Basic Overview of Medical Malpractice Claims

Web Admin - Tuesday, January 05, 2016

medical malpractice claims, Illinois personal injury attorneyWhen 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.

Ken ApicellaAbout 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. 



Illinois Supreme Court to Consider Negligent Credentialing Case

Web Admin - Monday, February 16, 2015

Illinois Negligent Credentialing, medical malpractice lawyerThe relationship between doctors and hospitals is a complex one. Most people assume that the doctors work for or are partners in the hospital. While some hospitals choose to employ their doctors, it is much more common for the doctors to be independent contractors. The hospitals give the doctors the right to admit patients to the hospital and use their facilities, a decision known as “credentialing.”

Yet, hospitals cannot simply give privileges to whomever they want. The law imposes a duty on hospitals to exercise reasonable care in managing their facilities in order to protect patients. Failure to do so can see the hospital held liable for negligent credentialing.

What Is Negligent Credentialing?

Negligent credentialing occurs when a hospital allows a physician to use their facilities despite that physician’s lack of qualifications. Illinois law requires a plaintiff to prove three things in order to prevail on a negligent credentialing claim:

  1. 1. The hospital breached its duty of care by improperly granting staff privileges to an unqualified physician;
  2. 2. The physician breached the medical standard of care by providing medically negligent treatment in conjunction with their negligently awarded privileges; and
  3. 3. The awarding of the privileges was the proximate cause of the plaintiff’s injuries, meaning that the direct cause of the injuries was the fact that the hospital negligently granted staff privileges to the doctor.

One of the difficulties of winning on a negligent credentialing claim is proving that first element. This requires evidence of what the hospital knew when they credentialed the physician and how thorough their procedures were. The Illinois Supreme Court recently took a case to determine whether plaintiffs in a lawsuit may have access to those records, Klaine v. Southern Hospital Services.

Klaine v. Southern Illinois Hospital Services

The issue in Klaine arises from a colon surgery gone wrong. The plaintiff wanted to pursue a negligent credentialing claim against the hospital, and as part of discovery process the plaintiff requested information about the surgeon’s credentialing process, such as his work history, prior insurance claims against him, and recommendations about his credentialing by the hospital staff. The hospital resisted, citing an Illinois law requiring that a physician’s application for staff privileges be kept “confidential.” The appeals court decided that there was a difference between general confidentiality rules and “privilege,” the special, heightened form of confidentiality that protects things from disclosure during a lawsuit. The Supreme Court will now take the case on to determine if the appeals court was correct in that determination.

The landscape of medical malpractice law is constantly changing. If you have been injured by a physician’s negligence and want to learn more about your options, contact a Crystal Lake medical malpractice attorney at Drost, Gilbert, Andrew & Apicella, LLC today. Our firm helps injured patients all across the northwest suburbs, including in towns like Inverness, Palatine, and Schaumburg.

Ken ApicellaAbout 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.

High Amounts of Preventable Mistakes During Surgery

Web Admin - Wednesday, August 06, 2014

mistakes during surgery medical malpracticePeople routinely place their lives in the hands of medical professionals like surgeons, trusting that they will be careful and responsible. At the same time, people understand that accidents do happen. Surgery can be a difficult process, and there are some complications, like infections, that may occur even if the doctors do everything right. Still, there are certain surgical mistakes that medical professionals universally agree should never occur.

Generally speaking, these “never events” include leaving surgical implements in a patient, performing operations on the wrong site, performing the wrong type of operation, and performing the surgery on the wrong patient. Despite this universal agreement that such completely preventable mistakes should never happen, a study from Johns Hopkins University reveals that surgeons make these sorts of errors with startling regularity.

The Johns Hopkins Study

The study analyzed data that researchers gleaned from the National Practitioner Data Bank (NPDB), a database of medical malpractice claims. The law requires hospitals to report preventable surgical errors that lead to legal settlements or judgments against the hospital to the NPDB. This makes the NPDB a repository of data on never events.

The researchers used data from the NPDB and extrapolated out total error rates based on the thousands of medical malpractice judgments and settlements over the last 20 years. They estimate that there are over 4,000 preventable surgical errors in the U.S. every year. These sorts of errors tend to result in a patient's death approximately 6.6 percent of the time, with another 32.9 percent of patients suffering a permanent injury from the never event.

Additionally, the researchers analyzed the patterns of surgeons who make these sorts of mistakes. For instance, they found that surgeons between the ages of 40 and 49 accounted for over one in every three mistakes and that over 10 percent of doctors had been implicated in more than one never event.

Possible Precautions

Fortunately, there are a variety of precautions that hospitals can take to ensure that these sorts of preventable errors do not occur. For instance, some hospitals have specific protocols in place to inventory surgical implements like towels and sponges before and after a surgery to ensure that the doctors leave nothing behind inside the patient.

Beyond that, many hospitals also use special review procedures at the start of a surgery, ensuring that the patient's records for the surgery match the patient on whom the doctor is about to operate. Additionally, practitioners can also use permanent marker to label the operation site. This can help prevent surgeons from operating in the wrong place or operating on the wrong patient.

If you or one of your loved ones has recently been the victim of a surgical error or other medical mistake, contact a skilled Illinois medical malpractice attorney. Our firm represents injured patients in many different northwest suburban towns, including Schaumburg, Arlington Heights, and Crystal Lake.

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.

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