Suppose you have experienced an unforeseen complication or injury while under the care of a medical provider. You may wonder if you are the victim of medical negligence. When you see a doctor, you trust they will act in your interests and provide the highest quality care possible. When undergoing a procedure or getting treatment further threatens your health, it can be a painful, frustrating, and difficult experience.
If you are the victim of medical negligence, you may be eligible for compensation. However, it is not enough to suspect you have suffered injuries due to your doctor's actions or inaction. Instead, you must legally prove that negligence occurred.
What Is Medical Negligence?
The term negligence describes many situations in which a victim suffers harm because of another's recklessness or carelessness. Medical negligence is essentially the same concept; however, it takes place under the umbrella of the medical field.
Keep in mind that not all medical procedures and treatments will be successful. It is not possible for a doctor to always provide a positive outcome for their patients. However, a doctor must act professionally and abide by the duty of care they owe to their patients.
When patients seek medical care and advice, they entrust their lives to the provider, expecting them to provide quality care because of their education, professional standards, and expertise. If a doctor operates outside of the standards in their field and acts or fails to act in a way that causes harm to their patient, they may be medically negligent under the law.
Is Medical Negligence the Same as Medical Malpractice?
People often use the terms medical negligence and medical malpractice interchangeably. Although the purpose of either claim is to provide victims the opportunity to seek compensation for their losses, there is a difference between the terms and when they might apply. Understanding when a healthcare provider's actions constitute negligence or malpractice can help you have a more in-depth grasp of your case and what evidence can support your claim.
Defining Medical Negligence
Negligence in medicine is when a doctor, nurse, or other healthcare professional takes action leading to a patient's injury, or they fail to act when they should have to prevent an injury. Under the premise of a negligence case, the provider did not intend or know that what they were doing could cause harm, but their actions still resulted in preventable injuries.
Defining Medical Malpractice
Unlike a medical negligence matter where the intention of a provider was unintentional, in a medical malpractice case, the accusations against the provider are that they intended to act as they did. In a medical malpractice case, a medical professional knew what they were doing and knew the risks involved but acted or failed to take action when required and, in turn, caused a patient to suffer harm.
Establishing Medical Negligence in Your Case
There are legal requirements that a victim of medical negligence must meet when filing a suit or making a claim for damages due to the negligence of a medical provider. The law imposes a burden on the victim in a medical negligence matter to provide sufficient evidence to prove each element necessary to establish the existence of medical negligence.
The four elements of medical negligence are:
- A healthcare relationship between you and the party at fault is like the relationship between a doctor and patient, a nurse and patient, or a hospital or medical facility and the patient. Due to the relationship, the party owed you a duty of care based on the standards of their profession.
- The healthcare provider, whether through their actions or inaction, breached their medical duty of care to you.
- You suffered an actual injury and damages. Even if a provider acts blatantly negligent, but you do not suffer any injury, you cannot seek compensation. There must be grounds for you to pursue damages in a medical negligence case as proof of the harm and loss you sustained.
- There is a causal link between the provider's breach of their medical duty of care and the harm a victim suffered. You must show through the evidence and facts of the case that the medical negligence of the defendant caused your injuries.
Who Is Liable for Medical Negligence?
To establish negligence, you must identify the party or parties responsibly. Sometimes more than one party contributes to your injuries. Multiple people or institutions can be liable for your damages.
Sometimes, you may not be sure who to blame for your injuries. You only know that your injuries occurred and something along the way went wrong. For example, a medical malpractice attorney can evaluate and investigate your case to reveal all liable parties.
Liability in a medical negligence claim or lawsuit can include one or any combination of the following parties
- A doctor
- A nurse
- Another healthcare practitioner or support staff
- A group practice
- A hospital or other healthcare facility
- Manufacturers of pharmaceutical drugs
- Manufacturers of medical equipment or devices
Does Malpractice Insurance Cover Acts of Medical Negligence?
Most doctors and health care facilities carry some form of medical malpractice insurance in case of a dispute or injury to a patient due to negligence. Medical malpractice insurance in Illinois is optional, but many practitioners still choose to carry coverage to protect their businesses and finances. Although there is a difference in the terminology when applied to a doctor's actions as to whether it is negligence or malpractice, for an insurance claim, any injury claim due to a healthcare professional's actions or inaction can qualify for coverage, including medical negligence cases.
