When a person walks into a hospital, they usually expect their physician to “do no harm” and to walk out with improved health. Unfortunately, this is not always the case and a physician’s negligent medical errors can cause injury to the patient.
Luckily, we have laws that protect victims of medical malpractice so they can receive compensation for their injuries. If you or your loved one were a victim of a physician’s negligence, you will need to prove medical malpractice by filing a claim.
Table of Contents:
- What is Medical Malpractice?
- Elements Needed to Prove Medical Malpractice
- Do You Need a Lawyer to Prove Medical Malpractice?
- Damages Available After Proving Medical Malpractice
- How Long Do You Have to File a Medical Malpractice Claim?
What is Medical Malpractice?
Medical malpractice is an act or omission by a physician that does not meet the accepted standard of care (negligence) and causes injury to the patient. This could mean botched surgeries, misdiagnoses, wrong limb amputations, and other medical errors. Medical malpractice deals with professional negligence in tort law, so a professional relationship must be established to file a medical malpractice lawsuit.
Elements Needed to Prove Medical Malpractice
According to the National Library of Medicine, the four elements required to prove medical malpractice include:
(1) the existence of a legal duty;
(2) a breach of this duty by a failure to adhere to the standard of care;
(3) a causal relationship between breach of duty and the patient’s injury; and
(4) the existence of damages
1) Legal Duty
The first element needed to prove medical malpractice is a legal duty. A legal duty exists once a professional relationship is established between the physician and the patient. This means that when you are treated by a doctor, they are expected to provide reasonable professional care. This is a concept that dates as far back as Ancient Rome — those who provide care should not cause harm.
2) Breach of Legal Duty
If a legal duty does in fact exist, the next requirement to prove a medical malpractice suit is to show that a breach of the physician’s professional duty occurred. A physician is in breach of that duty if they fail to meet the standard of care expected in the medical community. An expert witness testimony is usually required to show that the physician did not meet the standard of care as this will require a technical understanding of the practice area.
3) Cause of Injury
The purpose of a medical malpractice claim is to collect damages for an injured victim. So it should come as no surprise that the third requirement to prove medical malpractice is to show that the breach of standard care caused the injury. This can be a very challenging task as the plaintiff must show a direct relationship between the physician’s misconduct and the injury itself.
4) Existence of Damages
The final element required is to show that damages can be collected. If a medical professional failed to meet the standard of care but the patient was not injured enough to require monetary damages, then that patient does not have a medical malpractice case. For example, if a doctor used the wrong treatment for your condition but you are still somehow healed, there would be no damages for you to collect.
Do You Need a Lawyer to Prove Medical Malpractice Case?
If you have been injured due to a physician’s negligent medical error, the first step you want to take is to find a skilled medical malpractice lawyer to represent you. Medical malpractice lawsuits can be incredibly complicated proceedings and are not easy to do without extensive legal training.
A major component in every medical malpractice lawsuit is discovery. The discovery period is when both parties request and share information. That may include documents, depositions, and interrogatories. An experienced attorney will know where to look, what questions to ask, and which documents to request to help build your medical malpractice case.
In many cases, after discovery is over during the pretrial, both parties will attempt to come to an understanding and settle before going to trial. However, if this is not possible for your case, your medical malpractice lawyer will fight for you in court in front of a judge and jury.
Damages Available After Proving Medical Malpractice
The violation of the doctor-patient relationship can feel like a major betrayal for medical malpractice victims. The damages that are available in medical malpractice claims are aimed at making this wrong right. Since most evidence is documented by medical records, it’s often easy to calculate the economic damages available to victims
That is the cost of medical bills, treatment, and other financial consequences of the injury. Non-economic damages, such as pain and suffering, can also be collected but are often more difficult to calculate.
In extreme cases, punitive damages may be available for a physician’s medical negligence. This may include cases that involve the destruction of medical records or sexual misconduct.
How Long Do You Have to File a Medical Malpractice Claim?
If you think that you have a medical malpractice claim, it’s best to reach out to a lawyer as soon as possible. In the state of Illinois, the statute of limitations for medical malpractice cases is just 2 years. After this time, you will not be able to collect the compensation you deserve except in very special circumstances.
At Disparti Law Group Accident & Injury Lawyers, we believe in fighting for victims of medical negligence. Contact a Chicago medical malpractice lawyer today to get started on your case. We offer a FREE consultation. Call (312) 600-6000. We win or it’s free