take up to a year.
The current pandemic could create further delays in medical malpractice litigation that will impact both clients and counsel as the majority of expert witnesses, who are commonly retained, run very busy practices and their medical legal consulting business is usually a secondary role. Now, these experts are the front line workers that are desperately needed during the pandemic. As a result, their medical legal practice may be on hold during this time.
One option our medical malpractice lawyers are considering is consulting with retired physicians and nurses who have a breath of experience, but may not be working during the pandemic. This will prevent delays and allow files to continue moving forward.
The Impact of Court Closures on Medical Negligence Cases
All cases including medical malpractice cases have been impacted due to court closures. Often times, medical malpractice lawyers will schedule a fixed trial date for a medical malpractice case. These trials are complex and lengthy and having a fixed date, as opposed to having your case scheduled on a running list, makes it easier to schedule your expert witnesses to testify.
Due to the court closures, important dates such as trials have been adjourned which has led to significant delays in having cases brought forward in court. However, these court closures allow counsel to spend extra time reviewing their files, in particular their expert reports, and plan a strategic work up of the file.
Using the Delays to the Advantage of Your Care
Given that we are still in the midst of the pandemic, it is difficult to know how long experts will put their medical legal practice on hold for. Without expert reports, it is very challenging to move the litigation forward as each expert plays an important role in a medical malpractice case and their reports help to build and establish the theory of the case.
This pause also allows clients to connect with our medical malpractice lawyers and provide detailed updates of their mental and physical condition. Furthermore, clients are able to reflect on the types of treatment they have received prior to the pandemic and give consideration to whether they want to continue with their current treatment or canvass new options.
How we can help
If you suspect you or a loved one has been the victim of medical negligence, please contact Samantha Shatz, Medical Negligence lawyer at Howie, Sacks & Henry LLP at 647-796-0086 or SShatz@hshlawyers.com.