Medical errors are not uncommon in hospitals. Negligent doctors and nurses, however, rarely come forward to admit they’ve done something wrong. While the consequences of a mistake in that kind of setting vary greatly, the fact is that patients suffer and are often left to deal with their injuries and losses on their own.
The Chicago medical malpractice lawyers from Thomas Law Offices strive to provide clients with the legal representation they need to recover from the injuries and losses they incurred at the hands of a negligent doctor. When you work with one of our attorneys, you’ll be guided through the litigation process step by step.
Because health care is complex, so are med mal claims. As a result, proving malpractice can be challenging. Fortunately, our lawyers are experienced and have access to the resources needed to build a strong case and prove you were wronged.
If you’re in the process of considering filing a claim, it’s important to understand what you could be facing. Our Chicago attorneys can explain everything to you, so you’re ready to tackle the matter head-on. While the claims process can take time, it’s often your best chance at ensuring you receive the compensation you need to recover and move forward.
Medical Malpractice Cases We See in Chicago
Patients who enter into a hospital or other medical facility expect to receive the care they need to improve their health and head home. Unfortunately, that doesn’t always happen. When a physician, nurse, or another member of a care team acts negligently, patients are at risk of sustaining injuries and developing worsening conditions.
As a law firm representing medical malpractice victims, our attorneys handle a variety of cases. Any time a patient is harmed by a medical professional who failed to provide proper health care treatment, there are grounds for legal action. Because of the number of ways illnesses and conditions are evaluated, diagnosed, and treated, a medical error can happen at any time during a person’s stay in a hospital or facility.
Thomas Law Offices is dedicated to helping victims of hospital negligence recover as fully as possible from their injuries. When you decide to pursue a claim against the party that brought you harm, a medical malpractice attorney will investigate how and why you were injured. Some of the most common cases involve misdiagnosis, delayed diagnosis, birth injuries, surgical errors, defective medication devices, and medication errors.
Misdiagnosis happens when a doctor incorrectly tells a patient they have one illness or condition when dealing with a completely different condition. For example, suppose a patient enters an emergency room with chest pain, nausea, and dizziness. In that case, the attending may diagnose them with severe heartburn and fail to look at the matter closer. If the patient later experiences a heart attack, the initial doctor misdiagnosed their condition.
A misdiagnosis is a form of malpractice because it likely means the medical professional treating the patient did not follow the steps they were supposed to arrive at a proper diagnosis. For a person who experiences what could have been a preventable heart attack, they may be left to deal with surgeries and extensive recovery. According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, it’s estimated that 12 million patients are misdiagnosed every year in the United States.
A proper diagnosis is made in some situations, but it’s not made in a timely fashion. That is considered a delayed diagnosis. While a delayed diagnosis is not always malpractice, a physician must act within the care standard when evaluating, diagnosing, and treating. If, for example, a doctor notices abnormal levels after a blood check but does not order further tests or dismisses a patient’s symptoms as being related to something less serious, malpractice would be present if the patient sustained additional or greater harm.
One of the most common examples is a delayed diagnosis of cancer. If a patient’s cancer is not detected early because of physician negligence, it could spread and worsen the patient’s prognosis.
As a patient, you have the right to explore alternatives if you believe your doctor isn’t properly treating your condition or arriving at a correct diagnosis. For example, you can ask your primary care physician for a specialist referral or seek out a second opinion. While this doesn’t always prevent a delayed diagnosis from happening, it can improve your chances of recovering to your previous state of health faster.
A birth injury is any type of harm to a baby or mother during pregnancy, labor, or delivery. Because of the number of complications that can develop during pregnancy, the medical team needs to be on the same page regarding what’s best for the baby and the mother. Common birth injuries include oxygen deprivation, trauma to either body, nerve damage, and infection.
Sometimes, evidence of a birth injury is noticeable immediately following delivery. Signs include the baby’s skin being pale or blue, the baby oddly moving their face, arms, or legs or favoring one side of their body, or the mother experiences hemorrhaging. While those signs are not always indicative of medical malpractice, a medical negligence attorney can conduct an investigation and decide when it comes to the cause of an injury or complication.
