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Is it Hard to Sue a Doctor in Chicago?

Patients in Chicago who are injured because of a medical error may not know where to start. The doctor may not admit to making a mistake or even try to blame the patient. If the doctor isn’t cooperating, you may need to take action on your own to get answers and help pay for your medical needs. A medical malpractice lawsuit can help the injury victim recover money for surgery, lost income, and pain and suffering.

Holding a doctor accountable for medical errors is not a simple task. Medical malpractice cases are complex and can take years before they get to a jury trial. These are reasons why it is important to have an experienced lawyer on your side. Your lawyer can navigate the legal process, keep you informed of your rights, and deal with the doctors and insurance companies to get you the maximum damages available. 

To find out about your case, how you can file a claim in Chicago, and how you can recover compensation, talk to your experienced medical malpractice team for advice. 

Can You Sue a Doctor for a Medical Mistake in Illinois?

If a doctor commits medical malpractice, the patient can sue the doctor for compensation in civil court. If a family member dies because of a medical error, a personal representative can file a wrongful death case against the doctor to recover money for the beneficiaries. These are just two of the ways you can sue a doctor for a medical mistake in Illinois

Some doctors work as employees of hospitals or other healthcare practices. In these situations, the injury victim may be able to file a claim against both the doctor and the hospital. As the employer, the hospital is liable for the negligence of their employees. This is known as respondeat superior, where the employer can be held vicariously liable for the patient’s injuries. 

Examples of Chicago Medical Malpractice Cases

Medical malpractice is one of the most common reasons why patients sue their doctors. Medical malpractice is a breach of the doctor’s duty owed to the patient. This is a deviation from medical standards that causes harm to the patient. 

There are many types of medical malpractice injuries. Malpractice injuries can range from minor to severe to fatal accidents. Some of the most common types of medical malpractice include:

These are just some of the types of medical malpractice injuries patients may face. However, anytime there is an interaction between a healthcare professional and a patient, there is a potential for a serious error. Errors can happen in any environment, including a hospital, clinic, nursing home, ambulance, emergency room, plastic surgery clinic, pharmacy, or doctor’s office. 

Doctors may be directly responsible for causing the patient’s injuries but others may also be liable for medical harm. In some cases, there are multiple people who made mistakes that contributed to the patient’s injuries. Others who may be liable include: 

  • Hospitals
  • Nurses
  • Therapists
  • Drug companies
  • Medical device manufacturers
  • Healthcare workers
  • Pharmacists

How Do You Prove Medical Malpractice in Illinois?

The person who files the lawsuit, generally the injured patient, has the burden of proving their case. In a civil lawsuit, you have to prove all elements “by a preponderance of the evidence.” A preponderance of the evidence means more likely than not, sometimes referred to as more than 50% likely. The elements of a medical malpractice case in Illinois involve proving the following: 

  • Duty 
  • Breach
  • Causation
  • Harm

A doctor has a duty of care to their patients to act as a reasonable medical professional and follow the medical standard of care. If doctors deviate from the standard of care and it causes an injury to the patient, the doctor is liable for the damages. 

The Illinois Pattern Jury Instructions for professional medical negligence has the following instructions:  

  • A doctor must possess and use the knowledge, skill, and care ordinarily used by a reasonably careful doctor.
  • The failure to do something that a reasonably careful doctor, practicing in the same or similar localities would do, or the doing of something that a reasonably careful doctor would not do, under circumstances similar to those shown by the evidence, is “professional negligence”. 
  • The phrase “deviation from the standard of care” means the same thing as “professional negligence”. 
  • The law does not say how a reasonably careful doctor would act under these circumstances. That is for you to decide. In reaching your decision, you must rely upon opinion testimony from qualified witnesses and evidence of professional standards. You must not attempt to determine how a reasonably careful doctor would act from any personal knowledge you may have.

What Is a Medical Expert in an Illinois Malpractice Case?

As you can see from the jury instructions, jurors have to rely on a qualified witness, also known as an expert witness in a medical malpractice case. A medical expert is generally a doctor or specialist in the same or similar practice area who is qualified based on their knowledge, skill, experience, training, or education. 

Most professional negligence cases require one or more expert witnesses to help the jury understand the standard of care for that profession. Only a few types of medical malpractice cases don’t necessarily need an expert, such as cases where negligence speaks for itself. 

In most malpractice cases, the plaintiff (patient) and the defendant (doctor) each have their own expert witnesses. The plaintiff’s expert generally has an opinion that the doctor was negligent. The defendant’s expert will usually say the doctor did not deviate from the standard of care. It is up to the jury to decide which is more likely in deciding whether the doctor is liable. 

Time Limits for Filing a Malpractice Case

One of the hurdles for overcoming in a medical malpractice case is the time limit. The time limit is known as the statute of limitations. Civil lawsuits like personal injury claims and medical malpractice have a statute of limitations. The plaintiff has to bring the case to court before the statute of limitations expires or they may have their claim denied. 

