I'll tell you why.
The simple answer is delays.
Delays in getting an answer to your lawsuit allegations.
Delays in delivering the lawsuit papers to the doctors you are suing.
Delays in getting an attorney assigned from the doctors' medical malpractice insurance company to respond to your claims.
Delays in responding to requests from the defense attorneys for documents and medical records.
Delays in providing copies of medical records to the defense.
Delays in getting a scheduling conference with the court.
Delays caused by disputes among the attorneys about what should and should not be disclosed.
Delays with a judge making a decision on a dispute between the attorneys.
Delays scheduling pretrial depositions of the various people involved in your lawsuit.
Delays in getting the deposition transcripts returned.
There are instances where a doctor you sued has died. That will lead to delays in having one of his family members step into his shoes for the purposes of this lawsuit. There are instances where someone you sued has declared bankruptcy. That will significantly delay your case until the bankruptcy is resolved or the court gives us permission to go around that legal proceeding.
There are times where a doctors' insurance company may go belly-up and need to be liquidated. That's happened before and it stops your lawsuit cold for quite a while. There are times when an injured patient can no longer make rational decisions on their own and needs a guardian appointed to look over their affairs.
There are many instances where your case gets delayed. In my experience, the biggest delays happen when trying to schedule depositions and after notifying the court that your case is ready for trial.
Here's what I mean...
At the beginning of your case, the attorneys appear in court to agree on a schedule of when things are supposed to happen.
Each side is given a certain amount of time to get things done. We might have 30 days to respond to a request for medical records. We might have 45 days to make a formal written request known as a motion to take action on your case. The defense might have only 45 days after the injured patient is questioned during his deposition in which to conduct a medical examination with a doctor of their choosing.
The attorneys will schedule depositions. The problem is that our calendar clerks then have to check if each attorney is actually available on those days. If the witness is not available, then the calendar clerks will have to get the next available date for each attorney. If you have six defense lawyers on a case, you can imagine how convoluted this can be to get seven lawyers in a room together with the witness all to agree on a date.
It's much easier to schedule these depositions when there's only one or two defense lawyers.
The other major delay happens when we have finished 'discovery' and there's nothing more to learn about your case. In that instance, we notify the court that your case is technically 'ready for trial'. We do that by filing a document known as a 'Note of Issue'. You might think that once you do that, your case will be called for trial the next day or the next week.
That's not going to happen.
Instead, what happens is that your case goes to the bottom of the trial calendar pile. There are hundreds of cases ahead of yours waiting to get to the top to be called for trial. Depending on which county your case is in, that could delay your case six months, nine months or even a year!
You should know something else...
Even when your case reaches the top of the trial calendar pile, it doesn't mean you're going to trial yet.
It means the attorneys will now be called into court for a pretrial settlement conference to see if there's any way your case can be settled before trial. If there's the possibility of settlement, the judge will give the defense time to evaluate your case with their insurance company to see if they're willing to put money on your case.
This attempt to resolve your case could delay matters for weeks and sometimes months before the judge gets a final answer.
At some point, if it becomes obvious that settlement discussions are fruitless, the judge will give the attorneys a final date to come back to court to pick a jury and start your trial. These are just some of the reasons why it takes 2-3 years for your malpractice case here in NY to get to trial.