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What Is Medical Malpractice?
Healthcare providers are required to abide by established standards of care in the way they perform their work. Malpractice occurs when doctors, nurses, and others fail to do so.
There’s a common misconception that medical malpractice includes any mistake a physician may make. However, the law does not expect healthcare practitioners to be perfect. They’re human, and errors can occur. And, of course, they cannot cure every disease or fix every injury. Malpractice takes place when the professional’s errors or omissions are unreasonable in light of the circumstances.
Doctors and nurses aren’t the only ones who can be held liable for medical malpractice. Physical therapists, dentists, eye doctors, hospitals, clinics, and many other individuals and institutions in the medical profession can commit malpractice. Like any other negligence case, a malpractice lawsuit is fact-specific and will require thoroughly examining what the professional did (or didn’t do).
Elements Of A Medical Malpractice Lawsuit
Proving a medical malpractice case in Illinois generally requires that the plaintiff show the following:
- Duty of care. The injured patient has to first show that the healthcare provider owed him or her a duty of care. This means that the doctor, nurse, or other individual was required to provide the patient with a certain level of professional care. Usually this is shown by demonstrating the existence of a doctor-patient relationship, since healthcare providers are expected to care for patients as a matter of practice.
- Breach. The next thing that has to be shown is that the medical professional breached the duty of care. In medical malpractice cases, this usually means the provider acted negligently. Negligence can be shown by what the provider did or did not do in the course of caring for the patient. The parties will likely dispute this more than any other element.
- Causation. Next, the breach must have actually caused injury to the patient. That means establishing a connection between the error or omission and whatever harm the patient suffered. If the provider’s misconduct didn’t actually injure the patient, the malpractice case falls apart.
- Damages. Finally, due to the injuries the plaintiff experienced, he or she suffered losses. These are also known as damages, and include costs that the plaintiff incurs due to the defendant’s actions. Defendants contest this element as well, and often oppose the amount claimed by the injured patient.
What Damages May Be Available?
The damages calculation is one of the most important parts of a medical malpractice lawsuit. If you don’t get them right before you settle the case or it goes to trial, you won’t get another chance to ask for them. For instance, a patient may need ongoing medical treatment to undo the harm done by a negligent doctor. If the case is settled and these costs end up being much more than anticipated, the patient will have already waived his or her right to ask for more money. Expert witnesses, who are individuals with specialized knowledge about complex subjects (including those involving medicine and healthcare), are usually called upon to come up with a reasonable amount of damages to demand from the at-fault party.
Depending on the circumstances in your case, you could be eligible for these and other damages:
- Medical bills. The malpractice may have done actual harm to your health, in addition to whatever the underlying problem was that should have been treated. Or, because of the negligence, perhaps the underlying issue wasn’t addressed at all. This category could cover everything from hospitalization to prescription medications and much more.
- Lost wages. If you have to see another doctor to correct the mistakes of the first one, you will likely lose time away from work. In severe cases, a patient may end up in the hospital. Either way, you could miss out on significant income.
- Lost earning capacity. There are malpractice cases in which victims suffer serious, often permanent injuries. These could cut short a promising career or prevent you from earning as much as you otherwise would have. Calculating the lost future earnings you’ll miss out on requires input from an expert witness.
- Pain and suffering. Medical malpractice cases tend to cause physical pain and emotional trauma. Illinois law allows patients to demand pain and suffering damages to compensate them for this loss. These are also not easy to determine, so an expert may assist with calculating their monetary value.
How Long Do I Have To File My Case?
Illinois law requires injured patients to bring medical malpractice cases within two years of the negligent act or omission, or within two years of when the patient reasonably should have known it occurred. In no event can you bring a case more than four years after the injury. But it’s advisable to take action as soon as possible so evidence is not lost and details are not forgotten. We can help.
Hale & Monico Is Ready To Fight For You
Our medical malpractice attorneys understand not only the complexities of the civil litigation system, but what it takes to put together a compelling case. We have a network of trusted expert witnesses to help establish the defendant’s liability, and we know how to properly value your case.
No one should have to worry that they will be injured by a negligent healthcare provider. If you’re ready to get started on your case, call Hale & Monico today or fill out our contact form.