What should I know about filing a medical malpractice claim in Illinois?

Illinois has guidelines for medical malpractice lawsuits as well as a set time limit on when a victim of negligence can file claim.

People in Chicago who suffer due to a medical mistake have the right to hold the negligent parties responsible. There are a number of damages available to those who encounter financial, physical and emotional losses. Anyone seeking to file a claim should know the basics of doing so.

Defining medical malpractice

Medical malpractice occurs whenever a medical professional harms a patient through straying from medical standards. A medical professional could be a nurse, dentist, surgeon or physician. Common forms of medical negligence include surgical errors, prescription mistakes and birth injuries. These mistakes can result in injury and even death, leaving victims in considerably worsened conditions.

Statute of limitations

Illinois places a statute of limitations on all personal injury claims. When it comes to medical malpractice, the law states that plaintiffs must file the claim within two years of the date that the victim knew or should have known about the injury. However, there is also a four-year statute of repose, which means that if the victim finds out about the injury more than four years from the date of the incident, he or she will not be able to file a claim.

Proving medical malpractice

There are three basic items that victims will have to prove in order to be eligible for damages. Those items are the following:

  • That the defendant had a duty of care to the plaintiff
  • That the defendant breached that duty of care
  • That the breach caused the victim's injuries

To prove duty of care, plaintiffs must demonstrate that the defendant had been somehow tasked with the patient's wellbeing. To show that a breach occurred, a plaintiff typically establishes what the standard of care should have been by consulting with a comparable physician or medical expert.

Damages available

There are several types of damages available to people who suffer from medical negligence such as a drug error. Economic damages are those that can be quantified, such as medical bills, the cost of rehabilitation and any related expenses. Noneconomic damages refer to the emotional pain and suffering that someone has experienced as a result of his or her injuries. Lastly, there are punitive damages. These are rarely awarded, as judges or juries only apply them to situations in which there was extreme negligence.

A number of states place cap on the amount of money victims receive in medical malpractice lawsuits. Illinois used to have such a law on the books. However, according to a 2010 ruling from the Illinois Supreme Court, there is no longer a cap on the damages that a plaintiff may recover.

Anyone who has concerns about this topic should consult with a medical malpractice attorney in Illinois.