In some instances, birth injuries aren’t identified for years. Parents with a child injured at birth may begin to notice learning disabilities, behavioral problems, motor impairments, or speed-language disorders.
All surgeries, no matter how non-invasive, carry numerous risks. Pain, infection, blood clotting, allergic reactions, and death are common risks patients are informed about before going under the knife. But if negligence contributes to a surgical error, the victim has a right to take legal action against the person or entity that harmed them.
Surgical errors are often the result of inexperience and poor communication. Medical procedures like surgeries involve teams of people. The individuals who prep the patient for surgery, the team that works with the surgeon, those that focus on anesthesia, and the professionals who work with the patient after their procedure is over to ensure recovery goes as planned. If any person makes a mistake during the process, the consequences can be fatal.
The most common surgical errors include nerve damage, brain injuries, administering too much or too little medication, performing the wrong surgery, operating on the wrong side of the body, and leaving surgical equipment inside the patient.
To correct the error, a patient could have to undergo additional, dangerous procedures. Recovery time is often lengthened considerably, throwing off the original plan and timeframe for returning to work.
Defective Medical Devices
Medical devices like implants, pacemakers, and prosthetics can change lives. Patients with medical devices may overcome the barriers of certain conditions or illnesses and live a higher quality of life. Faulty, defective, or dangerous devices, however, can result in injury or death.
Even with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration monitoring the production and release of medical devices, manufacturers release defective products in design. Examples of defective medical devices include:
- Metal Hip Replacements. Thousands of patients have suffered injuries from metal hip replacements because of metal poisoning.
- Guidant Defibrillators. Commonly known as pacemakers, Guidant defibrillators were recalled in 2005 after a number of different models failed to deliver an electrical shock during episodes of arrhythmia.
- IVC Blood Clot Filters. Designed to stop dislodged blood clots from traveling to the lungs, these filters have been linked to injuries and deaths resulting from punctured organs and other serious complications.
- DePuy Hip Implants. These commonly used hip replacement devices caused hundreds of patients to experience dislocated or broken bones and heart, nerve, kidney, or thyroid problems.
- Drug-Coated Stents. A stent is a small metal or plastic tube inserted into an artery or blood vessel. Drug-coated stents slowly release drugs to prevent arterial scarring. Unfortunately, these devices have been known to cause problems like infection, blood clots, bleeding, and allergic reactions.
Medical device recalls are typically conducted voluntarily by the manufacturers. However, if a manufacturer does not take proper action for a dangerous device, the FDA may issue a recall under their own authority. To check on the status of a recall or to determine if you have a medical device that has been recalled, visit the FDA’s Medical Device Recalls page.
Nearly 7,000 prescription medications and countless over-the-counter drugs are available to people in the United States. While there are patients who suffer adverse reactions and complications related to medication that has nothing to do with malpractice, it’s estimated that between 7,000 and 9,000 patients die every year from medication errors. In addition, an even higher number of patient populations suffer preventable injuries when their care team makes a mistake with medication.
Medication mistakes are often attributed to distractions, distortions, and illegible writing. Doctors are often tasked with a significant number of duties throughout the day. As a result, they may hurry through writing drug orders and make a mistake. There’s a chance a patient could receive a medication they’re allergic to. If a nurse is administering medication and makes a mistake, a patient could receive too high a dosage and suffer complications as a result.
Understanding Medical Malpractice in Illinois
Depending on the study, medical malpractice results in 250,000 to 400,000 deaths per year. That means physician and hospital errors are the third-leading cause of death in the United States. When patients in Chicago’s hospitals receive the care they need, they’re likely able to return home and return to their normal lives. But, unfortunately, medical errors happen and often result in unexpected bills and extended recoveries.
