Medical malpractice occurs in many ways. The more you know about the different types of negligence committed by doctors, nurses and other medical professionals, the better you can understand what happened to you or your loved one.
Please take a close look at our information in this section on types of medical malpractice that can harm patients and their families. You should follow up on what you learn by scheduling a free, confidential consultation with us at our Chicago or Waukegan offices or a location that is most convenient for you.
The medical malpractice lawyers at Salvi, Schostok & Pritchard P.C., believe that injured patients and their families throughout Illinois deserve a careful investigation of their case and a thorough explanation of their legal options.
Contact us by phone or online to get started today in your case.
If the diagnosis of a medical condition is missed or delayed, it prevents you from getting the treatment you need. Your condition can, in turn, quickly worsen.
Diagnostic errors occur when:
- You are not diagnosed with a medical condition despite having signs and symptoms that are consistent with the condition
- You are diagnosed with a condition that you do not have
- You are diagnosed after the condition has reached an incurable stage.
Missed or delayed diagnoses frequently happen. For example, one study estimates that 28 percent of cancer cases in the U.S. are misdiagnosed, resulting in patients failing to get timely treatment such as chemotherapy and radiation.
Strokes and heart attacks also are commonly misdiagnosed medical conditions. For example, a study of stroke victims found that roughly 1 in 10 visited the hospital less than 30 days before the stroke occurred. Out of those patients, 1 in 4 went home with no diagnosis or the diagnosis of a benign condition.
Doctors, nurses, lab techs and others may all be responsible if you or a loved one is harmed by the failure to properly diagnose your medical condition.
Preventable medical mistakes can occur during the planning, pregnancy and labor/delivery stages. These errors can lead to a child suffering a disability such as cerebral palsy. In some cases, they may cause a tragic loss of life.
For example, many parents today undergo prenatal genetic testing to determine whether there is a risk of the mother giving birth to a child with a certain condition such as cerebral palsy or Down syndrome.
During a woman’s pregnancy, she will trust her obstetrician to closely monitor the pregnancy, order proper tests and prescribe safe medications. If the obstetrician is negligent, it may lead to the failure to identify an ectopic pregnancy, gestational diabetes, birth defects or other harm.
Mistakes may also be made during labor and delivery by doctors, nurses or midwives, leading to devastating birth injuries. These errors may cause a child to suffer physical trauma or deprive a child of oxygen, leading to brain damage.
In many cases, the error involves the failure to respond in a timely manner to complications such as excessive bleeding, fetal distress, shoulder dystocia, uterine rupture or umbilical cord entanglement. A doctor may fail to perform a timely C-section or misuse forceps or vacuum extractors.
After a child is born, the hospital must continue to closely monitor the child’s condition. The hospital should take proper action if breathing difficulties, heart problems, jaundice or other medical issues arise.
Medication can be used to stabilize or improve a patient’s condition. However, serious harm results from mistakes which are made when prescribing and administering medication. In fact, one study found that 1.5 million people suffer harm each year due to medication errors.
For instance, a doctor may prescribe medication that triggers an allergic reaction or dangerously interacts with other drugs a patient is taking. Patients also suffer harm when they are given the wrong type or dosage of medication, or when they are not given medication according to the right schedule.
Other medication errors involve miscommunication, mislabeling, prescribing medication for “off-label” uses and failing to monitor patients.
Anesthesia errors happen when doctors, nurses, anesthesiologists and other medical professionals fail to properly check equipment and monitor a patient’s vital signs and level of consciousness during surgery.
If a device malfunctions or anesthesia is negligently administered during an operation, a patient can suffer a stroke or heart attack, brain damage, psychological harm or death.
For example, general anesthesia should allow a patient to sleep and feel nothing during a surgery. However, if an error occurs, a patient may instead be alert and experience severe pain during the procedure while, at the same time, being unable to communicate that he or she is awake. This is commonly called “anesthesia awareness.”
Mistakes can also be made when administering spinal and epidural anesthesia, leading to complications such as spinal infections, nerve damage, seizures and allergic reactions.
Several types of surgical errors may occur that injure patients such as:
- Failing to properly prepare a patient for surgery by monitoring his or her vital signs, diet and medication
- Failing to properly administer general or regional anesthesia
- Puncturing or perforating an organ with a surgical tool
- Failing to monitor a patient after surgery and respond in a timely manner to blood clots, infections, illness and heart problems.
Many surgical errors are considered “never events,” or medical mistakes that are so shocking and harmful to patients that they should simply never happen.
Examples of surgical “never events” include performing surgery on the wrong patient or on the wrong site of a patient’s body. Leaving an object inside of a patient such as a surgical instrument or surgical sponge is also an error that should never happen.
