Judge-Directed Negotiations Show Promise to Expedite Medical Malpractice Lawsuits
If New York’s new medical malpractice program does speed up these kinds of cases, it may be something other states should consider.
It is no secret that medical malpractice lawsuits can be very long and drawn out, costly, and frustrating. This drawback has frustrated plaintiffs and attorneys alike, who have often been heard to say that something needs to be done about the long delay between the injury and the denouement of justice.
There have been attempts over the years to shorten up the time lag, but nothing has really been successful. You may recall that one of the efforts to speed things up was capping damages, aka tort reform, and we all know how well that did not go over since the victim gets hurt twice by the system in the process. However, there may be some hope that the process can be sped up into a shorter time period.
Typically, when a medical malpractice case is being built, the discovery process and evidence gathering may take years and involve more than one judge. Settlement talks usually do not take place until a trial is about to go to court. However, with the innovation of a new program in New York launched by a Bronx County Supreme Court administrative judge things may be expedited for such cases.
In this particular program, one judge takes care of the whole case from start to finish, with an eye on commencing negotiation talks early in the process to save time and money. This is referred to as judge-directed negotiation, and it started as an agreement in 2002 between the judge and a collective of New York hospitals and the city Health and Hospitals Corporation.
What happens in this program is that a judge with medical malpractice experience assists negotiations but does not mandate or impose any settlement figures. If those taking part in the process are not happy, they have the choice to have their case proceed through the courts in the usual way. Over time, it has been demonstrated that the parties participating in this program have found a faster resolution and financial payout very appealing.
In 2010, the Federal Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality gave them a $3 million grant and expanded the program, which is now being regarded as a viable model for a national litigation program. It’s nice that someone has been thinking out of the box to address problems. But, does this process work? It seems that it does, as by and large, medical malpractice lawsuits take up to three years and sometimes longer to resolve. Cases that were put into the New York program were handled within six to nine months. That’s a phenomenal savings of time and money.
Think this program has a place as a national medical malpractice litigation program? Let’s hope it does come to pass for the sake of those who need it the most, the victims.