The Leapfrog Group is a nonprofit watchdog organization that monitors the nation’s hospitals and provides the public with safety ratings. Twice a year, Leapfrog grades hospitals on 28 different safety measures. Only hospitals with enough federally available data are eligible for review.
To determine a hospital’s safety rating, the organization looks at inpatient care management, medication safety, maternity care, infection, inpatient surgery, pediatric care, and outpatient procedures. Safety ratings are assigned as letter grades A-F.
It is suggested by the organization that patients at hospitals that get D and F grades may potentially face a greater danger than those at A-graded hospitals. In general, an A-rate hospital saw 3.2 people die avoidable deaths for every 1,000 patients, while D and F hospitals saw 6.2 preventable patient deaths per 1,000 admitted.
In 2019, five Chicago hospitals earned D grades for patient safety. Those hospitals included:
- Jackson Park
- Mount Sinai
- Weiss Memorial
While attending one of those hospitals does not mean you will sustain error-related injuries, there is an increased chance of something like that happening. If you feel you’ve been injured in any health care facility in Chicago or the surrounding areas, get in touch with a medical malpractice lawyer. When you work with the attorneys from Thomas Law Offices, you’ll be on the fastest pace to recovery.
Working with an experienced, reliable lawyer is crucial when pursuing a complex claim. With the right lawyer, you’ll maximize your chances of receiving compensation for what you were wrongfully put through. Not only will that ease your recovery, but you’ll be sending a clear message to the party who injured you.
What To Do If You’re a Victim of Negligence
Medical malpractice can happen at any stage in the medical service process. This includes diagnosis, treatment, recovery, or advice following treatment. You could be in any type of medical facility, from a walk-in clinic to an emergency room or a specialized surgical center.
If you believe you or a loved one has suffered due to medical negligence, you should get in touch with a Chicago medical malpractice attorney. Unfortunately, the longer you wait to pursue a potential claim, the harder it can be to prove you’re owed compensation.
At Thomas Law Offices, we understand how intimidating it can be to take legal action against a doctor or hospital. Fortunately, we have extensive experience with this complex area of litigation. As a result, we can deal with the hospital and insurance company on your behalf so that you can focus on your recovery.
You may need to seek medical guidance to deal with the injuries you sustained in the hospital. If that’s the case, make sure you follow the doctor’s advice. Not only will this improve your chances of recovering physically, but you’ll also maximize your chances of making a full recovery.
When you meet with a lawyer for the first time, it’s normal to be nervous. So we’ll do what we can to ease those nerves and start by asking you simple questions, including:
- What medical condition or injury led you to seek treatment?
- When did you receive treatment for the condition?
- Where did you receive treatment?
- Who provided you with the treatment?
- What treatment did you receive?
- How did the treatment hurt you physically, emotionally, or financially?
Once we have a general idea of your situation, we can begin looking into medical records, invoices, and insurance statements to determine the cause of your injury.
Common Causes of Medical Errors in Hospitals
If you’re considering filing a medical malpractice claim, you’ll need to work with a personal injury attorney who can help you identify why you were injured. There are a number of common causes related to errors in health care facilities. Negligence is the factor you need to prove to successfully seek recovery, which involves a physician or medical staff member providing care outside the realm of what other professionals deem acceptable.
While advancing medical technology reduces some of the malpractice in the industry, mistakes are still widespread. A common factor connecting the causes of malpractice is human error. This means that mistakes are completely preventable in most situations when hospital employees follow guidelines and protocols and put patients first. Common causes of medical mistakes include:
- Inadequate Hiring Practices. Many hospitals, especially those in rural areas, are understaffed. As a result, when a facility is dealing with more patients than they can handle, they may not focus on who they hire and why. Having bodies to tend to patients isn’t useful when those workers aren’t aware of what needs to be done—especially in emergencies. There’s also the matter of experiencing high turnover rates when the wrong people are hired. This is often a challenging cycle for hospitals to break, and it puts patients at risk of injury.
