After you have suffered injuries or losses due to medical malpractice, you may struggle with what comes next. Seeking compensation for your injuries through a medical malpractice lawsuit can make it easier for you to cover the cost of medical treatment and manage the financial losses that may accompany your injuries.
Just what does a medical malpractice lawsuit look like?
The Statute of Limitations in Illinois Medical Malpractice Claims
To file a medical malpractice claim in Illinois, you must file the complaint and begin your claim before the statute of limitations runs out. Illinois law offers two instructions regarding the statute of limitations in medical malpractice.
First, you have two years after discovering that you have suffered medical malpractice to file a claim. For example, suppose you notice a doctor failed to diagnose your condition properly, although you showed clear symptoms and laid them out for your doctor. In that case, you may have the right to file a claim up to two years after receiving a proper diagnosis.
Second, you must file your claim within four years of the medical malpractice event occurring. In some cases, it may take years for you to show substantial symptoms related to the medical malpractice. In Illinois, if you discover that act of malpractice more than four years after it occurred, you will not have the right to file a claim.
However, several exceptions can extend the statute of limitations on your claim. For example, if you suffered medical malpractice as a minor, you might have the right to file a claim after you turn 18. Talk to a lawyer to discuss the type of malpractice you suffered, when you discovered it, and how long you may have to move forward with your claim.
Contacting a Lawyer
If you need to file a medical malpractice claim in Illinois, you should start by contacting a lawyer specializing in those injuries. Filing a medical malpractice claim can quickly turn very complex. Having a lawyer on your side can help you better understand what caused the accident, provide support through the legal process, and help you take all steps necessary to secure your right to compensation. Keep in mind that a medical malpractice claim can be difficult to establish, so having a lawyer's support on your side can be essential to your claim.
Your lawyer will want to fully investigate your claim and all the details of the supposed medical malpractice to ensure that you have all the evidence necessary to create a comprehensive medical malpractice claim that includes all the details and losses.
Your Past Medical Records
You will need to establish several key things to file a medical malpractice lawsuit, and your past medical records will hold a great deal of that information.
Your lawyer may want to go over your medical records to show:
- Your doctor/patient relationship with the provider against whom you intend to file a medical malpractice claim. Without that relationship, you cannot file a claim against a care provider in Illinois.
- The symptoms you showed or noted at the time of treatment. Your lawyer may want to look at your doctor's notes about your care and any test results or scans that you had done, which may clearly note the challenges you faced and the treatment you may have needed.
- The treatment you received at the time. In some cases, your medical records may clearly show that you received the wrong treatment for your injuries. In other cases, those records may indicate a lack of treatment, despite the symptoms you displayed.
Your past medical records can offer a wealth of information that may make it much easier for you to establish what act of negligence the doctor committed during your treatment. Your lawyer may want to carefully examine those records and use them to piece together your right to a medical malpractice claim.
Your Current Medical Records
Your current medical records may also offer essential insights.
Depending on what type of malpractice you suffered and what type of treatment you may have needed, your medical records can offer several key facts about the progression of your symptoms or the type of treatment you may need following an act of malpractice.
- The diagnosis you received after pursuing treatment from a new medical care provider. Often, that diagnosis will serve to answer many key questions or show why you have continued to struggle with symptoms despite pursuing treatment in the past.
- The treatment you have received for that diagnosis. A look at the treatment you have received may also help lay out the additional medical bills you may have faced as a direct result of the malpractice you suffered in the past.
- Any limitations you may face because of the malpractice incident. Often, malpractice can result in ongoing medical needs or may permanently prevent you from engaging in many of the activities you enjoyed before the incident.
- Any evidence from current scans, which may show the extent of the injuries you have to deal with because of the act of malpractice.
Your lawyer may also want to take a statement from your current medical care provider.
The Doctor's History
As part of the investigation process, your lawyer will generally want to look at the doctor's history to get a better feel for what other patients who have used that doctor in the past may have suffered. A doctor with a strong history of past negligence may have greater odds of committing an act of negligence again. Furthermore, a doctor who has had many similar complaints should have known better by the time you received care but may have acted negligently anyway.
Your lawyer may want to look at:
- Whether past patients have filed complaints against the care provider.
