There are dozens of medical facilities in Chicago, offering more than one-third of the hospital beds available in Illinois and attracting patients from around the world to come to the area to seek medical care. Unfortunately, medical errors occur in any type of health care setting, including those in Chicago. When a medical mistake results in an injury or death to a patient, it can lead to a medical malpractice claim.
Medical malpractice falls under the vast umbrella of personal injury law. It involves first filing a claim against the health care provider's medical malpractice insurance policy to seek compensation for the expenses and impacts of the injury or loss resulting from the error.
Suppose the insurer fails to either pay the claim's value outright or negotiate a settlement agreement in which the claimant is compensated for the injury. In that case, the claim can be filed as a medical malpractice lawsuit.
A judge or jury would determine whether the provider was liable and how much compensation the claimant would be entitled to receive. As with other personal injury claims, most medical malpractice claims are resolved through settlement.
What Is the Average Medical Malpractice Settlement in Chicago?
Research in recent years has found that medical errors are one of the leading causes of death in the U.S., with about 250,000 deaths yearly resulting from a health care provider's mistake. The number of injuries resulting from medical errors is undoubtedly even higher.
Illinois has one of the highest average settlements for malpractice claims in the U.S., with claimants receiving an average settlement of more than $714,000. This amount is second only to the average amount received by claimants in Maine. A 10-year study revealed that medical malpractice claims across Illinois paid more than $180 million. The majority of those claims arose from incidents involving one of two publicly funded health systems in the Chicago area, including the U of I and Cook County.
Does This Mean Your Claim Will Receive a Settlement Offer of $714,000?
The problem with discussing average settlements in any type of personal injury claim, especially in medical malpractice claims, is that many unique factors are involved in a settlement.
Here is a look at some of those factors and how they impact the claim's value.
- The at-fault provider's insurance policy. Illinois does not require health care providers to have medical malpractice insurance to practice medicine in the state. However, most hospitals have medical malpractice policies that cover errors made by their employees and require the doctors who serve their patients to carry their own policies to have admitting privileges at their hospitals. The standard insurance policy held by doctors carries coverage of $1 million per patient or $3 million for aggregate claims throughout the year.
- The type of injury. Different medical practice areas result in various kinds of injuries and claim values. The highest medical malpractice settlements tend to involve obstetrics and the care provided to mothers and infants during pregnancy, labor, and delivery.
- The severity of the injury. Medical malpractice claimants can seek compensation for the financial and psychological impacts of their injury, with the most severe types of injuries resulting in permanent disabilities that will prevent the sufferer from earning an income or accomplishing daily living tasks unassisted. These injuries generally result in a higher valued claim as additional compensation is needed to replace the claimant's future earning capacity and compensate for a lifetime of medical needs arising from the injury.
- The evidence available to prove the claim. Medical malpractice claims are notoriously hard to establish for many reasons, not the least of which is the doctor's overall understanding of the procedure and the error versus the patient's understanding and willingness to trust what their doctor attributes a complication to. Despite research indicating that 250,000 deaths a year (as well as hundreds of thousands of injuries) are the result of a medical error, and additional studies that suggest that more than one in five people say they have been the victim of a medical error and nearly a third know someone who has, there are only about 85,000 medical malpractice claims filed in the country each year.
Because of these factors, no “average” payout exists for a medical malpractice claim or set amount that a claimant may receive.
What Types of Medical Errors Can Result in a Chicago Medical Malpractice Claim?
Not all medical errors result in medical malpractice, and errors don't cause all bad outcomes. Bad outcomes are a common risk to medical treatment, even if no mistake has been made. For a medical error to give rise to a medical malpractice claim in Chicago, it must result in an injury or death.
One of the most common errors resulting in injuries or deaths in a medical setting are those involving a diagnosis, such as a failure to diagnose a condition properly, misdiagnosis, or a delayed diagnosis. Errors involving the administration of medication in a health care facility or the provision of a prescription for medication are also common, including giving a patient the wrong medicine to treat their injury or illness or the wrong dosage of medication.
As noted, health care providers offering obstetric services face the highest payouts on medical malpractice claims, with errors occurring during pregnancy, labor, and delivery. Common errors resulting in birth injuries include failing to diagnose an emergent medical condition in either the infant or the mother, failing to perform a C-section when laboratory or imaging tests indicate a need for one, or failing to adequately monitor the infant's vital signs during and in the hours after delivery.
