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Medical Malpractice

A missed diagnosis. A botched operation. Amputation of the wrong limb. It seems that horror stories like these appear on the news almost every day. Although most people who are sick or injured recover, a report by the Institute of Medicine claims that as many as 98,000 patients die from mistakes made by their doctors every year.

Because of the need to lower costs and to process patients more efficiently, some doctors feel pressured to reduce testing and treatment in the name of cost savings. In light of this, many patients feel that the quality of medical care they receive has declined, and they wonder if there is anything that can be done when mistakes happen. There is. A claim for "medical malpractice," also known as a "professional negligence" claim or a "healing arts malpractice" suit, can be made.

What Is Medical Malpractice?

Although the most sensational cases tend to make the news, medical malpractice covers almost any kind of error that a doctor or other health-care provider might make in treating a patient. A doctor may give a wrong diagnosis, order the wrong kind of treatment, order treatment to begin too early or too late, or make a blunder while treating the patient. All of these errors are considered "malpractice," which generally means that the doctor has negligently failed to provide the patient with the same level of care as the patient expects to receive from an average doctor.

Proving It

To prove that a medical professional is guilty of malpractice in Illinois, the patient must show (1) the proper standard of care that should govern the conduct of the medical professional, (2) that the medical professional negligently breached the applicable standard of care, and (3) that the resulting injury to the patient was caused by the breach.

However, unlike most other kinds of lawsuits, a malpractice lawsuit cannot even be filed in Illinois until after a qualified health professional--a professional who has either practiced or taught in the same area of health care for at least the past six years and who knows what standard of care was owed to the patient--signs a written report stating that the injured patient has "reasonable and meritorious" reasons for filing the lawsuit.

This special requirement that the patient provide an expert report before he or she can even go to court is intended to weed out claims lacking in merit. However, the fact that many doctors are reluctant to acknowledge that a colleague has made a mistake means that the expert report requirement often makes it more difficult to pursue a claim even in a clear case of malpractice.

Time Limit

Suits for medical malpractice must be brought within two years of the date the patient knew or should have known that he or she was the victim of malpractice. Although the law does allow some additional time if the patient did not know the doctor committed malpractice until well after the treatment is over, in most cases a lawsuit must be filed within four years of the date the malpractice occurred. If it takes a while for a patient to realize that he or she was the victim of an act of malpractice, this unique requirement can make it more difficult for the patient to bring a malpractice claim.

Once a malpractice case actually makes it into court, it is a very complicated case to win. Proving malpractice requires presenting testimony from qualified experts, and the scientific and medical issues presented in even the simplest malpractice cases are very complex.

Medical malpractice suits require both an experienced lawyer and top-notch legal work. If you feel that you or a loved one was the victim of negligent medical care, make sure to consult with a qualified attorney.

© 2011 Lucas Law

This website is not intended to constitute legal advice or the provision of legal services. By posting and/or maintaining the website and its contents, Lucas Law does not intend to solicit business from clients located in states or jurisdictions outside of Illinois wherein Lucas Law or its individual attorney(s) are not licensed or authorized to practice law.

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