Hospital-acquired infections (HAI) can lead to serious and potentially deadly illness such as sepsis. In many cases, patients suffer infections when the negligence of doctors, nurses and hospital staff allows harmful germs and bacteria such as MRSA to spread to patients.
For instance, hospital infections can be caused by the failure to:
- Wash hands (especially after contact with other patients)
- Clean and disinfect sinks
- Clean and sterilize surgical instruments
- Use double-gloving during surgery
- Follow special handling and disposal precautions for items such as scalpels, needles, lab waste and blood.
Because they are at a high risk of infections, patients must be carefully monitored while hospitalized. Often, a patient’s harm results from the failure of medical professionals to diagnose and treat an infection in a timely manner.
Diagnostic errors are a leading type of emergency room error. This is especially a problem when a patient goes to the ER with a dangerous condition such as a stroke or heart attack. The condition may be misdiagnosed as a less serious condition such as a headache or heartburn. Many ER errors can be traced to overcrowding, understaffing and poor training.
Emergency room malpractice can include:
- Failing to get a full description of a patient’s symptoms
- Failing to order appropriate tests
- Misreading tests
- Allowing unsanitary conditions to exist
- Failing to follow proper procedures when giving medication
- Miscommunication during “hand-offs” (when a patient is transferred from the care of one doctor or nurse to another).
Radiologists play an important role in the diagnosis of a patient’s condition. They conduct and interpret X-rays and tests such as MRIs and CT scans. As a result, a patient may fail to get timely treatment when radiology errors occur such as:
- Failure to perform the test correctly
- Use of defective equipment
- Misinterpretation of test results
- Failure to perform follow-up tests
- Miscommunication of test results.
Radiology errors carry severe consequences such as pregnancy complications, progression of cancer or the worsening of traumatic brain injury.
Dentists, like other medical professionals, have a duty to follow the accepted standard of care when providing services to their patients. When a dentist fails to follow this standard, and a patient is harmed as a result, a patient may have a claim based on negligence.
Examples of dental malpractice include:
- A missed or delayed diagnosis of mouth or gum disease
- Performing an unnecessary procedure such as a root canal
- Extracting the wrong tooth
- Failing to properly administer general or regional anesthesia
- Using unsterilized equipment
- Failing to adequately supervise dental assistants.
Patients who are victims of dental malpractice can suffer harm such as infections, broken teeth, chronic pain or the progression of a disease.
A failure to monitor can lead to the failure to timely and effectively treat a patient’s medical condition. It can occur in situations such as:
- During a mother’s pregnancy and during labor and delivery
- When anesthesia is administered during surgery
- After a patient is administered medication
- While a patient is being hospitalized after a surgery.
The failure to monitor may result in a medical professional missing signs of complications such as breathing or heart problems, allergic reactions, infections, blood clots and internal bleeding.
Before a doctor performs a procedure, prescribes a drug, implants a medical device or undertakes any other course of treatment for you, the doctor has a legal duty to obtain your informed consent.
Informed consent means that the doctor has described the nature and extent of the treatment or described the nature of the drug or medical device. The doctor should also explain the medical reason why a certain drug, medical device or treatment plan is being recommended. Above all, the doctor should make sure that you understand the risks and benefits you face.
If you have suffered harm due to a lack of informed consent, you may be entitled to compensation due to medical malpractice.
A health maintenance organization (HMO) may be liable for the negligence of the doctors, nurses or other medical personnel under its control. However, in many cases, the HMO may be liable for its own negligent or intentional conduct.
HMO misconduct often is related to the HMO’s desire to cut corners and save money. Examples include:
- Under staffing a hospital, clinic or urgent care center
- Hiring medical personnel without adequate background checks
- Forcing doctors to forgo necessary tests or postpone a patient’s treatment
- Ending a patient’s medical treatment too early.
The HMO’s enrollment forms may contain a binding mandatory arbitration clause that purports to take away a patient’s right to bring a lawsuit in court. It is important to have this clause reviewed by an experienced attorney due to the fact that it may be unenforceable.
How Common Is Medical Malpractice?
It is difficult to state with certainty how common the above types of medical malpractice are in Illinois and the rest of the country. This is because many cases of medical negligence go unreported.
However, analysis of medical malpractice payouts reported to the National Practitioner Data Bank by malpractice insurer Diederich Healthcare sheds some light on the scope of the problem.
According to the insurer, in 2014 alone, more than $3.9 billion in medical malpractice payouts were made in the U.S., including $201,849,500 in Illinois.
