Medical errors and other types of health care professional negligence have soared in recent years. Data recently published by the National Institutes for Health (NIH) shows that at least 251,000 patient deaths are estimated to be attributable to physician mistakes or other types of medical errors annually. Countless others fall ill or suffer injuries while hospitalized that can negatively impact their health and lives.
If you’ve been one of the unfortunate ones to have suffered harm while in a Chicago area hospital like the John H. Stroger, Jr. Hospital of Cook County, Mitchell Hospital, Northwestern Memorial Hospital, Holy Cross Hospital, University of Illinois Hospital, or any others, our state’s laws afford you the right to hold those who were negligent accountable for their actions. Read on to learn more about what medical negligence is and instances in which you may be able to sue a hospital for it.
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What Are Examples of Medical Negligence?
Mistakes can happen at different points while a patient is being treated at a Chicago medical center or hospital.
Emergency Room Diagnostic Errors
One common place they occur is in hospital emergency rooms. Communication is key in settings like this.
It’s important that the nurse who initially consults with the patient takes down all their symptoms and known medical history and records vital signs and test results correctly. Similarly, the radiologist reading any imaging studies must do so accurately. Documenting incorrect information can lead to a physician making the wrong diagnosis.
The onus falls on nurses, doctors, and hospital pharmacists collectively to ensure patients receive a medication safe for them and the correct dosage as prescribed.
Nurses must take an accurate medication history. Doctors must determine whether there are any potential risks for a drug interaction and, if not, what’s an adequate dosage for a patient based on their medical ailment. Pharmacists are responsible for dispensing the right drug at the correct dosage to hospital patients and, if they have access to patient medication information, double-checking to ensure there are no potential contraindications that exist.
Hospital cleaning crews and support staff members are responsible for ensuring clean rooms and bathrooms. The responsibility for maintaining properly cleaned air conditioner coils and filters, water lines, and other aspects of environmental cleanliness rests on the shoulders of hospital maintenance staff. Environmental cleanliness in facilities like this is key to keeping the incidence rate of hospital-acquired infections, diseases like Legionnaire’s disease, and the spread of allergens and germs at bay.
Surgeons aren’t the only ones with their hands on patients or monitoring them when undergoing a medical procedure or operation. A surgical team often comprises nurses, residents, surgeons, anesthesiologists, and others. Each has a carefully determined role, whether it’s to ensure:
- The room and equipment are sterilized
- That everyone scrubs in correctly
- The patient’s vital signs are carefully monitored
- Surgical tools are correctly counted to ensure nothing gets left in the patient
- The correct patient and body part is operated on
- The correct sedative and the accurate dosage of it is administered
Any medical professional that drops the ball as part of this process could seriously harm their patient.
Delivering babies isn’t new; however, maintaining low infant and maternal injury or mortality rates is certainly a science. Ensuring safe deliveries starts with a pregnant mom receiving adequate prenatal care and doctors taking any insight gained from those visits and helping them create a birth plan to ensure their and their baby’s optimal safety.
Nurses and doctors sometimes fail to adequately monitor vital signs, use assistive birthing devices for far too long or incorrectly, or panic when outcomes don’t go as expected, putting moms and babies in danger of suffering birth injuries.
While there are certainly more instances than the above-referenced that can result in patients suffering harm or dying due to a health care provider’s negligence, these give you examples of situations that may warrant you filing a medical malpractice claim against a Chicago hospital.
Why Does Medical Negligence Occur?
A variety of factors can lead to medical negligence, including:
As hinted at above, one reason why medical errors occur is because of miscommunication, whether it’s between:
- Medical staff, such as nurses and doctors
- Patients and health care providers
Other research different from the NIH study described above cited how at least 27% of medical malpractice cases stem from communication concerns.
One strategy that has proven effective at minimizing surgical errors is when health care professionals perform a time out procedure before initiating any operation. It gives team members an opportunity to discuss each person’s responsibilities and is an effective approach to minimizing surgical errors; however, few medical professionals perform it as they should.
Incompetent Medical Staff
Another reason medical negligence occurs has to do with inefficient staffing practices. Hospitals are responsible for screening prospective staff members to ensure they are who they say they are and that they have the necessary training to properly care for patients. It’s also imperative that medical facilities continue to periodically re-screen staff to ensure there’s nothing in their background, such as complaints on their disciplinary record, that could affect their ability to ensure a safe patient experience.
While medical professionals a hospital hires may be capable of competently handling patients’ ailments, their schedule or patient load may not allow them to do so. Insurance companies have decreased how much time physicians can spend with patients in recent years. Hospitals are increasingly expecting doctors and nurses to tend to more patients during their shifts. This all leads to burnout, which can result in medical errors and adverse consequences for patients.
Suing a Hospital for Medical Negligence in Illinois
As you can tell from the discussions above about medical negligence, there are many ways health care professionals can harm patients. While physicians are covered by their medical malpractice insurance to protect their interests if a patient suffers harm, a Chicago hospital’s coverage generally covers nurses, respiratory therapists, and other support staff.
Either way, filing a medical malpractice claim can help you recover compensation for any health care costs you’ve incurred and for associated non-economic damages like pain and suffering, emotional distress, and other losses.
Securing an Affidavit of Merit
One of the first steps you must take in preparation for suing a Chicago hospital for medical negligence is to secure an affidavit of merit. That documentation is issued by a medical professional who:
- Teaches or practices medicine in an area related to your injury or illness and thus has a thorough understanding of what ails you
- Has reviewed the medical concerns involved in your specific situation
The medical professional making the affidavit of merit must attest that the ill or injured party, the plaintiff, has a valid reason for bringing a medical negligence claim against the physician or hospital that they allege hurt them.
The Statute of Limitations Applicable to Illinois Medical Negligence Cases
A statute of limitations is how long after an injury incident occurs that you have to file a medical malpractice claim. Plaintiffs must generally sue a hospital for medical negligence within two years of the onset of their injury or otherwise lose their right to file a legal claim. This rule has a few exceptions, such as when the patient is a minor.
It’s important to note that if the statute of limitations is nearing and you haven’t yet secured an affidavit of merit, Illinois law gives you at least 90 days to do so after filing your lawsuit.
Does Your Situation Warrant You Suing a Hospital for Medical Negligence?
No one wants to be in a situation where they must take legal action against a medical provider or hospital in Chicago. However, it’s the only approach our Illinois legal system gives us for holding those who make preventable mistakes or errors liable for violating an established standard of care they owe us.
Each medical malpractice lawyer on our team at Thomas Law Offices in Chicago has experience holding medical practices and facilities like hospitals accountable for their negligence and wants to help you do the same. Reach out to us to schedule a free initial consultation to discuss the merits of your case.
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