When we are sick or injured, we turn to doctors and other health care professionals for help. Unfortunately, in some cases, mistakes are made that can lead to more harm. When those mistakes rise to the level of negligence, it may be possible for the victim to file a medical malpractice claim against those responsible.
Making a Claim
In general, the following must exist for an individual to make a medical malpractice claim:
1. A doctor-patient relationship;
2. The doctor, hospital, or medical professional acted negligently in diagnosing or treating the patient, which is proven by showing that a competent doctor under the same circumstances would not have caused the harm the patient suffered;
3. The negligence caused the patient’s injury; and
4. The patient suffered specific damages, which may include physical pain, mental suffering, increased medical bills, or the inability to work.
Under Illinois law, a victim must file a claim within two years of the date he or she became aware of, or should have become aware of, the medical malpractice (this period is known as the statute of limitations). However, a claim cannot be made more than four years after the date of the malpractice, regardless of when the malpractice was discovered.
If the victim is under 18 years old, the statute of limitations is eight years or when the victim turns 22, whichever occurs first. The statute of limitations is important because after the period to file expires, claims are usually barred.
Plaintiffs in medical malpractice claims must also file a certificate of merit along with their complaint. Many states require a certificate of merit (or similar document) in an attempt to reduce the number of medical malpractice claims, which are often expensive and time-consuming to complete. A certificate of merit demonstrates that there is some indication of malpractice, which can help ensure that the claim is not frivolous.
Illinois law requires the plaintiff to declare that one of the following is true:
- Consultation with a health professional was made and that individual determined in a written report that there is a reasonable and meritorious claim the plaintiff can make;
- Consultation with a health professional was not possible because the statute of limitations was close to expiring (the plaintiff has 90 days from filing the complaint to satisfy the written report requirement); or
- Request was made for the patient’s health care records and the person responsible for presenting them failed to do so within 60 days of receipt of the request (the plaintiff has 90 days from the date of receipt of the records to satisfy the written report requirement).
It is important to note that if the requirements of the certificate of merit are not met, the statute of limitations continues to run, even if the complaint was properly filed. Help for Victims
If you have been injured and believe it was the result of negligence on the part of a doctor or other health care provider, it may be possible for you to recover a damage award. For more information, please contact an experienced Illinois personal injury attorney today. Our firm provides our services to the communities of Crystal Lake, Schaumburg, Palatine, Des Plaines, Rolling Meadows, Buffalo Grove, Barrington, Arlington Heights, Inverness, and Deer Park.
About the Author: Attorney Ken Apicella is a founding partner of DGAA focusing in the areas of personal injury, employment, insurance coverage disputes, and civil litigation. Ken earned his J.D. from DePaul University College of Law in 1999. He has been named a SuperLawyers Rising Star and a Forty Illinois Attorneys Under Forty to Watch. Ken has written and lectured for the Illinois Institute for Continuing Legal Education and regularly serves as a moderator at Northwest Suburban Bar Association's Continuing Legal Education seminars.