Medical malpractice occurs when a doctor, hospital, or healthcare provider injures a patient by deviating from the established standard of care. Doctors and other healthcare professionals are often trusted confidants and supporters. Their goal should always be to promote your health and well-being, and to provide well-researched and experienced diagnosis, consultation and treatment for whatever ails you. However, this isn’t always the case and when misdiagnosis, poor treatment or negligence happens, it can be disastrous for the victim. Fortunately, victims and surviving family members can hold medical professionals and healthcare facilities accountable when medical malpractice occurs.
Signs of Medical Malpractice
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The following are common signs of medical malpractice gleaned from the above infographic:
- Treatment isn’t working. If a treatment isn’t working as predicted, it could be a sign that the patient was misdiagnosed. When a medical issue is misdiagnosed, the actual medical condition can continue to progress due to the lack of effective treatment. This can lead to serious side effects or the onset of other, more progressive health issues. Also, taking a wrong prescription medication or undergoing unnecessary surgery because of an incorrect diagnosis can compromise a patient’s health.
- A serious condition was diagnosed with only basic lab tests. Doctors typically draw blood, take a urine sample and/or use scanning or imaging-based tests to paint a larger picture of what is going on with a patient’s body. Failure to complete a thorough exam, or relying on only one or two basic diagnostic tests, can be a sign of negligence.
- The treatment doesn’t seem to fit the condition. Often, medical malpractice lawsuits originate from a treatment that is much more involved than a patient really needs. Invasive testing and surgical procedures should only be used as the last resort when more conservative and less-invasive methods or treatments aren’t an option.
- The doctor puts patient concerns on the back burner. It is a doctor’s job to provide patients with comprehensive information about a diagnosed condition, treatment options, or information on how to prevent diseases or conditions they may be at risk for developing. If the doctor seems harried, rushed or unable to give the patient adequate attention, there may be a problem.
- You have received a different second opinion. Whenever treatment seems to be more dramatic than a disease or condition should require or if a doctor is prescribing a “lifetime” medication, it is advisable to get a second opinion. If the second opinion differs from the first and then a third opinion agrees with the second, it may be a sign that your doctor did not do his/her job right.
- The healthcare facility seems understaffed. Staffing shortages often result in negligent behaviors that put patients at risk. With too much to do and too little time, doctors, nurses, and other healthcare providers are more likely to make medication mistakes and poor treatment decisions or rush through procedures, leaving the aftermath of their errors in their wake.
- An error was made during treatment or surgery. When a doctor’s failure to comply with certain standards of medical care leads to further injury, pain, illness or death, you have the right to compensation.
Should a Claim Be Made?
To begin the pursuit of a medical malpractice claim, a victim must determine whether a case even exists. A medical malpractice lawyer is often an excellent resource to help injured individuals understand the complexity of their situation. To have a valid medical malpractice claim, an individual must be able to prove the following.
The Existence of a Health Care Provider-Patient Relationship:
An individual may not file a claim against a physician he or she overheard giving medical advice or a consulting medical provider who did not treat them directly. For a valid claim to exist, a provider-patient relationship must be established.
The Provider was Negligent or Conducted Himself/ Herself in a Manner Not Consistent with the Standard of Care:
Simply because an injury or illness occurred as a result of care provided does not necessarily indicate that negligence or misconduct was present. The plaintiff must be able to show that the provider acted in a way that a reasonable and competent provider would not have done under the same circumstances.
The Negligence or Misconduct Caused the Injury:
Since most victims of medical malpractice are already sick or injured, it can sometimes be difficult to prove that the actions of the health care provider caused the injury (or death). For instance, if an individual suffered severe burns and later death occurred, even if the doctor was negligent in some way, it can be difficult to prove that the patient’s fatality was a result of the provider’s actions and not a result of the burn injuries themselves.
Even if a provider’s negligence or misconduct “could” have resulted in injury, if the patient cannot prove that he or she suffered in some way, a claim is not valid. Injured individuals can file a claim for damages like mental anguish, physical injury, lost wages and additional medical expenses that result from a provider’s negligence or misconduct.
Making the Claim
Chicago laws govern how long patients may take to file a medical malpractice claim with the courts to seek compensation for their injuries. These laws are legally referred to as the statute of limitations. If patients do not file a claim within the time allotted by the Illinois statute of limitations, they may be forever barred from doing so, no matter how egregious the error or how valid the claim may be.
Illinois Medical Malpractice Statutes of Limitations
In Illinois, the statutes of limitations prohibits the filing of any lawsuit for a claim against a negligent medical professional after 2 years from the date that the injured party discovered, or when he or she should have reasonably discovered, his or her injury. The statute also begins to run if a party receives written notice that the injury or death has occurred. However, no matter when victims learn of their injuries, they have a maximum of only four years from the date of the actual injury in which to bring a claim.
Minors and those who are disabled have a somewhat modified statute of limitations that governs their claims for compensation after sustaining injuries from doctor errors. A minor patient has a total of eight years to file a claim, but may not do so after his or her 22nd birthday. For those with a legal disability such as mental illness or other qualifying mental conditions, the statute of limitations does not begin to run until the disability is removed. In many of these cases, because the disability is permanent, the statute of limitations never begins and claimants may file for compensation at any time.
Additional Laws Affecting Limitations
Limited exceptions to the statute of limitations are allowed. In cases where medical malpractice is actively concealed, thus preventing patients from learning about it, the statute of limitations is not applicable. The same is true for patients with retained foreign objects left inside them during surgery.
Illinois law is specific with its requirements for medical malpractice claims. Certain documents must be filed in order to stop the statute of limitations and begin the claims process.
Recovering Damages for Medical Malpractice
Medical malpractice lawsuits often involve birth injuries, surgical errors, medication mistakes, diagnostic errors, neglect, and other serious issues. In many cases, victims suffer extensive injuries that are permanent, disabling, or even deadly. As a result, victims and their families are faced with mounting medical bills, lost wages, and other costs.
When patients are injured due to the negligence or misconduct of medical providers, they may be entitled to receive financial compensation to cover these costs. When the conduct of the healthcare provider is particularly egregious, patients and their families may also be able to recover punitive damages as well.
A medical malpractice attorney may be able to help victims recover compensation for lost past and future wages, medical bills that result from the error, special equipment or household services that are required because of the mistake, pain, and suffering, loss of consortium and more.