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How long does it take to resolve a Federal Tort Claims Act case?
Hi, I'm Paul McConnell, a veteran and trial attorney with The Doctor Lawyer team. Resolving a Federal Tort Claims Act case starts off with the administrative process. But even before you start with the administrative process, there's some prep involved. And that is, in order to submit a compelling claim, we need to gather medical records that are relevant. We often get statements from clients and their family medical history. In the case of medical malpractice, we typically include an opinion letter from my partner, Dr. Giordano. Sometimes we gather other documents and other exhibits, photos and the like, in order to present the most compelling claim that can be presented. From the time the claim is presented, the agency—whether it's the Department of Defense, the Postal Service, or the Veterans Administration—they then have six months in which to act on that claim. At the expiration of that six months, you can file a lawsuit.
However, oftentimes, we want to see if we can still resolve the claim through the claims process if that six month window is extended. By agreement, after six months, you have the opportunity and the right to file a lawsuit. And on a case by case basis, we discuss that with clients. But many times we wait even longer to see if we can resolve it through the administrative process. In all events, whether it's at the six month mark, or sometime thereafter, you can file a lawsuit in federal district court. Then once that has been filed, you can plan on about another 18 to even 24 months. And that's because federal courts actually move pretty quickly. It's typically slower in state courts. Usually, once a case is filed in federal court, there's no real settlement discussions until discovery is complete. And that's one of the things we talk about, and whether and when to file a lawsuit. So in total, if you go from the start of the prep all the way through the end of a case that went to a trial, it's the better part of three years. However, more often than not we settle claims through the administrative process, and that usually takes anywhere from six to 12 months.
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