Medical Malpractice in Illinois

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Medical malpractice is an act or omission by a medical professional that results in medical care that fails to meet accepted standards. It can include a variety of errors such as failure to diagnose, medication errors and surgical errors. Medical malpractice claims are generally litigated in a manner similar to that of other negligence claims in Illinois, although some specific requirements are different. Illinois law also regulates caps for medical malpractice awards.

Malpractice Procedures Must Involve Experts

The Illinois General Assembly provides rules for filing a medical malpractice claim in Illinois. The petition filed by the plaintiff must include an affidavit from a medical expert who has practiced for at least five years in the same area of medicine as the defendant. The medical expert must also review the medical records and attest that he or she believes the lawsuit has merit. The plaintiff must file a separate affidavit for each defendant in the case.

Medical facilities typically have internal procedures to evaluate health care professionals and their ability to practice medicine in the facility. These processes generally involve obtaining the opinions of other professionals. The Medical Studies Act generally prohibits the disclosure of confidential assessments in court for any purpose such as a malpractice suit. Illinois law also allows the plaintiff in a medical malpractice suit to designate a potential defendant as a respondent in discovery without the need to identify that party for six months after filing the petition.

Malpractice Damages Cap Struck Down

A malpractice cap is a limit on damages that a plaintiff may claim in a malpractice suit. The Illinois Legislature passed a law in 2005 that capped awards for noneconomic damages at $500,000 against doctors and $1 million against hospitals. The Illinois State Supreme Court struck down this law in 2010 based on the argument that it violated the separation of powers. The majority opinion of the court stated that this law unfairly impaired the judge's ability to reduce the award in a malpractice suit. The majority opinion also noted that the existence of similar laws in other states was not relevant to the statute's constitutionality.

Victims Should Seek Compensation

Victims of medical mistakes often have difficulty accepting their injuries, which can have long-term consequences. Experienced medical malpractice attorneys will have a proven track record of holding medical professionals accountable for their errors. These attorneys will also have access to medical experts who can present the client's case in the best possible light to obtain maximum compensation. Malpractice attorneys should be capable of negotiating for out-of-court settlements and going through a full trial.