We put our trust in medical professionals every day. From routine physicals and prescriptions to life-saving surgeries, we rely on medical professionals to find answers and help us stay healthy. When someone we place so much faith in makes an error, it can be devastating, financially, emotionally, and physically. A medical mistake can cost you thousands in additional medical care, result in a long-term disability and pain, or even result in the loss of a loved one.
A groundbreaking study conducted by Johns Hopkins University found that more than 250,000 people die each year in the United States due to errors made by hospitals and doctors in an inpatient or outpatient setting. This statistic places medical errors as the third leading cause of death behind heart disease and cancer. Those numbers are shocking, but it is unusual for a physician or hospital come forward and acknowledge that an error was made. Consequently, uncovering situations where medical mistakes were made can be challenging and frustrating.
If you believe that you or a loved one has been the victim of medical malpractice in Chicago, it can be difficult to know where to turn or how to discover the facts. The Chicago medical malpractice attorneys at Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers LLC are committed to uncovering the truth about medical mistakes. With more than $30 million in recoveries for clients in Illinois medical malpractice cases over the past two years, our law firm has the experience needed to assist you and your family. Complete our online intake form for a free case review, and it will be reviewed by a seasoned attorney. Illinois families can count on us to work hard on your case.
We know that you have many questions. To help you, we’ve designed this page as a useful overview of a medical malpractice lawsuit. First, we will discuss the elements of a successful medical malpractice suit. Next, we’ll describe some of the more common types of medical malpractice lawsuits. Finally, we will consider the types of damages that may be available to you in an Illinois medical malpractice suit. Remember, this page is not a substitute for the advice of an experienced medical malpractice attorney. So, be sure to consult with an attorney to explore your options.
Prosecuting an Illinois Medical Malpractice Case: What the Law Requires of a Person Bring a Case
In an Illinois medical malpractice case, the plaintiff must prove that: (1) a doctor-patient relationship existed; (2) the doctor owed the patient a duty of care; (3) the doctor breached that duty owed to the plaintiff; (4) the doctor’s breach of care was the proximate cause of the plaintiff’s injuries; and (5) the plaintiff suffered some physical, economic, or emotional damages as a result of the doctor’s conduct.
Of these elements of the medical malpractice claim, it is essential to establish that the medical professional you are suing, “deviated from the standard of care.” In other words, when presented with the facts and circumstances of the case, a competent professional working in their field would have acted differently. Illinois law requires all medical malpractice lawsuits to have a report from a consulting physician setting forth these, “deviations from the standard of care,” made by the medical professional who is being sued. See 735 ILCS 5/2-622.
Common Types of Medical Malpractice Lawsuits
Some of the most common medical malpractice suits include errors in diagnosis, anesthesia errors, hospital errors, birth injuries, medical device liability, and errors with medications and dosages.
According to recent data from the federal government’s National Practitioner Data Bank, 33% of medical malpractice claims allege an error relating to diagnosis, with many of these resulting in catastrophic injury or death. For example, if a physician fails to perform the needed tests to rule out a form of cancer, and it progresses into later stages because of the failure to diagnose it earlier, this would be a diagnosis error. Diagnosis errors might also include: misread x-rays, MRIs, or other diagnostic tests; misinterpretation of test results; failure to do necessary testing; failing to ask the patient about their symptoms or medical history; and failing to recognize obvious symptoms.
When a patient is injured or dies as a result of care directly or indirectly provided by an anesthesiologist or a medical professional under their direction, the provider may be held responsible for damages. According to the National Practitioner Data Bank, anesthesia error cases comprise 3% of the medical malpractice cases filed. Examples of anesthesia errors may include: administering the wrong medication, failing to monitor a patient during surgery or post-surgery, problems intubating a patient, failing to monitor vital signs, using the incorrect dosage of medication, failing to screen patients for allergic reactions, using faulty equipment, and administering incompatible drugs.