Surgical errors are another area of the practice of medicine subject to error, including damage to other organs during a procedure, errors involving the administration of anesthesia, or even severe mistakes in patient identification, such as performing a surgical procedure on the wrong patient or performing a procedure on the wrong body part.
All health care providers are expected to take a complete patient medical history before providing treatment and inform the patient of the known risks of any procedure.
Failing to take a medical history can result in errors such as giving a patient a type of medication that reacts badly to medications they are already taking, providing a patient with a kind of medication they are allergic to, or preventing the doctor from understanding specifics of the patient's family medical history that would help inform a diagnosis or prevent the doctor from trying specific types of treatment.
Failing to notify the patient of the procedure's risks can be considered medical malpractice if the known risks of the procedure are so extreme that the patient would have likely sought an alternative treatment option if they had all the information necessary.
How an Attorney Can Help You Obtain a Higher Settlement
While no one is required to obtain an attorney to seek compensation for an injury's costs and psychological impacts, the personal injury claims process is extraordinarily complex. An attorney and their legal team have a crucial role in obtaining the claimant's compensation.
Medical malpractice claims are among the most complex of all types of personal injury claims filed in Chicago. Many lawyers refuse to take them. They require an extensive understanding of the laws specifically in place to protect health care providers from frivolous claims, but also a comprehensive understanding of how specific medical errors occur and the documentation and other evidence necessary to prove that a health care provider was liable.
Here is a look at some services that an experienced Chicago medical malpractice attorney can provide.
Valuing Your Claim
When valuing your claim, it does not matter how much the “average” claim in Chicago is. It matters how many out-of-pocket expenses were incurred to treat the injury caused by the error, such as additional medical treatment, time lost from work, or the costs of hiring someone to perform household tasks that the claimant cannot perform due to their injury. The claim's value is also influenced by permanent injuries resulting in future medical expenses and a loss of earning capacity.
Managing the Timeline of Your Claim
In Illinois, the statute of limitations on personal injury claims is generally two years from the injury date. However, one of the tricky aspects of medical malpractice claims is whether the claimant immediately knew they were injured, as the error does not always present immediate and obvious symptoms. In medical malpractice claims, the claimant is allowed up to four years to file the claim if there was a delay in discovering the error.
In claims involving children under 18 when they suffer an injury or death resulting from a medical error, the parents or legal guardians of the child have up to 8 years to file the claim. Conversely, minor claimants can also wait until they reach the age of 18 and file their own personal injury claim, at which point they have up to four years to file the claim.
Failing to file a medical malpractice lawsuit within the statute of limitations will generally result in losing the claimant's right to seek compensation through litigation. While most medical malpractice claims are resolved by settlement, those who have allowed the statute of limitations to expire are generally unsuccessful in obtaining a settlement because the at-fault provider's insurer no longer faces the threat of a lawsuit if they do not offer a settlement.
Managing Communication with the At-Fault Provider's Insurer
Insurance companies—including those providing medical malpractice policies to health care providers—are not in the business to compensate claims filed by those injured by their insured. They are in the business to make money. They hire claims adjusters to evaluate the claims made against their policies and find ways to reduce or even eliminate those claims. An attorney can manage the communication with the claims adjuster to protect its value from tactics that adjusters often use.
Procuring the Affidavit of Merit
Illinois requires all medical malpractice claimants to submit an affidavit of merit along with their lawsuit when they file it in court. This affidavit shows the attorney has consulted with a medical professional with knowledge of the area of medicine that the case pertains to, and they determined the claim has merit.
Negotiating a Settlement
Ninety-five percent of the filed medical malpractice lawsuits result in a negotiated settlement. Your attorney can present documents and other evidence to the health insurer to convince them to increase their initial offer to garner a fair settlement for your claim.
Fighting Your Case in Court
While very few medical malpractice claims are decided in court, the ability to litigate your claim is essential. It is also important to work with an attorney willing to take your case to trial if the at-fault provider's insurer fails to compensate you fairly.
Let a personal injury attorney provide more information about the Chicago medical malpractice claims process if a medical error injured you or took the life of your loved one.