The majority of those cases involved diagnostic errors (33 percent). Other leading types of reported malpractice involved:
- Surgery 24%
- Treatment 19%
- Obstetrics 11%
- Medication 5%
- Monitoring 3%
In 30 percent of the cases that resulted in a medical malpractice payout, the patient died from the alleged misconduct, while in 35 percent, the patient suffered “significant” or “major” permanent injury.
What You Should Do If You Suspect Medical Malpractice?
If you suspect that you have been harmed or lost a loved one due to medical malpractice, you should take the following steps to protect your health and your legal rights:
- Get medical attention. Make sure that the injury or illness you have suffered due to the suspected malpractice is promptly diagnosed. Begin treatment as soon as possible. After all, your health is what is most important.
- Gather documents and other potential evidence. Gather everything related to your case, including bills, invoices, prescriptions and photos you may have taken of your injuries. Store these items in a folder or box.
- Contact an attorney. The sooner you are represented by legal counsel, the better. A lawyer can begin an immediate investigation of your case and ensure that important evidence is preserved, collected and analyzed.
- Do not speak with the insurance company. A doctor, hospital or malpractice insurer may contact you and offer to resolve your case without the need for you to file a medical malpractice lawsuit. Refer them to your lawyer. The lawyer can review any offers made to you and ensure your rights are fully protected.
What Should You Know About Illinois Medical Malpractice Law?
Under Illinois law, a medical malpractice lawsuit must be filed within a specific period of time, or else it could be barred. This is called the statute of limitations.
In our state, the general rule is that you must file a claim within two years from:
- The date of the injury, or
- The date when you should have reasonably discovered the injury.
No claim can be filed more than four years after the act or omission that caused the injury.
However, exceptions apply to this rule:
- Minors – If the victim was under age 18 at the time of the injury, a claim must be filed within eight years from the date of the injury or discovery, but in no case can the claim be filed after the child turns age 22.
- Disabilities – If the medical malpractice victim suffers from a disability, the statute of limitations will not begin to run until after the disability is removed.
Additionally, the statute of limitations will not start to run if there was fraudulent concealment of the misconduct by the medical professional.
If you believe that you or a loved one has been harmed by medical malpractice, you should not wait to get legal help. You do not want to lose the right to seek just compensation due to the failure to take timely action.
You must keep in mind that much work must be done to prepare a claim for filing. In particular, Illinois law requires your attorney to have your case reviewed by a qualified medical professional.
The attorney must then file a Certificate of Merit along with the lawsuit. This is a sworn, written statement by your attorney, stating that – based on the medical professional’s review of your case – the attorney believes there is “a reasonable and meritorious cause” for filing the lawsuit.
In some cases, an attorney may get a 90-day extension to obtain the Certificate of Merit if a lawsuit must be filed due to the need to comply with the statute of limitations.
How Can Our Medical Malpractice Lawyers Help You?
For more than 30 years, the lawyers of Salvi, Schostok & Pritchard P.C., have protected the rights of medical malpractice victims and their families in Chicago, Waukegan and throughout Illinois. Our record of results includes:
- $29.1 million verdict on behalf of a child in Chicago who developed cerebral palsy due to brain damage caused by an infection
- $17 million settlement on behalf of two-year-old Lake County boy who, during surgery to remove a cyst on his throat, suffered irreversible brain damage
- $15.35 million settlement on behalf of a DeKalb County child who, due to the negligent use of a vacuum extractor device, suffered brain injury at birth.
Every medical malpractice case is different. Our firm’s past results do not guarantee that the same or a similar outcome will be obtained in your case.
It is important to get in touch with us as soon as possible so that we can get to work on pursuing the best possible result for you and providing services that include:
- Free consultation – We can review the facts of your case, explain your legal options and answer all of your questions.
- Investigation – We can collect and review your medical records and other evidence in order to determine why you or your loved one was injured and what medical professionals or organizations should be held responsible.
- Consultation with experts – We can present your case to medical experts for review and benefit from their insights throughout the process of seeking just compensation for you. Experts can help us to determine the nature of the medical negligence that harmed you. They can also help us to determine your future medical needs due to the malpractice.
- Resolution of your case – We can carefully prepare your case for settlement negotiations with the at-fault medical professional(s) and seek a timely recovery for you. If necessary, our highly skilled and experienced trial lawyers will be ready to go to trial to fight for you as well as handle all post-trial legal matters.
Contact Our Illinois Malpractice Law Firm Today
When you are ready to act, contact the attorneys of Salvi, Schostok & Pritchard P.C. We are ready to use our skills, experience and resources to help you to seek the justice you deserve. Schedule a free, confidential consultation today by contacting us by phone or through our online contact form.