Illinois medical malpractice: What you should know

Someone who suffers medical malpractice in Illinois should know his or her rights to holding the negligent party responsible for damages.

This year, the family of a young boy who suffered medical malpractice was awarded $30 million, which is Illinois' fourth largest payment in history when it comes to such negligence involving a child. According to the Chicago Tribune, a physician was accused of inappropriately using a device to try to repair the boy's esophagus. He had conducted a number of procedures on the child, the last of which left him with brain damage as well as cerebral palsy.

Whenever medical malpractice occurs, victims have the right to pursue compensation from the party responsible for damages. There are a number of laws and guidelines these claims must follow. Knowing them can help ensure a successful lawsuit.

What constitutes medical malpractice?

Physicians in Illinois are expected to provide care according to a certain standard. When they stray from that standard and cause someone an injury, further illness or death, it is considered to be medical malpractice. To determine the standard of care, courts will look to other medical professionals who provide the same services to the similar patients.

What are examples of medical malpractice?

Medical negligence comes in many forms. For example, many people may think that there must be an error in the actual treatment of a patient, such as making a mistake during surgery or administering the wrong medication. However, diagnostic errors can also be considered medical malpractice. A physician who fails to diagnose, misdiagnoses or even delays a diagnosis could be viewed as acting negligently.

Is there a deadline on these lawsuits?

Yes. Under Illinois law, someone who suffers as a result of medical negligence has up to two years from the date he or she discovers or should have discovered the injury to initiate the claim. There is also a statute of repose, which states that no one may bring a claim four years after the actual incident.

There is an exception for patients who are minors. Someone younger than 18 who experiences medical malpractice has as long as eight years to file a claim, provided that the lawsuit is initiated before the victim has turned 22.

How do I prove medical malpractice?

There are three main components that must be proven in every medical malpractice claim, and those are the following:

  • The patient was under the care of the defendant
  • The defendant strayed from the standard of care
  • The deviation led to the patient's injuries

Additionally, Illinois law requires that prior to filing the claim, the plaintiff must consult with a qualified health professional who can attest to the legitimacy of the lawsuit. The only exception is for when doing so would mean missing the statute of limitations deadline.

What damages are available?

Medical negligence claims can recover compensatory damages which seek to restore someone's quantifiable losses. That would include money spent on medication, hospital stays and further treatment. Non-compensatory damages address the physical pain and suffering and emotional turmoil that these events can cause.

These lawsuits require the assistance of a legal professional. Anyone who has questions about this issue should speak with a medical malpractice attorney in Illinois.