Understanding how to file a medical malpractice claim in Chicago can help ensure that injured patients’ rights are protected, they are able to obtain medical treatment for the injury, and they receive appropriate compensation for the harm that was caused. Successfully making a medical malpractice claim requires extensive time and preparation. These types of claims frequently require opinions and testimony of medical experts and an extensive amount of evidence. Negligent providers and medical malpractice insurance carriers spend large sums of money defending medical malpractice lawsuits, and they routinely hire aggressive defense attorneys who do everything they can to defeat a medical malpractice claim. Medical malpractice lawyers can help level the playing field.
What Is a Medical Malpractice Claim?
Medical malpractice occurs when a healthcare provider administers care or performs a procedure that falls below the relevant standard of care and causes a victim to suffer an injury. Common instances of medical malpractice include:
- Misdiagnosis / Failure to Diagnose
- Surgical Errors
- Emergency Room Errors
- Medication Errors
- Anesthesia Errors
- Delayed Treatment
Doctors and hospitals are not the only healthcare providers that may be held liable for medical malpractice. Medical malpractice can happen at medical clinics, nursing homes, and anywhere else medical care is provided. Medical technicians, nurses, surgeons, anesthesiologists, dentists, psychologists and psychiatrists, and other healthcare professionals can also be held liable.
How Medical Malpractice Lawyers Evaluate Claims
Before a victim can pursue a lawsuit against a medical provider, his or her case must be investigated by a medical malpractice lawyer. This investigation begins with gathering medical records regarding the alleged negligence. Medical malpractice lawyers review medical records and obtain opinions from medical experts to determine whether a victim’s injury was caused by healthcare provider negligence. Relevant witnesses need to be identified and interviewed. A victim should also obtain documents such as financial records, tax records, earning statements, and medical bills. Medical malpractice attorneys use these documents when evaluating a victim’s damages.
What Are the Legal Requirements for a Medical Malpractice Lawsuit?
Illinois imposes strict legal requirements for medical malpractice lawsuits. Generally, a victim must file a medical malpractice claim within two years of suffering the injury or be barred by Illinois’ statute of limitations. If a victim fails to discover the injury right away, the statute of limitations begins when the injury was discovered. For example, if a victim was injured during surgery in 2014, but discovers the injury in 2017, the patient can still file a lawsuit. This is known as the discovery rule. If a victim discovers the error after four years, the person is barred from filing a lawsuit, however, because the discovery rule does not cancel out the statute of repose.
Additionally, Illinois law requires an affidavit of merit to be filed with the lawsuit. To satisfy this requirement, a victim must have a doctor review his or her medical records. The doctor must prepare an affidavit in which he or she states that the victim has a “reasonable and meritorious” basis for filing the lawsuit. The doctor that prepares the affidavit must practice the same type of medicine as the allegedly negligent doctor. If a lawsuit is filed without an affidavit of merit, it will likely be dismissed.
The Role of Expert Witnesses
In addition to writing a lawsuit and obtaining an affidavit of merit, several types of expert witnesses must be retained. Medical malpractice victims often suffer horrendous injuries which leave them permanently disabled and unable to work. These injuries often require victims to obtain additional medical treatment, such as corrective surgeries. Victims with severe disabilities frequently need medical care for the rest of their lives. Medical malpractice victims usually find themselves deeply in debt as a result of the cost of their past medical care. Expert witness testimony is necessary so that a victim can obtain compensation for their injuries, future medical treatment, and future lost wages.
What Occurs During a Medical Malpractice Lawsuit?
After a lawsuit is prepared, it is filed with the court. The discovery process then begins. During discovery, both sides exchange information, and evidence. The discovery process in a medical malpractice case can be long and difficult. As each side identifies the strengths and weaknesses of their cases, this is when attempts to negotiate settlement agreements occur. If a settlement cannot be reached, after discovery is completed, a lawsuit proceeds to a formal trial. The issues litigated at trial very often boil down to whether a medical provider was negligent, and the amount of damages a victim should be awarded. Expert witness testimony is required to prove that a medical provider breached the relevant duty of care and caused a victim’s injuries, which is why extensive preparation is required.