When you go to the doctor in Chicago, whether for a standard checkup or a surgical procedure, you trust that the medical facility and staff will provide you with safe, reliable care. Unfortunately, that's not always the care you get because of medical errors.
A medical error can take a heavy physical, mental, and financial toll on your life. According to a recent study by Johns Hopkins Medicine, medical errors recently surpassed respiratory disease as the third leading cause of death in the United States. Experts believe that more than 250,000 individuals die from medical mistakes each year, 9.5 percent of annual deaths in the U.S.
If you or a loved one has been injured or sickened due to a medical error, you may have the right to seek compensation for the harm and losses you suffered. Regardless of the severity of your injury or illness, you should not have to pay for your healthcare provider's mistakes. A medical malpractice attorney can help you determine whether you are eligible for compensation.
What is a Medical Error?
A medical error is a preventable mistake by a healthcare provider or organization that hurts a patient's health and wellbeing. Although the effects of a medical error vary in severity, even seemingly minor errors can have negative consequences. For example, a misdiagnosis can worsen symptoms and increase medical costs and mental anguish.
Common Medical Errors
Although many Chicago hospitals are known for their high-quality care, medical errors can occur anywhere at any time. Errors arise in various circumstances and conditions, from misdiagnosed illnesses to incorrect medication prescriptions.
Some of the most common medical errors in Chicago medical facilities include:
- Surgical Errors: Surgical errors are medical mistakes made from initial consultation through surgical follow-up. These errors may include conducting surgery at the wrong site or for the wrong patient, leaving an object in the patient's body, or administering anesthesia incorrectly.
- Failure to Inform: A doctor must inform the patient of any potential risks before surgery or other procedures, and the patient must sign a consent form. If the patient does not receive adequate disclosure of the risks and later falls victim to a known surgery risk, they may sue for damages.
- Anesthesia Errors: If an anesthesiologist does not conduct adequate background research into the patient's allergies, physical condition, or medications, the patient may have a dangerous reaction to anesthesia. In addition, the anesthesiologist is responsible for administering the right amount of anesthetic at the right time to ensure that the patient's condition remains stable during the procedure.
- Misdiagnosis: Doctors who misdiagnose or fail to diagnose an illness or condition can delay patient treatment by treating patients with incorrect drugs or even conducting unnecessary surgery. Often, misdiagnosis occurs when a doctor does not conduct appropriate diagnostic tests or procedures. In rare but not unheard-of instances, doctors may even misdiagnose a patient on purpose to make more money from a procedure.
- Hospital-Acquired Infection: Invasive medical procedures always carry a risk of infection. Sometimes, however, infections occur due to poor practices or negligence by the medical practitioner or hospital, leading to a life-threatening condition known as sepsis.
- Early Discharge: Busy, understaffed hospitals may discharge patients before they are in a position to properly care for themselves. In some cases, the patient may suffer harmful complications that remaining in the hospital for a sufficient time could have prevented.
- Inadequate Follow-Up: Patients who undergo surgery or diagnostic testing should receive follow-up care to ensure that the procedure or treatment they receive worked. Staff should monitor surgical patients so they heal properly and resolve their underlying conditions.
- Medication Errors: Medical treatment often requires doctors to prescribe medication for both acute and long-term conditions. A medical provider who prescribes incorrect medication or administers the wrong dosage places the patient's health and safety at risk of significant health issues or even death.
If you encountered any of these or other negative health outcomes while under the treatment of a Chicago hospital, you may have the right to seek financial compensation for the harm you've suffered. A medical negligence attorney with experience handling Chicago medical malpractice cases can assist you with exploring your rights and options.
What to Do if You Believe You Are the Victim of a Medical Error
If you believe that a medical error harmed you or a loved one, the steps you take can affect your rights. Here are some suggestions to put yourself in the strongest position to obtain financial compensation.
Contact a Chicago Medical Malpractice Attorney
Do not wait to contact an attorney to discuss whether you have a potential medical malpractice claim. An attorney can also give you useful guidance about decisions you may need to make about your care, insurance coverages, and finances.
You do not have any time to lose. Illinois law permits individuals to file medical malpractice claims up to two years after the error, in most cases. Although this may seem like plenty of time, your attorney will need time to obtain evidence and file your claim. Since you may not know about the error until well after it occurred, the attorney may need to act quickly to preserve your legal rights.
Obtain Your Medical Records
As soon as you suspect a medical error, request a copy of your medical files from your provider. You have an absolute legal right to this information. Do not accuse the doctor of making an error or discuss your intention to sue, as this can delay your access to your records and, in the worst case, lead the provider to alter them in its favor.