Emergency Room Errors
Emergency room errors may occur when physicians are overworked or taxed to treat patients with critical injuries. Unfortunately, this high-pressure environment gives rise to numerous errors, which may result in permanent injury or death. Examples of emergency room errors include: failing to diagnose an illness, failing to order crucial diagnostic tests, medication errors, failing to diagnose a heart attack, failing to diagnose a stroke, failing to diagnose a cervical fracture, failing to call in a specialist, misreading tests or X-rays, or extreme delays in treatment.
While unforeseen issues may be encountered during a surgical procedure, the manner in which the surgeon, operating room staff, and anesthesiologists respond is based upon relatively standardized protocols. According to the National Practitioner Data Bank, surgical error cases comprise 24% of the medical malpractice cases filed. Examples can include: cutting an organ or bowel accidentally, leaving objects inside the body, nerve damage, performing the wrong surgery, surgery on the wrong body part, unsanitary equipment, or an infection at the surgical site.
When nurses, physician assistants, technicians, or other hospital workers make errors, the facility may be held accountable for their negligence under the legal theory of vicarious liability. In situations where there is a systemic problem with the care provided to patients due to a hospital’s failure to train or screen staff, there may be similar liability exposure. (For information on the safety records of Illinois hospitals, review our hospital report card.)
Examples of hospital negligence may include: administering the wrong drug or an incorrect dosage; failing to transfer the patient to a different facility; failing to perform diagnostic testing; using defective medical equipment or using it improperly; dropping patients; failing to protect patients from physical or sexual harm from staff, visitors, or other patients; failing to conduct background screening for staff; and failing to sanitize medical or surgical equipment.
Birth injuries can often be the result of inattention, such as when a nurse doesn’t monitor the child’s vital signs for indications of distress or when symptoms such as jaundice go unnoticed after birth. Obstetrician/gynecology malpractice may also be premised upon failure to perform a needed surgery, such as a cesarean section, or even misdiagnosing a condition. According to the National Practitioner Data Bank, obstetrics cases comprise 11% of the medical malpractice cases filed. Examples of birth injuries related to labor and delivery malpractice include: cerebral palsy; brain damage; Erb’s palsy; fetal death; spinal cord damage; shoulder dystocia; broken bones; nerve damage; internal bleeding; and injuries to the mother, including excessive bleeding or death.
Medical Device Liability
When operative devices or implants fail to perform their intended purpose or are the cause of bodily injury, you may have the right to bring a case against the physician, facility, or manufacturer. Examples of the liability of a medical device company could include: failing to inform the patient or hospital about problems with equipment, defects in the manufacturing process, failing to sanitize equipment, and failing to test equipment.
Medication and Dosing Errors
These injuries are often the result of the failure of a physician to ensure that the medications being prescribed will not interact with the patient’s current medications or diet. Another common medication error involves the administration of the wrong dose or medicine by the attending nurse during a hospital stay or at a nursing facility. According to the National Practitioner Data Bank, medication error cases comprise 4% of the medical malpractice cases filed. Other examples of medication errors in a hospital setting include: administering the wrong medication, administering the wrong dosage of a medication, switching medicines between patients, administering incompatible medications, and failing to screen for allergies.
Damages Available in an Illinois Medical Malpractice Case
The amount of damages recoverable in a medical malpractice case often depends upon the severity of the injury, however a plaintiff can recover both economic and non-economic damages. Despite attempts to impose limits on the amount of compensation an injured party can recover, the Illinois Supreme Court has rejected caps on medical negligence cases. See Lebron v. Gottleib Hospital, 237 Ill.2d 217 (2010).
The primary damages available in a medical malpractice case may include: medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, wrongful death, and loss of consortium.
Any expense related to medical care, hospitalization, surgeries, physical therapy, nursing, medication, and medical devices is recoverable. In the case of a person who will require ongoing care for catastrophic injuries, these damages are recoverable as well.
When a person cannot return to work due to injury, they may file a wage loss claim to recover compensation to include recovery of benefits such as insurance and retirement plan contributions.
