If you or a loved one is sick, injured, or in need of a procedure or treatment, you find the best medical professionals you can with the hope that they stick to their word and offer the best standard of care. But what happens when those medical professionals you entrusted to treat you fall back on their word and provide you with substandard care, causing you further harm?
When medical providers make avoidable errors regarding a patient’s health, treatment and well-being, they put the livelihood of the patient and the patient’s family at risk. Regardless of how this happens, it naturally leaves the patient and their family feeling violated, on top of the stress that comes with dealing with financial burdens and physical trauma associated with long term medical needs and inabilities to return to work.
In this article, we will explain medical negligence and the laws surrounding medical malpractice in Illinois.
What is Medical Malpractice?
In Illinois, medical negligence or malpractice is defined as the failure to conform to the appropriate standard of care. The law does not define what the standard of care is in every situation. Each case is unique. How a reasonably careful doctor should act is determined on a case by case basis.
One of the more common types of medical malpractice claims involve a missed cancer diagnosis. Consider the following fact pattern based on one of our client’s cases that we successfully tried to verdict: A patient was having worsening low back pain, causing his doctor to order an MRI to diagnose the problem. When reviewing the MRI, the doctor failed to look at the entire MRI film and missed a clear cancerous growth appearing in the middle of the patient’s spine. If the doctor had identified the abnormal mass on the MRI and diagnosed the cancer in a timely manner, it would have be treated routinely without any complications. However, the mass went undiagnosed and untreated for 2.5 years, allowing the cancer to eat away at the patient’s spine before causing a complete collapse of the spine and major trauma to the spinal cord. In this example, the doctor’s failure to look at the entire film carefully can be said to be a “breach of the appropriate standard of care.”
In Illinois, it is the injury victim’s burden to show (a) what the appropriate standard of care is in your unique case and (b) how the doctor violated that standard of care. This can often be difficult to prove convincingly because doctors mean well and they are trying to help diagnose the problem and treat it properly.
However, modern medicine has increasingly resembled assembly line work at times. The more patients the doctor sees, the more the provider can bill, and the more health insurance will have to pay them in reimbursement. As a result, doctors often spend only a few minutes with the patient. This “assembly line” approach can have catastrophic results because the doctors are not spending enough time carefully taking down the patient’s history or reviewing films. Consequently, this leads to inaccurate diagnoses and improper treatment plans being implemented. This is not how doctors are taught or trained to practice medicine. When the health care industry puts profits over the safety of the patient, the likelihood of medical negligence occurring increases dramatically.
Medical Malpractice in Illinois
Similar to the medical malpractice laws in other states, the laws in Illinois are founded upon proof of the following:
- The medical provider owed the patient the standard duty of care;
- The medical provider breached the standard duty of care;
- The breach caused an injury to the patient;
- The injury resulted in damages (physical, emotional, financial).
In Illinois, however, you have a very strict timeline to file your medical malpractice lawsuit before your case is barred by the statue of limitations. Further, Illinois law requires certain things to occur before a medical negligence claim can be filed.
Illinois Statute of Limitations
In Illinois’s civil court system, much like any other, there is a strict statute of limitations for medical malpractice cases. Generally, medical malpractice lawsuits in Illinois must be filed within two years of the date the patient discovered that their injury was directly cause by a medical professional’s malpractice. However, the statute of limitations can be reduced to one year under certain situations. As a result, it is imperative that potential victims of medical malpractice not delay in talking to a lawyer.
The deadlines for filing medical malpractice claims are not as clear cut as other types of cases like car crashes where you immediately know at the time of the crash that you sustained an injury due to the other driver’s negligence. Often times, a patient does not discover their injury or that their injury was caused by their doctor’s improper treatment for years down the line, like in the case of a missed cancer diagnosis. As a result, in Illinois, the “time clock” does not start to run until a reasonably diligent person would have discovered their injury was caused in part by their doctor’s wrongful conduct.
However, at the same time, this does not mean the person has an endless amount of time to pursue a claim. Rather, Illinois law sets an “outer limit” for the statute of limitations for this scenario as well. “In no event” shall a medical malpractice lawsuit occur more than four years after the date when the medical malpractice actually occurred.
There are also medical malpractice laws in Illinois specific to minors. One must file a medical malpractice lawsuit involving a minor (under the age of 18 at the time the malpractice occurred) within eight years of the date that the malpractice occurred. However, a case can not be brought about after the injured minor’s 22nd birthday.
Complying with the statute of limitations for medical malpractice in Illinois is crucial to your case. Filing beyond the statutory time limits in Illinois will most likely result in the dismissal of your claim unless a judge makes a rare exception.
Affidavit of Merit for Medical Malpractice in Illinois
Filing a medical malpractice claim in Illinois comes with other requirements beyond the “burden of proof” and statute of limitations.
If you are filing a medical malpractice lawsuit, you must include an affidavit (a) signed by a doctor that practices in the area of medicine at issue, (b) that states he or she reviewed all the relevant information, (c) in their professional opinion, a meritorious case exists for malpractice, and (d) explains why he or she believes malpractice occurred. Without this affidavit, the case can be dismissed outright. As a result, it is important to work with experienced trial lawyers that have developed relationships with the foremost medical professionals across the country to determine if a valid case exists in an expeditious manner.
Experience the Power of Promises Kept with Pullano and Siporin
Facing a personal injury as a victim of medical malpractice can be challenging physically, mentally, and financially. So when you are looking for an attorney to protect your rights, choosing the right one means everything.
Our team at Pullano & Siporin has successfully obtained full justice and timely compensation for our clients’ injuries for more than 50 combined years. Becasue of that experience, we work with the most qualified experts in the field of medicine in order to protect your rights. We work tirelessly to fully understand how your injury has impacted every facet of your life and the lives of your family members in our pursuit of justice on your behalf. You become our priority when you choose us to represent you in your personal injury case.
Contact us today to discuss your case and meet our team of attorneys.