- Inexperience. Even with the proper schooling, it takes medical professionals years to master their practice. The medical field is always changing, so even the most experienced doctors need to be constantly educating themselves. They’re likely to come across a situation where they need to consult another doctor or do research. If they decide to handle matters independently because of their own pride, they could put their patient at risk.
- Miscommunication. A patient’s medical team needs to be on the same page when it comes to providing care. While the doctor will make official decisions, the nurses and others caring for the patient regularly need to properly follow orders and note any new symptoms or side effects a patient is experiencing. If a nurse waits to inform a doctor about a new reaction, the patient could be at risk for suffering complications. Physicians also need to make sure they’re clearly conveying what actions need to be taken, as treatment often involves several complicated steps.
- Neglectful Procedures. Complex procedures take skill and dedication. It’s not unheard of for some surgeries to last long hours, so surgeons and surgical teams need to be prepared to handle a situation like that. When a single person on a surgical team commits a negligent act, the patient’s life is at risk. For example, the anesthesiologist needs to remain focused during the entire procedure to ensure the patient is properly sedated. If they get distracted, the patient could receive too much or too little medication. Too much anesthesia has the potential to result in oxygen deprivation and death. On the other hand, too little could cause unnecessary pain or awareness of what’s going on during the surgery.
- Drug or Alcohol Use. It’s no secret the medical profession is stressful. Unfortunately, not all doctors and medical staff handle that stress in positive, healthy ways. According to research published in October 2013 in the Journal of Addiction Medicine, 69% of interviewed physicians admitted to abusing prescription drugs. All of those interviewed were monitored by their state physician health programs for problems relating to alcohol and drug abuse. Concerning motivation, most said they turned to prescription drugs to relieve stress and physical or emotional pain. If a physician is under the influence of drugs or alcohol while practicing medicine, they are putting their patients’ lives at risk.
Depending on the injuries you sustained and your medical record, it can be challenging to determine the cause of a malpractice incident. A thorough investigation will need to be conducted, and it’s possible an expert could need to be called in to give their opinion on the situation. Because of this, it’s nearly impossible for an injured patient to advocate for themselves and file a claim without the help of strong legal representation. Our Chicago attorneys have extensive experience handling all different types of med mal claims, and we’re prepared to guide you through the process next.
Medical Negligence and Illinois’ Standard of Care
Per Illinois Courts’ Jury Instructions section 105 – Professional Negligence, medical professionals are required to practice medicine with the same degree of knowledge, skill, and ability as others in their field would exercise under similar circumstances. This means that a doctor acts within the standard of care when they practice in a way any ordinary doctor would.
To prove a physician violated the standard of care, you have to show they acted in an unordinary manner. The best way to prove this is with the use of a medical expert in the same field. Your med mal lawyer can help you locate the right expert for your claim.
In addition to a medical expert’s opinion, it’s important to have medical evidence that demonstrates you sought medical care and were injured because of the poor decisions made by your doctor or someone on your medical care team.
Building a Successful Medical Malpractice Claim in Chicago
Filing a claim takes time, as there are a number of steps to get through the process. If you’re considering filing, you’ll want to have an idea of what you’ll be dealing with. Let’s take a look at the typical steps.
- Consultation. If you suspect you’re the victim of a doctor’s negligence, you’ll want to consult an attorney as soon as possible. When we set up case evaluations, we take time to help you decide if you want to pursue legal action. Then, we’ll go over what you’ve been through and the chances of a successful outcome based on our knowledge and experience with medical malpractice law.
- Investigation. Investigating an incident related to medical negligence can be challenging without the right resources. Fortunately for our clients, Thomas Law Offices is experienced in investigating legal claims. We’ll start by collecting your medical history and consulting a medical expert. They’ll be able to help us determine why and how you were injured. Then, based on the circumstances of your injury, they’ll know whether or not the standard of care was violated.
- Discovery. Once the investigation is complete, discovery and motions can begin. This is the most time-consuming part of a claim. During the discovery, both parties will gather their facts and conduct interviews. Both sides will likely have experts that disagree with each other. Then, motion can be made on different issues. For example, a common motion is where a party asks a judge to decide a claim without a trial. This is called a summary judgment. Typically, a judge will agree to do this if the claim doesn’t appear to be valid.