Under Illinois law, the time limit for most medical malpractice claims is 2 years from the date the claimant knew or reasonably should have known of the injury. In no event shall the action be brought more than 4 years after the date of the injury. 

This means that for most medical errors, the injury victim only has 2 years to file a claim. If they do not discover the error immediately, they have to file the claim within 2 years of discovering the injury, as long as it is not more than 4 years since the mistake happened. 

There are exceptions for minors injured by medical negligence. If someone is under the age of 18, they may have more time to file a medical malpractice claim. However, not after their 22nd birthday and no more than 8 years after the date of the injury. 

The statute of limitations for medical malpractice can be confusing but you don’t want to miss the date or you could lose your chance to get compensation. Talk to your Chicago medical malpractice attorney as soon as possible so you don’t lose out on your chance to hold the doctor responsible for their mistakes. 

Filing an Affidavit of Merit in Illinois

Another step in suing your doctor in Chicago is the affidavit of merit. Some states, including Illinois, have an additional requirement to file a medical malpractice lawsuit. These restrictions are supposed to reduce frivolous lawsuits. However, these laws are supported by the medical industry to make it harder for patients to sue doctors. 

Under Illinois law, in any action for damages for injuries or death caused by medical malpractice, the plaintiff’s attorney has to file an affidavit of merit. The affidavit has to have a declaration that a medical expert has reviewed the case, and “that the reviewing health professional has determined in a written report, after a review of the medical record and other relevant material involved in the particular action that there is a reasonable and meritorious cause for the filing of such action.”

Basically, a medical expert has to review the case, medical record, and any evidence and believes the case has some merit. This has to be submitted with the complaint and filed with the court. However, there are a few exceptions to these filing requirements. This is another reason it is important to talk to your attorney as soon as possible so they have time to have your case reviewed by another medical professional and provide an affidavit of support. 

Settling Your Medical Malpractice Claim

When your attorney files a medical malpractice lawsuit, they should anticipate going to trial with the case. However, in reality, most of these cases settle before they get to a trial. Even if you think you were wronged and want to make the doctor answer for their mistakes, a settlement is often a good outcome. 

A settlement is a release of the legal claims in exchange for a settlement award. For example, in a diagnostic error lawsuit, the injury victim may be seeking $2 million. A week before the trial, the doctor’s medical malpractice insurance carrier may offer to settle the case for $1 million. It may sound like that is too low of an offer (and maybe it is). However, your attorney can advise you on your options.

One of the benefits of a settlement is that it is a guaranteed award amount. If you take your case to court, there is always a chance the jury won’t find the doctor was negligent, in which case you would recover nothing. The jury could also decide to award you an amount that is less than the settlement offer. An experienced medical malpractice attorney has a good idea of the strengths and weaknesses of your case and what your claim might be worth. 

Another benefit of a settlement is that it avoids the trial. A trial can be long, stressful, and expensive. Many injury victims have a difficult time reliving the trauma of the medical mistake in court. With a settlement, you can avoid a trial and move on with your life. 

Sometimes the insurance companies will lowball you with such a low settlement that you want to go to trial to hold them accountable. In the end, whether you want to settle is up to you. You are in control of your case and your attorney can’t agree to a settlement without your support. Talk to your attorney about how much your case might be worth and the benefits of settlement or going to trial. 

Can the Doctor Appeal After I Win My Case?

Another difficult part of a medical malpractice case is that even if you win, your doctor may appeal the case. The doctor has a limited time to file an appeal, which can further delay your award. In some cases, the defense attorneys will file an appeal as a way to reduce the award. If you have questions about an appeal after you already win your Chicago medical malpractice lawsuit, talk to your trial attorney. 

How Can a Medical Malpractice Lawyer Help?

The process of suing your doctor can be complicated and take some time but, in the end, it is often worth it for the injury victims to file a malpractice claim. There are several benefits to filing a lawsuit. In the first case, you may just want some answers or accountability from the doctor. A malpractice lawsuit can help you get closure on a difficult experience that is otherwise not possible. 

A medical malpractice lawsuit can also help improve healthcare overall, by making the hospital and medical industry take notice and make changes. Unfortunately, hospitals are often motivated financially and a jury award against the hospital can be a big motivator. This can help other patients avoid a similar accident in the future. 

The most important reason is to help you recover the monetary damages to cover your losses. A malpractice award can help you pay for medical bills, lost income, and compensate you for your pain and suffering. 

Contact experienced trial attorneys who have successfully represented medical malpractice victims and their families to recover financial compensation for Chicago medical mistakes. Call a malpractice lawyer to find out more about your case. For a free consultation, contact Gilman & Bedigian online or at 800-529-6162.

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