Introduction to Medical Malpractice Injuries
Medical malpractice occurs when a doctor or healthcare medical professional makes a mistake that causes serious injury, physical or mental harm or death. Legally, it is considered medical malpractice when a doctor fails to comply with a reasonable standard of care. It is a form of negligence that applies to those in the medical profession. Tragically, a doctor’s mistake can have severe, or even deadly, consequences for trusting patients and their families.
Because most death certificates are filled out by physicians or other medical personnel, it is hard to quantify exactly how many deaths are caused by medical error. However, a study by researchers at Johns Hopkins Medicine says medical errors should rank as the third leading cause of death in the United States, right behind heart disease and cancer, on the list published annually by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This 2016 study, published in the BMJ (formerly the British Medical Journal), estimated that more than 250,000 Americans die each year from medical errors.
While patients and family members have the right to file a lawsuit against any physician or hospital that may have committed malpractice, the filing requirements for a malpractice lawsuit are lengthy and complicated, with filing time constraints that are strictly enforced. In addition, the requirements include an “affidavit of merit,” wherein a medical expert certifies that the evidence shows that malpractice has occurred.
Here are some examples of medical malpractice:
- Failure to diagnose or discover a medical condition
- Misdiagnosis of a medical condition, resulting in improper treatment that fails to cure the original ailment and may lead to additional illness or disorders
- Failure to treat a patient’s medical condition properly
- Failure to administer anesthesia safely
- Failure to manage a pregnancy or deliver a baby in a safe manner. (See the section on Birth Injuries for more information on these types of malpractice injuries)
- Failure of a nurse or other staff member to keep a treating physician informed of a patient’s condition
- Failure to administer medications properly, including wrong medications or incorrect dosages
- Failure to protect a patient from a fall or other injury on hospital property
While Illinois law includes a Medical Patient Rights Act, and Federal regulations govern many aspects of the healthcare system, the laws are often not enough to protect patients from negligence before it occurs. When a patient’s right to “care consistent with sound nursing and medical practices” is violated, the only remedy may be legal action against the physician, medical practitioner or facility that breached their duty of care; namely, a medical malpractice lawsuit.
Illinois Statute of Limitations
Illinois law requires that medical malpractice lawsuits must be started within two years of when the patient or family member becomes aware of or should have become aware of, the fact that an injury or condition was the result of malpractice. Regardless of when the injury or condition is discovered, a lawsuit must be filed within four years from the time the malpractice occurred. If malpractice is discovered more than four years after the medical actions that caused the harm, or if a suit is filed more than two years after malpractice should have been suspected as the cause of a condition or injury, those lawsuits will not be allowed to proceed.
If the injured person was eighteen or younger when the medical malpractice occurred, the statute of limitations is 8 years, or when the person turns 22, whichever comes first.
Some limited exceptions may apply to these rules, such as when a foreign object is left inside the patient, or when there has been an attempt to conceal the malpractice by fraudulent means.
Victims who do not satisfy all the legal requirements and filing deadlines could lose their rights to sue the doctor or hospital that caused the injury or death through their negligent actions. For this reason, it is important to talk to an experienced medical malpractice lawyer as soon as you suspect that you or your family member has been harmed by negligent medical care.
If you or a loved one is the victim of medical malpractice, contact us as soon as possible.
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