When you go to the hospital, you assume that the hospital will competently treat your injuries or illnesses.
Unfortunately, you may encounter medical malpractice.
- You might develop bedsores from a nurse who failed to move you appropriately.
- You might suffer from a serious error in surgery or patient care.
- A medication error might lead to severe consequences.
What should you do if you need to sue the hospital for medical malpractice, and how should you manage your next steps?
Step One: Collect evidence of the hospital’s negligence.
You may have clear evidence of the hospital’s negligence. For example, if a doctor injured you in surgery, you might have scans and records showing that the doctor negligently operated on the wrong body part or that the surgeon left something in your body.
Other times, you may struggle to show how the negligence took place. For example, if you do not have a record of a medication error, it is difficult to prove that a nurse gave you the wrong dose of medication.
Collect any evidence you find of the hospital’s errors in treatment. You may need to access a copy of your medical records or provide copies of scans and tests to establish what happened. If you have apparent injuries, including bedsores or slip and fall injuries, take photos of your injuries and date them to evidence when they occurred.
Further document any instances of malpractice that you note during your care. Clear documentation, including dates, times, and the individuals who committed acts of negligence, helps establish what challenges you faced and how the hospital failed in its duty to care for you.
Step Two: Contact a medical malpractice lawyer as soon as possible.
If you suspect medical malpractice, having a medical malpractice lawyer on your side is critical. Medical malpractice claims often involve more complex issues than other personal injury claims. Without a lawyer, you will struggle to determine the compensation you deserve and how to pursue it.
A lawyer can help with the next steps in your medical malpractice claim.
Do you have grounds for a medical malpractice claim?
During your early conversations with a medical malpractice lawyer, you will discuss if you have grounds for a medical malpractice claim. Your lawyer will look carefully at the vital elements of medical malpractice to determine if they apply to your specific case.
1. Did you have a caregiver/patient relationship with the party that committed the act of medical malpractice against you?
You may file a medical malpractice claim against the hospital for several reasons. Often, you must file a lawsuit for negligence during your care against a doctor directly employed by the hospital or a doctor that you reasonably believed the hospital employed. To claim malpractice by a doctor, you must establish that you had a doctor/patient relationship with that provider.
Sometimes, several doctors may consult on your care. You may interact with several doctors other than your own during your treatment, including passing interactions. If you do not have a doctor/patient relationship with these care providers, you cannot file a medical malpractice claim against them.
In other cases, the hospital’s negligence or a hospital staff member’s negligence may cause you serious injury. For example, you might suffer bedsores because a nurse fails to help you regularly reposition while recovering from injuries that keep you confined to bed, or a nurse might commit a serious medication error. In these cases, you must show your caregiver/patient relationship status by establishing your status as a patient in that hospital.
2. Did your doctor or caregiver deviate from the expected standard of treatment?
In a hospital, your condition may deteriorate, or you may experience medical challenges, despite the efforts of your providers to give the highest standard of care.
Suppose you enter the hospital with serious medical complaints and receive a misdiagnosis. If your doctor diagnosed you based on your presenting symptoms, and another care provider in similar circumstances would give you the same diagnosis based on the same symptoms, you may not have grounds for a medical malpractice claim because the doctor provided the expected standard of care. Likewise, if you developed bedsores as a result of thin skin or a condition that impacts your skin, not because your nursing team failed to provide prompt treatment and assistance, you might not have grounds for a claim.
A lawyer can work with you to identify the expected standard of care in specific cases. Often, this process involves a medical expert, frequently a doctor or former doctor, who determines the appropriate standard of care under similar circumstances and shows how the hospital deviated from that standard of care in your case.
3. Did you suffer damages from the negligence?
Even if your doctor did not exercise the proper standard of care, if this failure did not impact your health or damage you, you may not have grounds to file a medical malpractice claim. Your damages indicate the compensation you can recover as part of your claim. If you do not suffer any damages, including financial and physical damages, you may not have grounds for a lawsuit.
Along with your lawyer, a doctor can review your medical records, the treatments you received, and the costs you faced from medical malpractice to identify the compensation you might recover.
Do you need a medical expert to testify about your standard of care?
In most medical malpractice cases, you will need to work with a medical expert to identify the required standard of care for your circumstance. Finding a medical expert to testify on your behalf can be difficult, especially when the standard of care varies depending on the severity of your condition or the location where you received treatment. Furthermore, some doctors will not testify against others in their profession.
Many lawyers have professional relationships with medical experts who can testify on the care you received and the expected standard of care in similar circumstances. Often, these medical experts can explain the appropriate standard of care for your specific ailment and make it easier to establish grounds for your medical malpractice claim.
Step Three: Take your claim to a medical malpractice review board.
You may need to report a health care complaint to the Illinois Department of Public Health to start an investigation into your medical malpractice claim. While an initial complaint requires basic evidence, including where the act of negligence occurred, who committed the act of negligence, and information about the patient who suffered negligence, a lawyer can compile a compelling claim to establish what happened.
An Illinois Department of Public Health review can provide evidence of medical malpractice, including information about the hospital’s risky practices.
A medical malpractice review board may need to review your claim before you can file a formal lawsuit against the hospital. The medical malpractice review board may review your injuries and damages to determine if the hospital committed negligence. A review board cannot issue a court award or determine the outcome of your claim, but it can indicate if you have grounds to file a lawsuit. A lawyer can help assemble your claim and the evidence you need to establish medical malpractice.
Step Four: File a claim against the hospital’s medical malpractice insurance.
Once you gather your evidence of malpractice and determine that you can file a medical malpractice claim, you can file a lawsuit against the hospital. Usually, your claim will go through the hospital’s medical malpractice insurance. In this scenario, the hospital will not pay compensation for your claim directly, but it will refer you to its medical malpractice insurance provider to seek the compensation you deserve for your injuries.
A lawyer can compile a compelling claim, demonstrating how the hospital’s or provider’s negligence directly resulted in your damages. Your claim will include:
1. Evidence of malpractice
Evidence regarding the act of malpractice depends on what evidence you have. It may include your medical records, information about your injuries and resulting damages, and/or expert witness reports regarding the required standard of care you deserved and the actual standard of care you received.
2. A breakdown of your damages and appropriate compensation
Medical malpractice claims will include a clear list of the compensation you expect to receive from the hospital’s medical malpractice insurance, including all financial and non-financial losses you sustained from your injuries. Your attorney will work with you to break down the losses you sustained because of the care provider’s negligent actions.
Your claim will likely include:
- Compensation for any medical bills stemming from the hospital’s negligence. Was your hospital stay extended because of the hospital’s malpractice? Did you undergo additional procedures? Did you pursue treatment from another provider because of the first hospital’s mistakes?
- Compensation for the income you lost because of additional injury suffered from malpractice. Your lawyer will quantify the time you missed work, including time missed for follow-up healthcare appointments. If the act of malpractice permanently prevented you from working, a lawyer can help you include lost earning potential as part of your claim.
- Compensation for your suffering from the act of malpractice. Did the doctor’s negligent actions cause you to suffer more physical pain? Did the malpractice drag out your recovery, increasing your emotional anguish? Did you experience PTSD or anxiety as a result of the malpractice? An attorney can help you determine how to include these damages in your claim.
Medical malpractice claims are complicated, especially if you have a complex medical condition. A lawyer can help you move forward by collecting the evidence you need and creating a compelling claim to get the compensation you deserve. Contact an attorney now to learn more about your rights and ensure that you file your claim before the statute of limitations expires.