Pain and Suffering
A person harmed due to medical malpractice may recover compensation for the immediate and ongoing pain related to their condition that encompasses physical and emotional pain.
Loss of Enjoyment of Life
When an injury prevents a person from doing the activities they enjoyed before the incident, the person may recover damages for their loss. An example would be the inability to participate in sports if their injuries prevented them from doing so.
The family of a person fatally injured due to medical negligence may pursue a claim for the loss of financial support that the deceased provided, and was expected to contribute in the future. Funeral expenses are also recoverable. A family may also recover damages for the loss of companionship when pursuing a wrongful death case.
Loss of Consortium
The spouse of a person seriously injured or killed due to medical negligence may recover damages related to their loss of marital benefits. Examples of loss of consortium damages include loss of affection, loss of emotional support, and loss of sexual relations.
Questions & Answers Commonly Raised In Illinois Malpractice Cases
Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers LLC knows the immediate impact an error made by a doctor or hospital staff can have on the individual and his family. Below you will find some questions regularly posed by current and former clients.
If a Loved one is Injured at a Hospital or Under A Doctor’s Care, What are my Legal Options?
The statute of limitations for a medical malpractice lawsuit in Illinois is only two years. See 735 ILCS 5/13-212(a). So, it’s important to consult an experienced attorney as soon as possible. However, there are a few things you can do right away. First, do not speak to the doctor, hospital, or any other party that harmed you, or their representatives. Second, make a record of the circumstances of the incident as well as anyone present, your questions, and any memories you have about it. Third, try to obtain your medical history. Fourth, collect all notes, papers, receipts, or other documents that you have regarding the incident. Finally, contact your employer and inform them that you need income verification. All of this documentation will help you and your attorney decide the best course of action in the near future.
Who are Common Defendants (parties sued) in Medical Negligence Lawsuits?
The most common medical errors typically involve medication, anesthesia, or diagnosis errors; prenatal care or birth injuries; and surgical errors. These might include: (1) a doctor who wrote the prescription incorrectly; (2) a nurse or pharmacist who dispensed the wrong dosage; (3) an anesthesiologist who fails to administer the proper dosage or fails to intubate; (4) a doctor who fails to order the proper tests or interprets the results incorrectly; (5) a doctor who fails to provide proper prenatal or delivery care; (6) medical staff who fail to intervene or treat problems during birth; or (7) a surgeon who operates on the wrong body part or fails to take proper procedures to prevent infection.
How Long do I Have to File an Illinois Medical Malpractice Lawsuit?
In Illinois, you must file a medical malpractice suit within two years from the incident, or the date that the malpractice was discovered, but not more than four years from the time of the alleged incident. For cases involving minors, a lawsuit must be initiated within eight years from the date of the event or before the minor turns 22 years old. (See 735 ILCS 5/13-212.) If your suit is not filed within these time limits, your case will be dismissed.
What do I Need to Prove to win a Medical Negligence Case?
To win a medical negligence case in Illinois, you need to prove that: (1) you were treated by the defendant; (2) the defendant failed to give you the appropriate standard of care; (3) you were injured and suffered damages while receiving care; and (4) your injuries were caused by the defendant's substandard care. In Illinois, an expert must testify as to the standard of care and whether or not the defendant’s level of care was substandard.
What Types of Compensation Does Illinois Law Allow a Plaintiff to Recover in a Medical Malpractice Case?
In Illinois, you can recover both economic and non-economic damages in a medical malpractice suit. These include damages such as medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, wrongful death, and loss of consortium.
Legal Help is Here
The Chicago medical malpractice lawyers at our office know the long-term consequences that a medical mistake can have on the patient and her family. If you believe your loved one is a victim of malpractice, we are interested in speaking with you. As with all of our cases, Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers LLC handles medical malpractice cases on a contingency fee basis where a fee is only charged when we are successful in securing financial compensation on your behalf.