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Is Psychiatric Malpractice Considered Medical Malpractice?

Posted on: May 22, 2017 by in Medical Malpractice
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counselor in group therapy

When you obtain the services of a psychiatrist, it is probably because you are seeking to improve your mental or emotional health. Some psychiatric patients are recovering from a specific traumatic event. Others may be dealing with a lifetime’s worth of anxieties and concerns. Either way, a psychiatrist is a medical professional who should be able to help – or at least not hinder – a patient’s efforts to improve his or her mental and emotional health.

In some circumstances, psychiatric patients have ended up as the victims of neglect or abuse. The abuse of someone’s trust is never more disturbing than when a patient seeking treatment is abused by the same medical professional who’s being trusted to provide help.

In the greater Chicago area, if you believe that you or someone you love may be the victim of psychiatric malpractice, you should discuss your case and concerns with an experienced Chicago medical malpractice attorney. Psychiatric malpractice is considered medical malpractice and is handled by the law in precisely the same way.

The relationship between a psychiatrist and a patient is deeply personal and intimate. No psychiatrist ever has the right to disrespect any patient or to treat any patient carelessly. Every professional in the field of medicine has a responsibility – and in fact takes an oath – to bring no mental, physical, or emotional harm to a patient.

Every phase of psychiatric treatment should be aimed at helping patients to improve their mental and emotional conditions. Psychiatrists often have access to a patient’s most private thoughts and experiences, so everything that happens during psychiatric treatment should always remain confidential.

WHERE CAN A VICTIM OF PSYCHIATRIC MALPRACTICE TURN?

Unfortunately, some instances of psychiatric malpractice may never be reported because the victims may be uncertain about what constitutes malpractice. Psychiatric patients may sometimes find that their complaints are dismissed as exaggerations, paranoia, or an unwillingness to cooperate with psychiatric treatment. In some cases, even family members may dismiss the concerns. Where can a victim of psychiatric malpractice turn?

An experienced Chicago medical malpractice attorney will not dismiss your concerns. If you believe that you have been a victim of psychiatric malpractice, an experienced medical malpractice attorney can review your situation, provide candid legal advice, explain your legal rights and options, and if it’s appropriate, fight aggressively for justice – and even for financial compensation – on your behalf.

Examples of psychiatric malpractice include but are not necessarily limited to:

  • failure to diagnose the patient accurately
  • failure to obtain informed consent
  • prescribing improper medications
  • sexual relationships with patients
  • physical, emotional, or verbal abuse
  • negligent breach of confidentiality
  • negligent or abusive psychiatric hospital care
  • any negligence or abuse that causes harm

Under Illinois law (as well as the law in most other states), psychiatric patients who are victimized by any of these actions may have a claim to financial compensation. The right medical malpractice attorney will work tenaciously to ensure that a victimized psychiatric patient is justly and properly compensated for the harm that he or she has endured.

Of course, no one anticipates becoming a victim of psychiatric malpractice, but anyone who is undergoing psychiatric treatment should take these steps to protect yourself:

  • Keep a journal and write a detailed summary of each visit with the psychiatrist.
  • Also use the journal to record your prescribed medications, dosages, and any changes to those prescriptions and dosage amounts.
  • Ask your psychiatrist exactly why a medicine is being prescribed and precisely what its intended effect is supposed to be.
  • If you are at an inpatient facility, routinely write detailed letters describing your treatment and experiences to friends and family members you trust.

HOW IS MEDICAL MALPRACTICE DEFINED IN ILLINOIS?

Patients have a right to professional care when they seek treatment for their physical and mental health. Psychiatrists and all other doctors take an oath to uphold professional codes of ethics and to treat patients on the basis of those ethics. The medical profession maintains a high standard, and when the care provided by a healthcare professional falls below that standard, it may constitute as medical malpractice.

The generally accepted “standard of care” in the medical profession includes the routines, processes, and procedures widely accepted throughout the medical community regarding the care and treatment of patients. If a psychiatrist or another medical professional, or a psychiatric hospital or clinic, causes a patient to be injured or harmed by failing to provide the acceptable standard of care, that patient has the right to file a medical malpractice lawsuit.

Proving that a psychiatrist was abusive or negligent may require the testimony of a psychiatric authority who will testify – as an expert witness – that you would not have been harmed if you had been cared for by a typical, competent psychiatrist in similar circumstances.

For a medical malpractice claim against a psychiatrist to succeed, a medical malpractice attorney must be able to prove that these charges are true:

  • The plaintiff (that is, the patient making the claim) had a doctor-patient relationship with the psychiatrist.
  • The psychiatrist was negligent in providing treatment and care to the plaintiff.
  • That negligence was a direct cause of harm to the plaintiff.
  • That harm can be documented and may include physical pain and/or mental suffering.

