Understanding Illinois Medical Malpractice Issues

Every year, thousands of patients in Illinois are injured by some type of medical treatment they received in a doctor’s office, hospital, or other medical institution. Treatments include a wide variety of actions such as misdiagnosis of illness, negligence, botched surgeries, improper medical procedures, improper prescriptions and medications, and wrongful deaths. All of these actions can result in pain and suffering, serious long-term health consequences, and exorbitant medical bills for patients. To discuss their legal rights and file for damages according to Illinois laws, patients must discuss their injuries with medical malpractice lawyers Chicago.

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Illinois Medical Malpractice Issues

Illinois Medical Malpractice Laws

Under Illinois law, the “standard of care” is based on generally accepted national standards and practices used by other medical professionals across the country when treating a patient under similar circumstances. Standard of care requires an analysis of certain factors such as the patient’s health prior to treatment, the specifics of his/her condition, and the patient’s age. By law, any violation of the standard of care may constitute medical negligence. If medical negligence results in an injury to the patient, a personal injury lawsuit can be filed in Illinois courts through medical malpractice lawyers Chicago.

Proving a medical malpractice case against a doctor, nurse or other health care provider requires that the injured party show the following:

  • The healthcare provider breached a standard of care when treating a patient.
  • The medical professional’s negligence or error directly caused the patient’s injury or death.
  • The patient has up to two years from the date the patient knew or should have known of the injury to file a lawsuit under the statute of limitations. If the patient is under the age of eighteen, the limitation period is eight years from the date the injury occurs, up to the patient’s 22nd birthday.
  • Wrongful death actions are governed by a different two-year statute of limitations that begins to run on the date of the patient’s death.

Illinois negligence laws governing medical malpractice are complex. Understanding whether a particular doctor, nurse or other medical provider has committed medical negligence requires the knowledge of medical malpractice lawyers Chicago who have experience representing individuals with medical malpractice injuries.

No Caps on Medical Malpractice Damages

Currently in Illinois, there are no caps on economic or non-economic damages in a medical malpractice lawsuit. Illinois is one of 12 states where caps on medical malpractice damages have been ruled unconstitutional according to the state’s constitution or state’s courts. Medical malpractice lawyers Chicago can best explain damage categories and specific details.

  • Economic Damages –  Damages include reimbursement and payment of all out-of-pocket expenses including: present, past and future medical expenses; lost income; payment for diminished ability to earn a living; and any other financial losses stemming from an Illinois medical malpractice lawsuit.
  • Non-Economic Damages – Damages include compensation to help injured parties feel whole again. They include compensation for: pain and suffering; physical disfigurement and scarring; anxiety and stress; emotional distress; loss of daily enjoyment and activities; lost companionship; and other negative physical and mental effects suffered by the patient.
  • Punitive Damages – Punitive damages, damages used as a punishment or to set an example, are currently not awarded in Illinois medical malpractice lawsuits.

Prior to 2010, Illinois did have damage “caps” on medical malpractice lawsuits. Illinois had in place a $500,000 cap on non-economic damages for cases against a negligent doctor or other health care professional, and a $1 million cap for lawsuits against a hospital or other health care facility. By capping non-economic damages, the Illinois General Assembly sought to reduce health care costs in Illinois. The General Assembly believed that by capping medical malpractice damages, malpractice insurance premiums would plateau or fall, and doctors in Illinois would be more apt to take higher-risk medical cases to help patients. The General Assembly also hoped that damage caps would prompt Illinois doctors to take jobs in less populated areas of the state.

In 2010, with the case of LeBron v. Gottliev Memorial Hospital, the Illinois Supreme Court ruled caps unconstitutional, and laws were changed. The court decided that these caps would deprive injured patients of necessary awards to sustain a full, enjoyable life. The court ruled that caps on medical malpractice damages violated the Illinois Constitution’s “separation of powers” clause, finding that lawmakers interfered with the right of juries to determine fair damages.

Typically, medical malpractice caps are put in place to reduce malpractice insurance rates and high health care costs. Many Illinois medical groups support caps since this tends to lower physicians’ insurance rates, but various court associations and medical malpractice lawyers Chicago question them because they often prevent fair damage settlements for injured patients.