The last thing that anybody expects when they go seek treatment from a doctor or other health care professional is that they will be further injured. However, there are times when the careless or negligent actions of a medical professional cause significant harm to patients. Most people do not realize that medical mistakes are the third leading cause of death in this country, according to researchers at Johns Hopkins University. If you or somebody you love has been injured or become ill due to a medical mistake, you need to know the following information regarding medical malpractice lawsuits in Illinois. To get more information on your particular case, speak to a Chicago medical malpractice attorney at Seidman, Margulis & Fairman, LLP today.
What constitutes medical malpractice in Illinois?
There are various ways that medical malpractice cases can arise in Illinois. It is important to understand that a medical error can be made by more than just a doctor or a surgeon. There are many other health care professionals that citizens in Illinois interact with on a daily basis. This includes nurses, nursing aides, psychologists, physical therapists, chiropractors, anesthesiologists, emergency medical professionals, pharmacists, and more.
Some of the most common medical mistakes that occur include the following:
- Failure to diagnose
- Unnecessary tests or treatment
- Errors with medication
- Delayed treatment
- Inadequate follow up after treatments
- Surgical and anesthesia mistakes
- Uncoordinated care
- Healthcare-acquired infections
Any of these mistakes could constitute medical malpractice, but it is important to understand that not all medical mistakes involve the negligence of a medical provider.
How do you know if you have a case for medical malpractice?
In order to prove that medical malpractice has occurred, victims will need to prove the following elements:
- A provider-patient relationship existed. It needs to be shown that the person who was injured had an established relationship with the provider in question. In general, anytime a patient is under a health care provider’s care, whether for an appointment or a procedure, this relationship will be established.
- The medical provider was negligent. Simply being unhappy with the treatment or an outcome of the treatment does not mean that there was a case of medical malpractice. To prove that malpractice occurred, it needs to be shown that the doctor was somehow negligent in connection with the treatment or diagnosis. In these cases, it needs to be shown in the doctor failed to act in a way that a competent and similarly trained doctor, under similar circumstances, would not have acted.
- The negligence caused the injury. It needs to be shown that the negligence of the medical provider in question actually caused harm to the patient. This can be difficult to prove because these cases typically revolve around people that are already injured or sick. There needs to be a direct link between the negligence and further injuries or illnesses.
- The injuries led to specific damages. Even when it is clear that a medical professional performed below acceptable standards for their field, it needs to be proven that the patient actually sustained specific damages. This can include physical pain and suffering, additional medical bills, lost wages or lost earning capacity, mental anguish, and more.
Is there a statute of limitations on medical malpractice in Illinois?
Each state is responsible for setting a time limit, called the statute of limitations, on medical malpractice cases. The statute of limitations for medical malpractice cases in Illinois is typically two years from the date the mistake occurred or from the date of the discovery that a medical mistake occurred.
In some cases, the date that a mistake is discovered will differ from the date the mistake actually happened. For example, if a patient has surgery and a surgeon leaves a foreign object behind inside, it may take a year or more for the patient to realize the error. In this case, the patient will have two years from the date of discovery to file their claim.
However, Illinois law prohibits a patient from filing a medical malpractice claim more than four years after the date the medical mistake occurred, regardless of when the mistake was discovered.
There are some exceptions to these statutes of limitation, most notably concerning cases involving children under the age of 18. If a minor is injured by medical malpractice in Illinois, they have up to 8 years from the date the mistake occurs the file a medical malpractice claim. However, the injured minor must file their claim prior to their 22nd birthday, regardless of when the mistake was discovered.
What kind of compensation is available for these cases?
If you or somebody you care about has sustained an injury or illness caused by the negligence of a medical provider, there may be various types of compensation available for your claim. Some of the most common types of compensation awarded in these cases include the following:
- Coverage of any additional medical expenses caused by the medical negligence
- Compensation for lost wages if a victim cannot work while recovering
- Coverage of any future lost earnings or lost earning capacity due to a disability caused by the mistake
- Coverage of any household out-of-pocket expenses
- Pain and suffering damages
- Loss of personal enjoyment damages
- Possible punitive damages in cases of gross negligence or intentional actions of the medical provider
The state of Illinois places no caps, or limitations, on the amount of money victims can receive in the event they are successful with their medical malpractice lawsuit. Many states place caps on pain and suffering damages in these cases, but these limits have been deemed unconstitutional by the Illinois Supreme Court.
Why is an attorney necessary for these cases?
Medical malpractice cases can be notoriously difficult to prove. Most people who have been injured due to the negligence of a medical professional will not have the resources necessary to conduct a full investigation into their claim. A qualified and experienced Illinois medical malpractice attorney will be able to gather all evidence necessary to prove liability in these cases. An attorney will be able to handle complex negotiations with insurance carriers involved in the case and will be able to fully prepare for a trial if one is necessary.