- Negotiations. At any time during the process, either party is allowed to attempt negotiations to resolve the case without the help of a judge or jury. In some cases, negotiations are formal proceedings that happen in front of a third-party mediator or arbitrator. However, informal negotiations are typically between both sides and their attorneys.
- Trial. If negotiations are not possible and the case is not dismissed, it can go to trial. With the majority of medical malpractice claims, there will be a jury. Both sides will present their case, and the jury will make an official decision—called a verdict. If either party is unsatisfied with the decision, they can file an appeal with the judge or take the matter to the appellate courts.
It’s important to note that not all cases go to trial. We’ll fight to get you a full and fair settlement offer, but we won’t hesitate to go to trial if that’s the best way to ensure justice.
Meeting the Statute of Limitations
A statute of limitations establishes a time limit on the right to file a lawsuit. Different cases have different deadlines. It’s important to meet the requirement to ensure you are still able to claim compensation for the injuries you sustained.
In Illinois, lawsuits against doctors, other health care providers, or facilities have to be filed within two years of when the victim became aware of or should have become aware of their injuries and how they related to the provider’s negligent actions. In all cases, a statute of repose applies. This means that regardless of when the discovery was made, the injured party only has four years from when the incident happened to file their lawsuit.
If a person files a lawsuit more than four years after the malpractice incident, the lawsuit will be thrown out. However, there’s also the chance that if you sue more than two years after your discovery, the law can determine that you’ve rendered yourself ineligible for compensation.
In addition to the statute of limitations and statute of repose, there are complex laws in place for patients under 18 or subject to a legal disability when injuries and malpractice occurred. An attorney can guide clients through the process and ensure all deadlines are met, regardless of what the statute of limitations is for a particular case.
The “Affidavit of Merit”
When a plaintiff in Illinois files a medical malpractice claim, they must attach an affidavit to the complaint. The affidavit must declare that the plaintiff or their lawyer has consulted a health care professional who knows about the medical issues inherent to the case, currently practices or teaches in the area of pertinent medicine, and has experience and competence with the claim’s subject matter. Essentially, the affidavit verifies the consulted party is a valid expert choice for the claim being filed.
Under the Illinois Code 735 ILCS 5/2-622, the affidavit of merit must also state that there is a reasonable cause for the lawsuit. If the plaintiff cannot get the required consultation with a medical expert because of a statute of limitations deadline, the affidavit and accompanying documentation has to be filed with 90 days of filing the lawsuit. If the affidavit is not filed, the lawsuit can and will likely be dismissed without review.
Recovering Compensation for Medical Mistakes
When determining the compensation you’re owed, your lawyer will take all of your losses into consideration. In general, losses are separated into three categories: general, special, and punitive.
General damages refer to the patient’s subjective cost of suffering. Common examples are physical and mental pain and suffering, loss of future earning capacity, and loss of enjoyment in life. Unfortunately, there are no specific rules on how to determine damages that are not directly calculable, so you’ll need to provide evidence that supports the sum you’re looking to recover.
Special damages are easier to determine because they’re based on actual amounts. Quantifiable expenses like medical bills and past lost wages are involved. Guesswork is often needed to determine future medical care costs, but the medical expert on your case can help make that determination.
While not available in all cases, punitive damages service to punish the negligent party for their action or inactions. With a medical malpractice case, it has to be proven that the doctor knew they were behaving dangerously. For example, punitive damages may be available if a doctor was under the influence of drugs or alcohol while performing a procedure where you were injured.
