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Medical Malpractice Facts & Figures

Medical negligence harms as many as 250,000 people in America every year. The term “medical malpractice” encompasses a variety of errors, including but not limited to, anesthesia errors, emergency room errors, hospital infections, medication errors, surgical errors, cancer misdiagnosis errors, misdiagnosis and wrongful birth.

A landmark study by the Institute of Medicine (IOM) determined that the number of preventable medical errors in hospitals exceeds the number of deaths that can be attributed to such feared threats as motor-vehicle wrecks, breast cancer and AIDS.

Medical Malpractice FAQs

Can I make a malpractice claim for every medical mistake?

Not every mistake can result in a malpractice claim. The doctor’s actions must be compared to a reasonable provider to determine if you have a medical malpractice case.

If the doctor’s actions were reasonable or did not directly cause any harm, you will not be eligible to make a claim. It is up to you to prove the doctor’s acts or omissions were unacceptable in a way that directly injured you.

The physician or care provider’s behavior is compared with a hypothetical average doctor with the same specialty and background. If your doctor provided care below the quality of care any reasonable physician would have offered, the physician can be liable for malpractice.

To learn more, please visit our section on Medical Malpractice.

How can I know if I have been the victim of medical malpractice?

Doctors are liable for medical malpractice if they are negligent and cause you to suffer harm. The law in Illinois outlines specific criteria necessary to hold a doctor accountable for malpractice.

The Illinois civil jury instructions on professional negligence explain the physician’s professional obligation. Our Medical Malpractice page has more information.

In most cases, all medical records associated with your treatment must be obtained to assess whether mistakes were made that give rise to a malpractice claim. Attorneys who focus on medical malpractice cases in Chicago can assist you in securing copies of treatment records. Witnesses to the treatment may also be subpoenaed and interviewed.

Medical records and statements must be evaluated by expert medical professionals to assess whether the care was reasonable or the physician was negligent. You may also need to undergo a medical examination to determine the impact of your treatment on your current health status.

The opinion of the expert witness is essential evidence in a medical malpractice case. See Illinois Law section 8-2501 to view the standard for expert witnesses in the state.

Who can I sue for medical malpractice?

The doctor or care provider who made a mistake may not be the only one to pursue a claim against.

Doctors may not always have sufficient funds to provide full compensation. You may need to take legal action against others, including the hospital, to have your losses fully covered.

Hospitals, health clinics and others who employ physicians can be held legally responsible in some medical malpractice cases. A hospital or healthcare center can be responsible if it was negligent in its policies or practices as compared to the standards set by a reasonably safe and effective health center in the area.

Hospitals and clinics can also be held responsible for actions and omissions of employees. If a nurse, doctor, orderly or other staff member was negligent when providing care to a patient in the ordinary course of work, the acts of the employee are treated as acts of the hospital. As a result, the hospital can be sued to provide broader compensation to ensure your losses are fully covered.

To learn more about the types of losses you should be compensated for, visit our section on How Much is My Case Worth?

How can I make a claim for medical malpractice?

To file a medical malpractice claim, you need to gather evidence proving your care provider was unreasonably negligent and file a civil lawsuit within a specified time period – or else your claim will be barred.

Claims for medical malpractice typically must be filed within two years of the incident of medical negligence. Exceptions exist if the doctor’s mistake was not discovered immediately. In all cases, malpractice claims must be brought within four years of the incident.

A claim must be filed with the appropriate court. It must state a legal cause of action. In Illinois, you must also have an affidavit indicating your records and health status have been reviewed by a medical professional who has reason to believe the treatment you received could result in a successful medical malpractice claim. Illinois Law section 2-622 explains this requirement in detail.

What do I need to prove in a medical malpractice lawsuit?

Proving a medical malpractice claim requires you to establish what a doctor’s obligations were and to show how the physician fell short.

The Illinois civil jury instructions on professional negligence explain the requirements of a malpractice claim, which include:

  • Proving the physician failed to conform to the acceptable standard of care
  • Demonstrating the failure was the direct cause of harm.

An expert witness must testify to this, unless the medical negligence is apparent and even a layperson would understand how and why the mistake was malpractice.

Our page on Medical Malpractice provides more information on claims arising from medical negligence.

What should I expect after I have filed my medical malpractice claim?

During settlement negotiations, the medical malpractice insurance carrier will generally offer a designated amount of money in exchange for you giving up your right to pursue a lawsuit. If you accept, you may not change your mind even if it turns out that your injuries are more serious than you originally believed. This is why an attorney should review the settlement offer before you accept anything.

For more information about the settlement process, please see our page, What is a Settlement?

At trial, you must prove medical negligence by a preponderance of the evidence to obtain compensation. The jury will award damages only if you prove more likely than not that medical malpractice occurred.

For more information, please see our page, What is a Verdict?

Keep in mind: Settlement negotiations can continue even after your injury or wrongful death claim goes to court.

What are some of the challenges I will face in my medical malpractice case?

Medical malpractice cases often come down to a battle of the experts. You must have the right witnesses to overcome the challenges in your case.

Illinois law requires an affidavit swearing that a healthcare professional has reviewed your situation and believes you have a credible claim for malpractice. Illinois Law section 2-622 explains the affidavit requirement, which is intended to ensure claims are legitimate.

