Filing a medical malpractice lawsuit can be difficult and confusing even under the best of circumstances. There are procedural requirements and deadlines that must be adhered to if your case is going to stand any chance in court.
It is imperative that you hire the right Illinois medical malpractice lawyer to guide you through this complex process and help you build the strongest possible medical malpractice case.
What Is Medical Malpractice?
Medical malpractice occurs when you are harmed by your healthcare provider’s failure to do his or her medical duty. Physicians and medical care providers do make mistakes, but not all of these medical errors are considered malpractice.
Obtain Your Medical Records
You will need to obtain a full copy of your medical records and have an attorney or another medical professional look it over for you.
The generally accepted standard course of treatment will differ depending on the symptoms and illnesses you may have. Most hospitals, physicians and other medical providers have a generally accepted standard of care in place for particular conditions.
The medical professional hired to review your medical records will verify whether or not your medical provider adhered to the Illinois general standard of care (see below).
Four Elements of a Medical Malpractice Lawsuit
Your medical malpractice attorney will need to establish and prove the following four things in order for you to have success with your lawsuit:
Standard of care
Standard of care is defined as the way in which other similarly qualified medical professionals would have treated you under comparable circumstances. Most medical providers have generally accepted ways of treating someone with symptoms of a certain type of illness or condition.
Your attorney will consult with a medical professional or an attorney who can describe what the standard of care should have been in your case.
Standard Of Care Breach
Did your doctor breach the standard of care in the field of medicine in which you were injured? The medical expert consulted for your case will provide an opinion about whether the care you received met the standard of care for your condition in the state of Illinois.
Were your injuries caused by this negligence? The lawyers for the defense may try to lay the blame on you and convince the judge or jury that the medical professional named in your suit is not at fault for your injuries. It is the job of your medical malpractice attorney to demonstrate that your injuries were a direct result of the negligence you experienced.
The goal when filing a medical malpractice lawsuit is usually to obtain a monetary award as compensation for your injuries. The specific dollar amount you are seeking is known in legal terms as damages. It is the job of your Illinois medical malpractice attorney to demonstrate to the court why you are owed this amount of compensation to cover both economic and non-economic costs you’ve incurred.
- Economic damages — These are the financial costs you endured because of your injury. This can include medical bills, lost wages, and future lost income
- Non-economic damages —Emotional distress, pain and suffering are injuries that fall under the category of non-economic damages. These can be harder to prove and to quantify
Statute of Limitations for Malpractice
The statute of limitations for Illinois medical malpractice is generally two years from the date of the negligence or two years from the date that a “reasonable person” should have discovered the negligence, but no more than four years from the initial negligence.
Due to the intricacies involved with the various court deadlines, if you believe you were a victim of medical malpractice you should consult with an experienced attorney right away. An attorney can explain the time frames involved with filing your medical malpractice claim. Filing a medical malpractice lawsuit can be difficult and confusing, and in Florida, there are a number of steps that have to be taken before you can actually file litigation with the courts. It is imperative that you hire the right Florida medical malpractice lawyer to guide you through this process.
Four Elements of a Medical Malpractice Lawsuit
Your medical malpractice attorney will need to definitively establish and prove the following four things if your lawsuit is going to succeed:
- Standard of care — What is the standard of care protocol for the treatment you received?
- Standard of care breach — Did your doctor or other healthcare professionals fail to meet the standard of care in your case?
- Causation — Did this negligence cause your injury?
- Damage amount — How much did your injuries cost you? How much did you accrue in medical bills because of the negligence? How does it affect your ability to earn a living? What are you owed because of your pain and suffering caused by your doctor’s negligence?
Medical Malpractice Pre-Filing Requirements
Preparing a medical malpractice claim is not like other Florida civil cases, and there are certain pre-filing requirements you will need to follow Florida medical malpractice laws prior to filing your lawsuit.
Obtain a Medical Expert Affidavit
You or your lawyer will ask a medical care provider with expertise in the field to review your medical records. He or she will provide an opinion about whether the care you received met the standard of care for your situation. Standard of care is defined as the way in which other medical professionals with similar qualifications would have treated you under the same circumstances.
On the other hand, the medical expert may agree that there was negligence. Once he or she signs a sworn affidavit attesting to that fact, you can move on to the next step.
Before you can file your Florida medical malpractice lawsuit in Florida, you are required to send the potential defendant a certified letter to let him or her know that you plan to submit a claim of medical malpractice. As soon as this notification is received, the investigation phase begins.
90-Day Pre-Suit Investigation Period
A mandatory investigation period of 90 days begins once your notification letter is delivered to the person or people you are planning to sue. During this phase, the potential defendant has time to do their own review of the case. Your lawyers will also be working during this 90-day period, gathering the information that you will need to build your case. This is a time for the two sides to investigate and share information with each other.
At the end of this 90-day period, the potential defendant will either:
- Admit that they were at fault and possibly offer you a settlement, OR
- Declare his or her innocence in the matter
If a settlement cannot be reached during this pre-suit period, your next step will be to file a medical malpractice case with the court so that a judge and jury can sort out the proportion of fault that lies with your medical provider (also called comparative negligence).
The purpose of having so many hurdles to jump over before you can file a lawsuit is to weed out the cases that have no merit and should not be filed in the first place. This way, the cases that actually make it before a judge are more likely to be well-founded.
Why Does Medical Negligence Occur?
Unfortunately, there are a number of circumstances in the field of medicine that can contribute to medical malpractice. With all of these factors distracting from patient care, it isn’t surprising that sometimes things can go wrong:
- Increasing caseloads for doctors and other hospital staff members
- Burnout and fatigue among health care professionals
- Long hours for medical residents
- Advances in technology which make medical care increasingly more complicated
- Substance abuse among physicians and nurses
- Nursing shortages
You may have experienced devastating and unfair injuries as a result of medical negligence. Our qualified Florida medical malpractice lawyers will use their resources to explore the reasons for your injuries. They will work to find an explanation for why your medical team was not able to provide the standard of care in your case.
Find Help with an Experienced Attorney
Because of the complexities of medical malpractice law and the procedural requirements in Florida, it is important to consult with a Florida medical malpractice attorney experienced with Florida’s laws. He or she can evaluate your claim and help determine if you have a medical malpractice case.
Obtain a Certificate of Merit
After you consult with an attorney to determine if you have a valid malpractice claim, your lawyer will help you obtain a certificate of merit from a physician practicing in the relevant area of medicine. This certificate states that you have a valid case and that your medical provider’s error caused your injuries.
When your attorney files the lawsuit with the court in the county where the medical malpractice took place, this certificate of merit must be attached to your lawsuit or filed separately within 90 days.
Consult with a Medical Malpractice Attorney
Hiring the right Illinois medical malpractice lawyer to guide you through the complex process of filing your medical malpractice claim is important to help you build the strongest possible case, and ensure you meet the necessary deadlines. Consult with a qualified attorney today.
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