If you have been hurt as a result of a doctor’s mistake or failure to diagnose your medical condition, then your Chicago medical malpractice lawyers will try to secure compensation, known as damages, on your behalf.
Types of Illinois Medical Malpractice Damages
Generally speaking medical malpractice damages typically fall into three categories:
- Compensatory damages compensate you for tangible losses that are a direct result of the doctor, nurse, hospital or medical practice’s actions or inactions. For example, these would include the cost of additional medical treatment in the past, present and future; lost wages if you were unable to work; medical devices you must now use; prescription medicine you must take; and other out-of-pocket expenses.
- Non-economic damages are for losses that are more difficult to quantify. These would include any pain and suffering you’ve endured, as well as emotional distress, and loss of companionship and consortium.
- Punitive damages are intended to punish the person or organization you’re suing for egregious behavior or wrongdoing. Under Illinois law, punitive damages cannot be awarded in medical malpractice cases. If you’re filing your lawsuit in a state other than Illinois, you may be entitled to punitive damages.
You may look at the list of items included in compensatory and non-economic damages and think it’s difficult, if not impossible, to quantify some of these losses. However, Chicago medical malpractice lawyers are familiar with these types of damages and will have experiencing developing damages estimates. If necessary, they’ll consult with medical experts who will help determine how much the victim deserves in compensation for his or her injuries.
Illinois Comparative Negligence Rule
When calculating damages, the judge or jury will ask itself, “Does the victim bear any responsibility for his or her injuries?” This would include failing to provide a doctor with an incomplete or inaccurate health history. Or the patient might lie about his or her symptoms, or fail to follow the healthcare provider’s treatment instructions.
In each of those instances, the patient might be somewhat to blame. Illinois follows a law called modified comparative negligence. Under this law, if the patient bears more than 50 percent of the blame, then the patient cannot recover any damages from the medical professional or hospital. If the patient bears some responsibility — but less than 50 percent — then any damages that are awarded will be reduced by the amount of blame that’s placed on the victim.
For example, suppose a smoker goes to the doctor with a chronic cough, but lies to the doctor and claims to be a lifelong non-smoker. The doctor might not consider lung cancer as a potential cause of the cough because the patient lied about his or her health history. If the patient asks the court for $100,000 in damages, but the court determines the patient is 51 percent responsible, then the patient would receive nothing. If the court decided the patient was 49 percent responsible, then the damages would be reduced by 49 percent and the patient would only receive $51,000 in damages.
Disputes Over Non-Economic Damages
There has been an ongoing battle over non-economic damages in Illinois. In 1995, the Illinois legislature passed a law placing a cap of $500,000 on non-economic damages. But in 1997, the Illinois Supreme Court heard a case called Best v. Taylor Machine Works and ruled that it is unconstitutional to limit the amount of non-economic damages an injured victim can receive.
In 2005 the Illinois legislature again tried to cap non-economic damages in medical malpractice cases. And five years later the Illinois Supreme Court heard a case called Lebron v. Gottlieb Memorial Hospital and again reaffirmed that it is unconstitutional to cap non-economic damages.
Trade groups that represent physicians and others in the medical profession argue vigorously in favor of caps on damages in medical malpractice cases. They claim that limiting medical malpractice awards will result in lower medical malpractice insurance costs for doctors and hospitals, and that those cost savings are ultimately passed onto the patients. Trade groups also spend a lot of time and money lobbying elected lawmakers in effort to get laws passed limiting medical malpractice damage awards.
On the flip side, Illinois medical malpractice lawyers have firsthand experience representing clients who are victims of medical malpractice. They see the injuries that patients suffer when a doctor fails to properly diagnose a serious medical condition or makes a mistake that leaves a patient with long-lasting injuries. While money can’t necessarily help a victim regain his or her health, it can help compensate victims for the injuries inflicted on them by the medical profession.
If you or someone you love has been the victim of medical malpractice, contact the Chicago medical malpractice lawyers of Cogan & Power, P.C., today. You can call us at (312) 477-2500 or reach us online. We’ll schedule a free initial consultation to review the circumstances of your injury and help determine whether you have grounds for an Illinois medical malpractice lawsuit against the responsible health care professionals.