WHAT KINDS OF DAMAGES ARE AVAILABLE TO MALPRACTICE VICTIMS?

When someone files a medical malpractice lawsuit in Illinois, he or she may obtain several types of awards if the lawsuit prevails. “Special” damages are paid for actual economic losses such as additional medical expenses and lost wages. In cases of psychiatric malpractice, a plaintiff can expect to receive “general” damages.

General damages are compensation for physical and mental pain, emotional suffering, and what the law calls “the loss of the enjoyment of life.” Punitive damages are meant to penalize a doctor or a medical facility for particularly egregious negligence. Punitive damages are rarely awarded in Illinois medical malpractice cases.

Professional psychiatrists have a legal and ethical obligation to meet their responsibilities to patients seeking psychiatric treatment. Negligence and malpractice are unacceptable, but an experienced Chicago medical malpractice attorney can usually help a victim of psychiatric malpractice win both compensation and justice.

If you have endured abuse, negligence, or mistreatment by a psychiatrist or by the staff at a psychiatric facility, you should contact an experienced medical malpractice lawyer to discuss your legal rights and options.

FAQs About Medical Malpractice In Chicago

Posted on: April 29, 2017 by in Medical Malpractice
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Medical malpractice happens when a medical professional’s negligence leads to the deterioration of a patient’s medical condition, additional injury to the patient, or the patient’s wrongful death. If you have suffered harm at the hands of a medical professional, you may be entitled to seek legal damages with the help of our medical malpractice lawyers.

Offered here are the answers to a number of frequently asked questions about medical malpractice. These are general, introductory answers, but if you are yourself a victim of medical malpractice, you’ll need to seek the specific advice pertinent to your own circumstances by consulting an experienced Chicago medical malpractice attorney.

Q: If I accept a settlement and find out later that I am much more severely injured, will I still be allowed to file a medical malpractice lawsuit?

A: Usually, the answer to that question is “No.” One of the conditions you must agree to when you accept a settlement is that you will not pursue additional legal action. After a malpractice incident, a doctor’s or hospital’s insurance company may offer you a settlement that is far below the amount your lawsuit would actually be worth. In the Chicago area, always speak first with an experienced Chicago medical malpractice attorney before you do anything that might impair your ability to recover the maximum possible compensation through a medical malpractice lawsuit.

Q: How can I know if I qualify to file a medical malpractice lawsuit?

A: Proving that a doctor was negligent in a way that injured a patient may require the help of a medical authority who can testify – as an expert witness – that you would not have been injured if you had been treated by a competent physician in the same situation. In order to prevail in a medical malpractice lawsuit, you must be able to establish that the allegations listed here are true:

  • You sought medical treatment and had a doctor-patient relationship with the defendant.
  • The defendant was negligent in providing your medical treatment and care.
  • The defendant’s negligence was the direct cause of your injury or injuries.
  • Your injury resulted in documentable damages that may include physical pain or mental anguish.

Q: What is the statute of limitations for Illinois medical malpractice cases?

A: In Illinois, if you sustain a medical malpractice injury because your doctor was negligent, speak to an experienced Chicago medical malpractice attorney regarding your legal rights and options. In this state, the statute of limitations for filing a medical malpractice claim – in most cases – is two years from the date of the injury. However, the so-called “discovery rule” allows a lawsuit to be filed within two years after the injury is discovered or reasonably should have been discovered. Regardless of when you discover the injury, there is a total limit of four years from the date when the malpractice occurred.

The law allows several very precisely limited exceptions to these deadlines. There are exceptions, for example, for foreign objects left in the patient or when healthcare professionals fraudulently conceal their malpractice. If the injury victim was under age eighteen when the medical malpractice happened, the Illinois statute of limitations is eight years from the date of the injury, or the date that injured person turns age twenty-two, whichever comes first.

Q: If I signed a consent form prior to treatment, can I still sue for medical malpractice?

A: The answer to that question is almost always “Yes,” because when you sign a consent form, you are acknowledging the risks of the treatment you expect to receive, and you are assuming that your doctor will provide the accepted professional “standard of care.” A malpractice claim is – among other things – an allegation that the accepted professional standard of medical care was not provided. Thus, you may still file a medical malpractice claim if you were injured by your doctor’s failure to provide the accepted standard of care.

Q: How is a “standard of care” defined?

A: The accepted medical “standard of care” includes the routines, procedures, and processes widely and generally accepted by the professional medical community regarding the evaluation, care, and treatment of a medical condition. If a physician, a nurse, another medical professional, or a facility like a hospital or a hospice causes a patient to be injured by not meeting the accepted professional standard of care, the patient may have the grounds to file a medical malpractice lawsuit.

Q: If my doctor commits medical malpractice at a hospital, can I sue the hospital?