Beware of Insurance Investigators
The insurance company representing the medical provider may attempt to limit their financial liability for a medical error by looking for reasons to undermine your rights. To that end, an insurance investigator may contact you asking for an interview. Even if the investigator seems compassionate, keep in mind that the insurer does not have your best interests at heart.
The best practice in most cases is to decline to make any statement to the insurance company or any other representative of the medical provider without first having consulted with your attorney. Never agree to a recorded statement, and never sign any documents the insurer sends you. If you end up speaking with the insurance investigator, it is safest to do so only with the participation of your lawyer.
Consider Seeking Treatment from a New Provider
A medical error can destroy the trust you placed in your healthcare provider. Rather than continuing in that provider's care, you may want to seek treatment from someone else. Consult with your medical error attorney about finding a new doctor or practitioner. Often, an attorney can recommend a provider who can also serve as an expert witness in your case.
What Is Medical Malpractice?
Medical malpractice is the basis for lawsuits against a medical care provider who injures a patient through negligence or irresponsible behavior. In a medical malpractice case, your lawyer must prove that the medical practitioner's actions violated a standard of care and that those actions harmed you. To do this, your attorney usually compiles evidence—often including your medical records and medical expert testimony—to establish that the error occurred, and the monetary value of the harm you suffered.
Partner with a Chicago medical malpractice attorney who has worked on a wide range of medical malpractice cases. That attorney will have a deep understanding of medical procedures and the standards of care that healthcare providers must meet. They should also have years of experience proving medical malpractice cases in and out of court.
Damages You Can Claim for a Medical Error in Chicago
In most Chicago medical error cases, you can seek financial compensation for the full range of losses you suffered from a medical error, including:
- Current and future medical expenses
- Long-term medical treatment, medication, and medical equipment
- Loss of income
- Reduced income potential
- Reduced quality of life
- Pain and suffering
- Mental and emotional anguish
- Wrongful death
A medical malpractice attorney can analyze your case and determine the total value of your economic losses, such as income and medical bills, as well as non-economic damages such as mental anguish and pain and suffering. In the tragic event that a Chicago medical error results in the death of your loved one, you may have the right to file a wrongful death lawsuit against the medical practitioner or organization at fault.
Why You Need a Skilled Chicago Medical Malpractice Attorney for Your Medical Error Case
A medical provider's mistake can all too easily lead to significant physical, emotional, and financial losses. This puts you in a potentially vulnerable position. A medical malpractice attorney will protect your rights and interests and ensure you receive the maximum financial compensation the law allows.
As you recover from the harm caused by a medical error, you may feel tempted to take the first settlement offer that comes your way from a medical provider or its malpractice insurance company. Remember, however, that the provider and insurance company will attempt to minimize the amount they must pay you. You can count on any settlement offer they make to you directly falling far short of the amount they can, and should, pay as compensation for your injuries and losses.
A medical malpractice attorney works to protect your right to fair compensation for all the losses you sustained due to the medical error. The attorney can negotiate with insurance companies for you after collecting evidence establishing the true monetary value for your losses. If the at-fault provider and insurance company refuse to pay a fair settlement, the attorney can take your case to court and seek a ruling from a judge and jury granting you the money you deserve.
As an added benefit, with a medical malpractice attorney on your side, the burden of fighting for your legal rights gets taken off your shoulders, leaving you the time and space you need to focus on healing and rebuilding. Your attorney can examine how a medical error has impacted your income and wellbeing and seek appropriate compensation to ensure that the outcome of your case takes care of your present and future needs.
You Need Someone on Your Side
In many Chicago medical error cases, the medical practitioner, their legal counsel, or their insurance company will use various tactics to avoid their legal and financial responsibility for the harm you have suffered.
As discussed, they may offer you a lowball settlement that does not cover your losses, and then pressure you to agree to a settlement before you have time to consider the long-term consequences. Or, they may attempt to discredit your claim by using your statements, actions, or even social media posts, against you.
An experienced Chicago medical malpractice attorney is familiar with these tactics. By acting as your representatives and handling settlement negotiations for you, a lawyer keeps you from making mistakes that could harm your claim and future. With a lawyer on your side, you have someone who can stand up for your rights and make sure you receive fair treatment and compensation.
To learn more about whether you have a medical error case to make against a Chicago medical provider, contact an experienced Chicago medical malpractice lawyer today for a free, confidential case evaluation.