The Decision of the Medical Review Panel and Filing a Lawsuit

The attorney chairman is responsible for setting up the meeting of the medical review panel. Usually, that meeting is conducted at the office of the attorney chairman and the three physician members and representatives of the patient and defendant doctor all appear in person.

If a physician cannot be present, the attorney chairman may allow him to participate by telephone. The patient or his attorney may also be allowed to participate by telephone if the meeting location is inconvenient.

At the meeting, the attorney chairman introduces the parties and makes sure that the physician members have all of the information they need to decide the case. Then, the attorney chairman dismisses the parties and their attorneys so that the medical review panel can discuss the case and render a decision.

The attorney chairman is present with the physician members of the medical review panel, but he is not allowed to vote. He is there to preside over the deliberations and provide the legal standards by which the physician members must decide the case.

When a decision has been reached, the attorney chairman calls the parties back into the room to hear the decision of the medical review panel. That decision is read to the parties. Some attorney chairmen then allow a few brief questions to be presented to the members of the medical review panel before the decision is reduced to a formal writing.
After a brief period of questioning, the attorney chairman will type the decision of the medical review panel into the correct legal format, have the physician members sign it and then distribute it to the parties.

Legally, only one of three legally acceptable decisions can be made by the medical review panel: (i) that the evidence demonstrates that the involved physician breached the standard of care, (ii) that the evidence demonstrates that the involved physician did not breach the standard of care, or (iii) that a question of fact exists bearing on the issue of liability which does not require expert opinion and therefore the medical review panel cannot render a decision.

If the decision is that a breach of the standard of care occurred, the medical review panel is then asked to determine whether that breach caused the patient to sustain any damages and the nature and extent of those damages. The reasons for the decision are also reduced to writing in a brief statement.

After the medical review panel decides the case, the attorney chairman must mail, by certified mail, a copy of the decision and reasons to the parties. The patient then has 90 days from the date of receipt of the decision of the medical review panel to file suit in state district court. If he does not file suit within that time period, then the case is over.
If the case is filed in district court, then the whole litigation process begins again and culminates in a settlement, dismissal or trial.

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