Unfortunately, it can be challenging to find medical professionals willing to testify against their peers. Working with a qualified attorney who routinely handles malpractice claims is a good idea, as your attorney will have an established network of medical experts who can review your case and testify on your behalf.

Another challenge in medical malpractice cases is that your physician may try to argue that your underlying condition, and not medical negligence, is the cause of the harm experienced.  It is important to have an expert witness on your side who can refute this assertion.

What kinds of compensation can I expect to recover in a medical malpractice lawsuit?

Knowing what your case is worth is important. Once you settle or a jury decides your case, there is no way to recover more compensation.

This compensation typically will include payment of medical bills and costs, lost income, pain and suffering, emotional distress or wrongful death damages.

Medical malpractice damages should include not just payment for costs incurred to-date but also any expected future treatment expenses or lost income the malpractice caused.

You have the legal burden of proving the extent of your damages.

For more information, see How Much is My Case Worth?

What are my rights if a family member died because of medical malpractice?

You may be able to file a wrongful death claim against the healthcare provider responsible for causing your loved one’s death. However, there are specific legal requirements you must fulfill to make a successful wrongful death claim.

Our page on Wrongful Death provides detailed information on this type of claim.

Generally, in wrongful death malpractice cases, you must show the physician or care provider was negligent in a way that directly caused the death. You also must demonstrate that you are a close family member, such as a spouse or minor child of the person killed, and that you suffered financial loss due to the untimely death.

Compensation for a wrongful death claim may include payment of the deceased’s medical bills as well as payment of funeral costs. You may also seek compensation for lost companionship and the loss of income/financial support from the deceased.

How much do attorneys charge to help clients in medical malpractice cases?

At Salvi, Schostok & Pritchard P.C., you pay legal fees for attorney representation only if you recover compensation. It is often possible to obtain a larger settlement or verdict if you have the assistance of an experienced legal professional.

Attorneys’ fees are based on a percentage of the money obtained, so your interest in maximizing compensation is directly aligned with your lawyer’s interests.

Our attorneys offer free consultations and can explain in detail how we will maximize your compensation.

Contact us today to set up a consultation with a member of our legal team.

Who can be held responsible for nursing home abuse and neglect?

Neglect typically occurs because of nursing home policies or because of staff that fail to do their jobs. Staff members can be held accountable, but they are not the only ones to blame and may not be the best defendants to pursue a case against.

A nursing home is responsible for neglect if it has substandard policies and/or fails to ensure that staff members are qualified and are providing adequate care to patients. Nursing homes are also responsible in situations where employees are negligent in performing work tasks.

The Illinois Civil Jury Instructions on vicarious liability and agency rules explain how a staff member acts on behalf of a nursing home and thus makes the home liable for his or her behavior.

The ability to hold the nursing home accountable is important. This is because individual staff members may not have sufficient insurance or assets to cover losses caused by neglect or maltreatment.

Our page on Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect provides more information on legal responsibility for a failure to provide adequate care to seniors in a nursing home.

The Cost of Medical Errors

In 1999, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) published a report titled “To Err is Human: Building a Safer Health System.” It spawned a Presidential task force to analyze the problem of medical errors and patient safety and make recommendations for improvement. Years later, the IOM report’s findings are widely cited and are still called “startling.”

Among the IOM’s findings was that:

  • Between 44,000 and 98,000 people die in hospitals each year as a result of medical errors that could have been prevented.
  • $17 billion to $29 billion is spent each year because of medical errors, including payments for additional care necessitated by the errors, lost income and household productivity, and disability.
  • More than 7,000 people die each year from medication errors alone, occurring either in or out of the hospital.
  • One in 131 outpatient deaths and one in 854 inpatient deaths is attributable to medication error.
  • Two out of every 100 hospital admissions experience a preventable adverse drug event.

More than 30,000 randomly selected discharges from 51 randomly selected hospitals in New York State in 1984 were used to conduct the Harvard Medical Practice Study, the most extensive study of adverse events the IOM researchers could find. In that study:

  • 3.7 percent of the hospitalizations were adverse events, manifest by prolonged hospitalization or disability at the time of discharge or both.
  • 58 percent of adverse events were attributable to errors (preventable adverse events).
  • 27.6 percent of adverse events were due to negligence.
  • 19 percent of adverse events were caused by drug complications, 14 percent were caused by wound infections and 13 percent were technical complications.
  • 13.6 percent of the adverse events resulted in death and 2.6 percent caused permanently disabling injuries.

The IOM study authors warned that their figures were conservative.

Contact Our Chicago Medical Malpractice Lawyers Today

Many cases of medical error and malpractice go unreported and even unrecognized. Anytime someone dies unexpectedly or is injured while under medical care, their loved ones should investigate. It is important to understand that malpractice cases are expensive to litigate, and the compensation you receive may not cover the cost of the case itself.

Talking with an experienced medical malpractice lawyer can help you determine whether you have the foundations for a strong medical malpractice case against your doctor, hospital, nurse or other medical professional.

The Chicago medical malpractice lawyers of Salvi, Schostok & Pritchard P.C., have extensive experience investigating medical malpractice claims for clients throughout Illinois. Call our toll-free number or use our online form to arrange a free and confidential consultation.