When you suffer an injury at the hands of a healthcare provider, your first option for recovery will likely be through a medical malpractice insurance claim. Malpractice insurance claims are complex and can be challenging to get the outcome you need, including fair payment for your losses. Hire a medical malpractice attorney to help guide you through the process to avoid mistakes or complications that could affect your outcome.
Will You Need to Sue for Compensation If You Are a Victim of Medical Negligence?
Although many healthcare providers carry medical malpractice insurance, some providers choose not to. Illinois does not demand that all providers carry medical malpractice insurance coverage. The consequence of this lack of regulation is that there are providers, facilities, and practices that choose not to carry any coverage in the event of a medical negligence claim. While this can be disheartening when you are the victim of a provider's negligence, it does not mean you are out of options to seek recovery for your losses.
When a provider or entity forgoes carrying malpractice insurance, they accept the risk that they may be liable for negligent harm personally. With the help of a medical malpractice attorney, you can discuss your options, such as filing a medical malpractice claim directly against the at-fault party to compensate for your damages in a negligence case.
There are also some instances where a malpractice insurer's settlement does not go as planned. For example, suppose an insurance company puts up a fight as to liability or disagrees with your monetary damages. In that case, filing legal action against the insurance company in court may become necessary. While most medical negligence cases resolve through settlement before trial, settlement is not possible or in the victim's best interest in some situations.
What Evidence Can Help Prove Medical Negligence?
To prove a healthcare provider's negligence caused your injuries, you must present evidence of what and when the negligent actions occurred. Furthermore, once you establish the negligent act or omission, you must prove your injuries and the subsequent effects of your injuries in your life. Collecting the strongest evidence available will build a solid malpractice insurance claim and malpractice lawsuit if necessary.
As the patient in a doctor and medical provider relationship, you may not have access to all the information available to a doctor and healthcare facility. Due to the nature of medical records and privacy concerns, accessing information that could help you prove a medical negligence case is challenging. However, a medical malpractice attorney with experience and a background in successfully dealing with medical negligence cases can help you preserve and acquire hard-to-get evidence to prove your damages and claims.
Examples of evidence used commonly in medical negligence cases include:
- Personal medical records
- Healthcare facility records and regulations
- Employment records
- Expert testimony by other healthcare providers
- Other expert testimony
- Witness statements or testimony
- Photos and videos of your injuries and recovery
- Your testimony
How Much Time Do You Have to Take Action After Suffering an Injury From Medical Negligence?
One of the most challenging aspects of a medical negligence case is that a victim may not realize they have suffered injuries for some time after the negligent act or omission occurs. Thankfully, the statute of limitations regarding medical negligence and malpractice cases considers this possibility.
In Illinois, you have two years from the date you discover an injury due to medical negligence to take legal action against the parties responsible. If you go beyond the statute of limitations to file a claim, the court can and will likely bar you from seeking compensation for your losses regardless of the evidence you have to prove your case.
This two-year period does not mean you should wait to act on your case. Determining the start of that two-year clock can be tricky and, in some instances, might be earlier than you believe it to be. Furthermore, it is wise to file an insurance claim and start the process immediately when evidence and memories are still fresh and relatively easy to access.
Should You Hire a Lawyer for Assistance With a Medical Negligence Case?
Doctors, healthcare facilities, and malpractice insurance companies have a team of attorneys to assist them when there is a potential negligence claim or suit against them. When you suffer an injury due to medical negligence, you are not just going up against the party at fault and the insurance company. You are also going up against their very experienced attorneys. Having someone experienced in your corner to stand up to these forces and represent your interests helps ensure you are not taken advantage of or overlooked.
Speak with a medical negligence attorney as soon as you suspect your injury or worsening condition resulted from your doctor's negligent actions. Time is of the essence when a malpractice claim or suit is possible. Physical evidence and testimony of witnesses may be at risk of tampering or disappearing. Therefore, get help from a qualified and knowledgeable medical malpractice attorney as soon as possible in your case.
Contact a medical negligence attorney near you for a free case consultation to discuss what options and compensation are available to you in your case. Speak with a member of our team to determine what the next step is in your case.