Valuing a Negligence Claim
What you’re claim is worth is dependent on the losses we discussed above, as well as the severity of your injury, the seriousness of the doctor’s negligent actions, and how your life will continue to be impacted by your suffering. According to Diederich Healthcare, the average payment amounts include the following:
- Quadriplegic, Brain Damage, Life Care – $1,094,848
- Major Permanent Injury – $732,679
- Significant Permanent Injury – $516,568
- Death – $406,596
- Minor Permanent Injury – $243,754
- Major Temporary Injury – $233,124
- Emotional Injury – $151,029
- Cannot Be Determined – $143,496
- Minor Temporary Injury – $75,857
- Insignificant Injury – $35,500
While those figures above may give you an idea of what you could be looking at in terms of compensation, it’s important to note that your payout could be more or less than those figures.
Medical Malpractice and Wrongful Death Claims
If you’ve lost a loved one as a result of a physician’s negligence, you have the right to file a wrongful death claim on their behalf. Surviving family members could file this type of claim if their loved one would have been able to file a personal injury claim if they had survived.
Filing a wrongful death claim is similar to filing a medical malpractice claim in that you’re looking to recover compensation for a loss. While we understand no amount of money can bring back your loved one, we also recognize that it’s likely you’ll be dealing with end-of-life expenses, as well as lost income. With this type of claim, you’ll be able to hold the negligent party accountable for your loved one’s passing and secure your family’s financial future.
How Experienced Medical Malpractice Lawyers Can Help You
No matter what physician error you’ve suffered from, it can be difficult to cope with the incident. Our attorneys will guide you through this challenging time in an effort to protect your rights and get you the compensation you need to recover.
It’s important to understand that med mal cases are among the most complex areas of personal injury litigation. A lot of the time, the settlement offer or verdict is not in the plaintiff’s favor. Therefore, to improve your chances of holding the hospital or doctor accountable for your losses, it’s crucial to work with a strong legal team who can help you with the following:
- Communicating with Insurance Companies. Speaking with insurance companies isn’t always easy or as straightforward as you would think. For example, if you talk to an adjuster, they may try to get you to say something to jeopardize your claim’s value. In order to prevent that from happening, your lawyer will handle those conversations and take care of submitting any relevant paperwork.
- Valuing Your Claim. Based on our discussion of compensation above, you know that you could be eligible for multiple types of damages. With how complex med mal cases are, it’s important to have a legal representative by your side who has experience valuing these types of cases. Factors your lawyer will consider when determining what to seek include the type of injury you sustained, the consequences and severity, and the lack of care you received from any health care professionals.
- Negotiating a Fair Settlement Offer. The majority of medical malpractice claims result in settlement offers. Because of this, you’ll want your lawyer by your side to negotiate the best offer possible. Your attorney will go back and forth with the opposing party until a fair settlement agreement is reached. In the event that doesn’t happen, Thomas Law Offices won’t hesitate to take your case to the next stage.
- Representing You in Court. As mentioned, most claims end in a settlement. When that doesn’t happen, however, you have the option of pursuing a lawsuit in court. If this is necessary to ensure you get the recovery you deserve, it’s important to have an experienced lawyer by your side. Pursuing a lawsuit takes time, so you need to be comfortable with the law firm you choose to work with. They will guide you through the phases of the lawsuit process and do what they can to ensure a favorable verdict.
Without a lawyer by your side, you significantly reduce your chances of seeing any amount of recovery or holding the negligent doctor accountable for your experience and suffering. To learn more about how we can help you with your medical malpractice claim, get in touch with our Chicago attorneys today.
Secure Your Future with Thomas Law Offices in Chicago
When you work with a Chicago medical malpractice lawyer, you’ll be on the path to a faster recovery. We’ll work to ensure you receive the compensation you need to get your life back in order and hold the negligent party accountable for what you were wrongfully put through.
Because filing a medical negligence claim takes time, it’s best to get started as soon as possible. Once you’ve contacted Thomas Law Offices, we’ll get started on building your claim and proving you were wronged. After our initial interview, we’ll work on gathering relevant medical documents, pay stubs, and more before we reach out to get a medical expert’s opinion.
When you don’t know where to turn, Thomas Law Offices is here for you. To learn more about your legal rights and options in Illinois, schedule a free consultation with our office today.