Doctors are human. Though they swear to do no harm, sometimes they make mistakes. While it is true that they cannot save everyone, their mistakes can potentially cross the line into negligence. Perhaps they were attempting a procedure that they weren’t qualified to perform. Or perhaps they were just hung over from sweet-tea vodka and lemonade energy drinks (it’s not an Arnold Palmer, it’s a John Daly on speed).
Whatever the cause, when a doctor’s conduct slips below the high standards of the profession, we call that medical malpractice. This field of law focuses on those times when a doctor violates his duty to provide reasonable care to his patient. When such mistakes happen, the patient often ends up severely injured or even dead.
Common examples of medical malpractice include misdiagnosis, prescribing the wrong medication, or performing tasks that are outside the doctor’s expertise. One recent example involved the improper removal of a catheter which led to a patient’s death. Another involved an infant dying after he was injected with an incorrect IV dose.
One of the primary considerations in a medical malpractice case is the statute of limitations. This is the time frame in which a lawsuit may be brought. Most lawsuits must be filed within a few years of the incident, in order to ensure fairness to both parties.
In Illinois, medical malpractice suits must be filed within two years of when the patient knows, or should have known, about the injury. There is also an ultimate endpoint of four years after the procedure, which means if the injury wasn’t discovered until five years later, the lawsuit is still barred. Minors have their own time limit of either eight years or the patient’s 22nd birthday, whichever comes first.
If a medical malpractice lawsuit is successful, a patient may receive compensation for damages, including medical bills, other economic damages, and pain and suffering. At one point in this state’s history, there was a cap on the amount one could recover. However, the cap was struck down by the Illinois State Supreme Court as unconstitutional.