In Illinois, as in other states, there are complex laws governing how, when, and by whom medical malpractice cases can be filed and how they must proceed. It can be very confusing, especially for a patient who is suffering from medical harm. This is why the expertise of Illinois medical malpractice lawyers is so important for patients to rely on for guidance.

The state of Illinois ranks low among the other states in terms of the total number of malpractice cases that are filed each year. In 2015 there were only 14 cases for every 100,000 residents, placing the state 44th on the list. However, the amount of damages recovered by malpractice lawyers in these cases is significant, at $258.2 million in total, illustrating how important it is to have an experienced legal professional there to fight hard for medical negligence victims.

Illinois Medical Malpractice Laws

Malpractice laws can be complicated and difficult to understand, for lay people and even for lawyers who don’t specialize in this area of the law. Patients who have been harmed by medical negligence must rely on the expertise of their malpractice lawyers, but they can also learn some basics about the law to help empower them to make better choices.

Every state’s laws guiding malpractice cases are different, but having a statute of limitations in place is something every state has written into the law. This is crucial for patients to understand because if they don’t understand there is a time limit, it is easy to miss the opportunity to seek justice for harm caused. In Illinois the statute of limitations is two years from when the patient should have reasonably become aware that there was an issue potentially caused by negligence.

There may be reasons to make an exception to the two-year time limit, but the law states specifically that there can be no case brought more than four years after the actual negligence occurred. For minors, though, the limit is eight years from the date of the negligence, but not after the victim turns 22 years old.

Another important part of malpractice law that complicates filing and may interfere with a patient’s ability to file a lawsuit in a timely manner is the requirement of an affidavit of merit. This is a signed statement that must be submitted with a lawsuit for it to be allowed. The statement has to be signed by a medical professional who is qualified to comment on the merit of the case. It must be someone with expertise similar to the subject matter of the case and the affidavit must be signed by this expert with a statement that he or she has reviewed the evidence and found it to have merit.

Damages Cap Found Unconstitutional

Like many other states, Illinois has a cap on non-economic damages that could be recovered in a medical malpractice case. Non-economic damages refer to compensation for harm that cannot be quantified, such as pain or emotional suffering, the loss of consortium in a relationship, or living with a permanent disfigurement. This is separate from economic damages for past medical expenses, future medical expenses, lost wages, lost future earnings, and other things that can be monetized.

Illinois never capped economic damages but did institute a $500,000 limit on non-economic damages that could be recovered against a doctor or other medical provider and a $1 million cap on recovering non-economic damages from a medical facility. This cap was passed as law in 2005, but was overturned in 2010 by the Illinois Supreme Court.

The case that helped overturn the law was a malpractice suit brought by a mother whose child was born at Gottlieb Memorial Hospital in Melrose Park. The suit was against the hospital and two staff members and was brought because the woman’s daughter suffered severe brain damage that resulted in permanent disabilities, including cerebral palsy, mental impairment, and incomplete neurological development. The mother and her malpractice lawyers decided to challenge the constitutionality of the cap that limited the non-economic award for this terribly tragic situation, and they won.

Malpractice Cases in Illinois

There are many examples of medical malpractice cases in the state in which expert lawyers and legal teams have been able to secure justice for their clients. Sometimes this occurs in the most tragic of situations, as was the case when a man in Bloomington recently won a $4.78 million jury award in his malpractice case over the death of his wife. She was just 38 and died after suffering complications from an endoscopy performed in 2012. He and his legal team argued that she received inadequate care after being transported to a hospital for additional treatment. The jury agreed and awarded him the damages.

In another tragic case the children and widow of a man who died from a pulmonary embolism were awarded a $3 million verdict in a medical malpractice case in Elmhurst. The man had gone through leg surgery after slipping at work and rupturing a tendon. After the procedure he experienced swelling in his leg, chest pains, and shortness of breath. For nearly a week doctors and other caregivers neglected the signs that a blood clot had formed. He died when the clot moved to his lungs.

Finding an Illinois Medical Malpractice Lawyer

If you or a family member has been the victim of medical negligence, you need to find a good lawyer, fluent in the malpractice laws of the state to guide your case. Look for a lawyer or team that has actually settled and tried a number of malpractice cases. You need the experience of both settling and going to trial, as well as professional knowledge of the law, in the professionals who will be fighting your case in the legal system. Experience is not the only important factor, though. Find out how many cases your lawyer has actually one and get references from past clients to make sure you have chosen the best person to represent you.

When you take care to select a great Illinois medical malpractice lawyer to help argue your case, you will have a better chance of working with someone who cares about winning for you and your family. You will have a greater chance of winning the justice you want and the compensation you truly need.