- What types of complaints they filed.
- What results came of those complaints.
Even if medical malpractice complaints against a hospital or care provider got thrown out in the past, you may still have the right to pursue compensation in the future. You have your own unique evidence. Also, working with an experienced lawyer can make a big difference in your ability to pursue compensation for your injuries.
As part of an Illinois medical malpractice investigation and claim, your lawyer must bring in a medical expert to examine your case. That medical care professional must have knowledge of that specific medical field or the issues related to the case.
The medical expert must also have a current interest in medicine and that field: That expert must have practiced or taught medicine in the last six years. Furthermore, your lawyer will need to choose an experienced, competent witness who can speak clearly and knowledgeably about the type of medical treatment you should have received.
That expert will need to sign an affidavit indicating that you, as the plaintiff, have evidence showing that you have grounds to file a lawsuit. In effect, the medical expert will need to indicate that you have sustained injury due to the care provider's negligence. The medical expert's evaluation will establish that the doctor that treated you deviated from the standard course of care you should have received based on the symptoms you presented and the care another medical professional, under similar circumstances, would have offered.
That expert evaluation can make or break your medical malpractice claim. In some cases, finding a currently-practicing doctor or medical expert who will testify in a medical malpractice claim can prove very difficult. However, medical malpractice lawyers will often work with a team of experts to help provide that essential testimony when needed.
Reviewing Your Losses
In addition to looking at all of the evidence related to your case, your medical malpractice lawyer will want to review the losses you may have sustained as part of your injuries. A medical malpractice claim generally includes compensation for the full losses you have sustained due to your injuries.
That may include a look at:
- Any additional medical bills you may have faced directly from the medical malpractice.
- Any wages you lost because of medical malpractice. In many cases, you may need to show proof of time off work and the wage losses that went along with that missing time.
- Your suffering. Suffering can vary substantially, even if you suffered injuries similar to another party. Talk to your lawyer about the specific losses you have had to deal with so that you can put together a comprehensive claim that includes all the challenges you may have faced due to that medical malpractice.
Your lawyer can help you review all the losses you can include as part of your injury claim.
Filing Your Claim
Once you have collected all evidence related to your medical malpractice claim and gone over the losses you sustained, your lawyer will put together a complaint against the medical care provider who committed that malpractice against you. Your lawyer may also submit a claim to the Illinois Medical Disciplinary Board, which may review the doctor's conduct and determine whether the board needs to take further disciplinary action against the medical care provider.
Once you have filed your claim, your lawyer will generally deal with the doctor's medical malpractice insurance. The insurance company will want to conduct its own investigation into the incident. The doctor may also have a chance to respond, presenting his evidence and justification against your claim.
Once the doctor's medical malpractice insurance has had a chance to review the claim, you will often receive a settlement offer or, in some cases, a denial of liability. Your lawyer can then provide vital advice on your options to proceed.
Negotiating for Further Compensation
If you receive a settlement offer, it may not reflect the full damages you sustained in the accident. Furthermore, you may want to carefully consider how much compensation you need. Illinois does not set caps on medical malpractice claims, which means you can pursue compensation for the actual damages you sustained in the accident. Your lawyer can help you determine how much compensation you should fight for, including when you may want to accept a settlement.
Going to Court
In some cases, you may end up having to go to court over your medical malpractice claim. A medical malpractice claim may have higher odds of ending up in court than other types of claims because of the volume of evidence necessary to establish medical malpractice and the compensation you may deserve.
If you have to go to court, your lawyer will present your case, and the doctor and his insurance company will have the chance to respond. The court will hear the arguments, then deliberate and arrive at a settlement amount.
Generally, once the court awards a settlement amount, it will conclude your claim: you may no longer have the need or the right to pursue further compensation. While the medical malpractice insurer can dispute the claim, the court case will end the claim in most cases.
Contact a Medical Malpractice Lawyer for Help With Your Claim
If you suffered medical malpractice injuries, a lawyer can help you learn more about your next steps, including how to protect your right to compensation. Contact an experienced medical malpractice lawyer as soon after you discover malpractice as possible to receive the support you need and give your claim the best odds of success.