People in the U.S. place much trust in their doctors and medical providers, seeking diagnoses and treatment of concerning symptoms, trying new treatment methods to obtain better results, and agreeing to procedures that are designed to improve their health or even save their life. While that trust is often well-placed, the healthcare industry is riddled with mistakes that could cause harm to a patient.
When medical errors result in the injury or death of a patient, the patient (or their family members in the case of death) can seek compensation through the Illinois medical malpractice claims process. Medical malpractice is a type of personal injury claim first filed against the at-fault provider's medical malpractice policy.
Suppose the insurance company carrying that policy fails to compensate the claim. In that case, you can file a medical malpractice lawsuit so that a civil court judge or jury can determine liability and compensation. During this process, the claimant must prove that medical negligence occurred and resulted in injury or death. Here is a more comprehensive look at medical malpractice in Chicago and how medical negligence is proven.
What Makes a Victim of Medical Negligence Eligible to File a Claim?
According to a study performed by Johns Hopkins, around 10 percent of all deaths in the U.S. result from a medical error. This equates to approximately 251,000 deaths yearly, far above previously reported calculations. The problem with determining how many deaths are due to medical negligence is partly due to the medical billing codes designed to bill a patient for a healthcare provider's services, not to inform researchers of national health statistics. Because there is no medical error code, it is impossible to determine in many cases if that was a factor in the death.
A survey from the National Patient Safety Foundation and Healthcare Improvement found that while adults across America have primarily positive feelings about the care they receive from their providers, one in five reports having been the victim of medical negligence, and nearly a third state they have known someone who experienced a medical error.
However, despite these numbers, it is essential to note that medical negligence, medical malpractice, and a bad outcome to a medical procedure are not the same.
- Medical negligence involves a deviation from the accepted standard of care.
- Medical malpractice is a medical error or medical negligence resulting in a patient's injury or death.
- A bad outcome is a less-than-desirable result of a procedure due to known or unknown risks or complications.
An individual can suffer a bad outcome due to medical negligence, which can lead to a medical malpractice claim. A bad outcome can occur even when the provider delivers the procedure to the patient flawlessly. Medical malpractice can only be claimed if medical negligence has occurred. However, medical negligence and bad outcomes only result in medical malpractice if an injury or death is involved.
How Medical Negligence Is Proven
Medical negligence involves actions or inactions that deviate from the standard of care, including errors of all types, such as those made in: diagnosing the patient, administering or prescribing medication, performing surgery, monitoring the patient during treatment, providing them with adequate home-care instructions, conducting a follow-up visit to determine whether the treatment provided has been effective, and obtaining informed consent for treatment.
The foundation of every successful resolution to a medical malpractice claim is the ability of the claimant to prove that their injury occurred due to a health care provider's negligence.
The Elements of Medical Negligence
Three elements must be proven in a medical malpractice claim for an individual to recover compensation for the expenses and impacts they incurred due to a provider's error.
- The provider owed a professional duty to the patient. More than three years after pop star Prince died in Minneapolis from an accidental fentanyl overdose, courts dismissed a medical negligence claim filed against a California addiction specialist for lack of a doctor-patient relationship between the specialist and the star. Prince's associates had merely contacted the specialist for advice in the weeks before his death. The judge, in that case, found that the specialist was never in direct communication with Prince. To prove medical negligence, you must show that the patient hired the doctor and agreed to accept services from the doctor.
- The provider failed to deliver the standard of care. This means that the provider's actions deviated from those that a reasonable doctor would make with the same credentials in the same circumstances.
- The provider's negligence in delivering the standard of care harmed the patient and caused them to incur expenses and impacts.
The Work of an Experienced Medical Malpractice Lawyer
All personal injury claims are complex, involving court requirements, a knowledge of the law, an understanding of insurance companies and how they operate, and the ability to determine the value of a claim based on several factors beyond simply the out-of-pocket medical expenses incurred by the claimant.
Medical malpractice claims—which fall under personal injury law—are incredibly complex. They have variable statutes of limitations. This can be exceedingly pressing when you factor in the varying circumstances of the medical negligence that occurred, the requirement that a medical professional review the claim before a lawsuit was filed, and the simple fact that gathering evidence of an error from the person or entity who made the error is complex.
Having an experienced medical malpractice attorney to assist you as you navigate the process is crucial to the success of your claim. They not only understand the type of evidence needed to prove medical malpractice, but the individuals or entities that this information must be proven to, including the claims adjuster from the at-fault provider's insurance company, the medical professional who will determine whether the claim has merit, and potentially even a judge or a jury.
The Expertise of Another Medical Professional
In Illinois, medical malpractice claimants must submit an affidavit of merit when they file their medical malpractice lawsuit in court. This affidavit states that the claimant (or their attorney) has consulted with a medical professional who practices or teaches in the medical practice area pertinent to the claim and found the claim to have merit. The medical professional must have the same class of license as the defendant and must submit a report of their findings to be included with the affidavit and the claim.
Other Types of Evidence Used to Prove Medical Negligence
Evidence that can prove medical negligence includes:
- The patient's medical reports and reports from the hospital.
- Expert or eyewitness testimony.
- The health care facility's policies and regulations.
- Video evidence.
- Copies of incorrect prescriptions or treatment notes that show a wrong diagnosis.
- The results of laboratory or imaging tests.
- Video evidence that shows who participated in a surgical procedure or provided care to the patient.
- Evidence that speaks for itself, such as surgical sponges or tools removed from a body cavity.
What Else Do You Need to Do to Win a Medical Negligence Case in Chicago?
Medical malpractice claims are among the most challenging type of personal injury cases. Reforms meant to protect health care providers from being victimized by frivolous claims have resulted in a process in which only a fraction of the people eligible to seek compensation through a medical malpractice claim ever file a claim, and an even smaller amount successfully obtain compensation for the financial and emotional costs of their injury.
One of the most important things that need to be done to ensure your right to compensation after you have suffered an injury due to medical negligence is to ensure that the claim is filed before the statute of limitations expires. This is yet another challenging aspect of the process, as the time you have to file your claim depends on whether you are filing a claim for yourself, for a child, for an injury you incurred as a child that you are claiming as an adult, and how quickly you discovered your injury after a medical error occurred.
Failing to file a lawsuit before the statute of limitations expires will usually result in losing your right to use the court process when seeking compensation. You likely cannot obtain a settlement without the ability to sue the defendant in court if the insurance company fails to pay. Managing the timeline of your claim to preserve your right to sue is one of the many services an experienced medical malpractice lawyer can provide for you.
If medical negligence caused you to become injured, contact a personal injury attorney to learn more about the medical malpractice claims process.