If you want to sue for medical malpractice in Illinois, there are many aspects to consider, as these cases are often difficult to navigate. Knowing more about what to expect with medical malpractice lawsuits can give you guidance if you decide to proceed with a case.
Medical Malpractice in Illinois
If you or a loved one suffer injuries at the hands of a doctor or another medical professional because of his or her negligence, you may be able to recover compensation through a medical malpractice claim or lawsuit.
Medical malpractice specifically refers to instances when medical professionals fail to meet the standard of care they’re required to meet when treating patients. As a result of this failure to adhere to the standards of care, medical professionals could cause injuries and complications that compromise patients’ health and well-being.
In these cases, victims of malpractice may be able to recover different types of compensation from the negligent professionals and facilities that are liable for damages resulting from the malpractice. These could include a variety of economic and non-economic damages, such as:
- Medical bills and ongoing costs
- Lost income
- Lost earning capacity
- Rehabilitation and physical therapy
- Pain and suffering resulting from the malpractice
While it’s possible to recover these and other damages in malpractice cases, it’s important to understand what these cases entail and how to approach them with the help of a medical malpractice lawyer.
Elements Required to Prove a Medical Malpractice Case
Like other types of liability cases, there are core elements that victims of malpractice must prove. So, what are the grounds for medical malpractice? Consider the following components of these cases:
- The medical professional or facility owed the patient a duty of care
- The medical professional or facility breached that duty of care
- This breach of duty of care caused harm to the patient
- This harm resulted in injuries that culminated in quantifiable damages
The plaintiffs in every malpractice case must prove each of these items to successfully recover compensation from the medical professionals, hospitals, or other entities that serve as the defendants in these cases.
Statute of Limitations in Illinois
You have a limited amount of time to file a medical malpractice case before you’re unable to recover compensation. This deadline is called the statute of limitations, and every case comes with one.
In Illinois, the statute of limitations for medical malpractice cases is generally two years after the date when the patient became aware of the injuries they sustained due to malpractice. In other words, victims of malpractice have two years to file a lawsuit from the time they discover their injuries and recover compensation from negligent medical professionals and entities.
If you don’t file your claim or suit in time, you could be unable to recover compensation. However, there are exceptions to the statute that could allow some individuals to postpone their cases. For example, if the patient was under 18 at the time of the malpractice incident, he or she may be able to wait until he or she has turned 18 to file a claim.
Tips for Finding a Qualified Attorney in Illinois
Succeeding with a medical malpractice case is difficult, even if you have grounds for a medical malpractice suit. The potential difficulty experienced with these cases makes it best to seek help from Illinois medical malpractice attorneys with experience in these matters.
As you look for an attorney to represent you in a malpractice claim against a medical professional or medical care provider, there are some considerations to keep in mind.
Questions to Ask During an Initial Consultation
When looking for an attorney, you’ll be able to meet with prospective representation in free consultations to discuss a case. There are many questions you can ask the attorney to determine whether he or she is a good fit for your case.
Some questions to ask include:
- What kind of experience do you have handling malpractice cases like mine?
- Can you discuss some success stories with past clients?
- How many years have you been in practice?
- How long could it take to resolve my case?
- What kind of outcome do you think I can expect with my case?
You can also ask about other aspects, such as “How much does it cost to hire a medical malpractice lawyer?” or “What kinds of fees do you charge?”
Gather Evidence for Your Case
One of the ways a medical malpractice attorney can help you is by helping you collect all relevant evidence that might help your case. There are many pieces of evidence that can play a part in these cases and help prove negligence.
For example, you might collect medical records, hospital records, witness statements from other professionals or patients, expert witness testimony, the patient’s testimony, and photos or video footage of injuries. Additionally, care providers may have a history of malpractice claims against them, which could also support your claim.
It’s best to gather as much evidence as you can before meeting with an attorney, which can help the lawyer gauge the viability of your case during an initial consultation. On the other hand, you might not have access to some pieces of evidence, in which case an attorney may be able to help you collect and organize it to build your case.
Filing a Medical Malpractice Lawsuit in Illinois
Typically, medical malpractice cases settle with a claim before going to trial. The legal process of filing a lawsuit is often complicated and expensive, which is why both parties tend to try to reach a settlement early on before going to trial.
However, some cases may not settle during initial negotiations, requiring a lawsuit that involves additional negotiations and, potentially, a trial in front of a judge and jury. The following are the steps involved when filing a medical malpractice lawsuit in Illinois.
Filing the Lawsuit in the Appropriate Court
If you and your attorney decide to file a lawsuit, the first step would be to file with the appropriate court.
In most cases, plaintiffs would file a medical malpractice lawsuit with a state trial court within the jurisdiction that’s responsible for handling the case. Otherwise, attorneys may opt to file the case with a federal court.
The Discovery Process
After setting things in motion with a demand letter and the lawsuit process officially starts, the next phase involves discovery.
During the discovery phase of the case, both parties will have the chance to exchange any documentation available pertaining to the case. This process would involve getting a hold of any available medical records from all medical professionals and facilities, along with depositions from defendants.
Your attorney can then send any medical records received to other medical experts to get their opinion on the matter. For example, the attorney might find an expert in the same field as the defendant doctor to determine how the negligent professional was in the wrong.
Throughout the process, your attorney can also begin developing a solid case to argue in your favor. He or she can calculate the amount of compensation you’re able to recover based on the economic and non-economic damages resulting from the malpractice.
Negotiating Settlements and Mediation
Before the case goes to trial, both parties are likely to attempt to negotiate a settlement or seek mediation to resolve the case. Often, cases that might otherwise go to trial reach an outcome during this phase, which helps save both parties much time and money.
However, some cases may simply not reach an outcome at this point, leading the plaintiffs and defendants to seek a trial.
The trial process will begin if parties can’t reach an agreement beforehand. The trial process can take anywhere from months to years to settle.
The trial will entail the parties involved presenting their opening arguments and any evidence they have as they make their cases. A jury will be able to review the evidence and hear each party’s argument to make a decision around the case, with the judge revealing the final verdict.
After the trial process is completed, the judge and jury will reach a settlement and determine whether the plaintiff can receive compensation and how much compensation he or she can recover.
If the judge and jury rule in the plaintiff’s favor, the defendant would be responsible for paying compensation to the malpractice victim.
Determining How to Sue for Medical Malpractice
With a better idea of how to sue for medical malpractice, you can figure out with the help of an attorney whether you have a viable case. By collecting evidence, determining how much compensation you’re able to recover, and filing a claim or lawsuit on time, you may be able to recover total compensation for instances of medical malpractice.
Chicago personal injury and workers’ compensation attorney Howard Ankin has a passion for justice and a relentless commitment to defending injured victims throughout the Chicagoland area. With decades of experience achieving justice on behalf of the people of Chicago, Howard has earned a reputation as a proven leader in and out of the courtroom. Respected by peers and clients alike, Howard’s multifaceted approach to the law and empathetic nature have secured him a spot as an influential figure in the Illinois legal system.