A: Most doctors working at hospitals are considered independent contractors rather than employees, so in most cases, you will not be able to sue a hospital where medical malpractice happens. However, a hospital may be liable for a doctor’s actions if the hospital did not make it clear to the patient that the doctor was not an employee. “Making it clear” may be impossible in emergency situations, so hospitals sometimes may be legally responsible for an ER physician’s medical malpractice.

Q: What is my recourse if a nurse gives me the wrong medication?

A: When a nurse does not fulfill his or her professional duties in the way that a normally competent nurse in the same circumstances would fulfill those duties, and when that failure to fulfill duties leads to negligence that injures a patient, the hospital may be liable for a nurse’s negligence if the nurse was a hospital employee who was performing a job duty when the injury occurred.

Q: What kinds of damages (monetary awards) are available to a plaintiff when a medical malpractice lawsuit succeeds?

A: When a patient has been injured by medical malpractice, three types of awards may be available if the lawsuit prevails. “Special” damages may be paid for quantifiable and verifiable economic losses such as medical expenses and wages lost because of days missed from work.

“General” damages compensate for the suffering that malpractice entails – physical and mental pain, emotional suffering, the loss of the “enjoyment of life,” and possibly the loss of consortium. “Punitive” damages are intended as punishment for a doctor or a medical facility for egregious conduct, although such awards are rare in medical malpractice cases in Illinois.

Q: What if an incident of medical malpractice results in a fatality?

If someone dies due to medical malpractice, the deceased person’s family may pursue a wrongful death claim and may recover damages that compensate for pain, suffering, and the loss of the deceased person’s income and future earnings capacity. Damages for the loss of companionship and loss of consortium are also sometimes paid to surviving family members in wrongful death cases. In any of these situations, let an experienced Chicago medical malpractice attorney provide the specific legal advice that medical malpractice injury victims and their families will need.

When Can I Sue A Chicago Hospital For Negligence?

Posted on: December 20, 2016 by in Medical Malpractice
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When medical care at a hospital falls below the minimal standard of care set by the medical profession, it constitutes medical negligence, and it can mean injury or death for a patient. According to Consumer Reports, medical errors in hospitals in the United States are linked every year to more than 400,000 deaths. That is a terrifyingly high number, but the number of hospital mistakes causing injuries short of death is even greater. In the Chicago area, if you are injured while receiving treatment or care in a hospital, can you sue for medical negligence or malpractice?

Frankly, every injury case is different, so the realistic answer is “it depends.” This is a general introduction to the topic, but if you become a victim of medical malpractice in the greater Chicago area, you’ll need the advice of an experienced Chicago medical malpractice attorney regarding any specific case of malpractice or any allegation of malpractice by a physician or by a hospital.

ARE HOSPITALS LEGALLY RESPONSIBLE FOR THE ACTIONS OF EMPLOYEES?

We are all human, and we make small mistakes all the time, so not every mistake that happens in a hospital is necessarily negligence or malpractice. In most situations, a hospital will be considered liable if an employee injures a patient by acting negligently or incompetently. A medical malpractice lawsuit is usually appropriate if a technician, a nurse, or another hospital employee injures a patient by incompetently or negligently performing a job-related task.

There is an important exception. Typically, doctors are not hospital employees. If a physician injures a patient through malpractice at a hospital, although there can be exceptions, the hospital usually will not be held liable. And if an employee of the hospital makes a medical mistake while working under the direction of a physician, the doctor can probably be sued, but the hospital is probably free of liability. A Chicago medical malpractice attorney will have to look at the particulars of any specific case before offering advice about a victim’s legal rights and options.

IS OR ISN’T THE DOCTOR A HOSPITAL EMPLOYEE?

If the doctor is a hospital employee, and if the doctor commits medical malpractice, in most cases, the malpractice victim can sue the hospital. However, while some physicians are employed by hospitals, most are not. They are considered independent contractors, and in those cases, hospitals usually are not responsible for a non-employee’s actions. However, a doctor is probably an employee if the hospital determines the doctor’s working hours and sets the doctor’s fees.

And again, it all depends on the specifics of the case. If a hospital “appeared” to be a physician’s employer, and if the plaintiff/injury victim in a malpractice case has evidence to that effect, the plaintiff/injury victim can probably sue the hospital for the physician’s malpractice. However, most hospitals have incoming patients sign admission forms which spell out quite clearly that their doctors are not hospital employees.

There is still another exception. For emergency room patients who are injured by a physician’s malpractice, the hospital can usually be sued because there is seldom any opportunity to tell ER patients that ER doctors are not hospital employees. Almost always, hospital emergency rooms are chaotic and overcrowded, so when doctors, nurses, and other ER personnel are negligent, the injuries they cause can be devastating.

Still, medical malpractice cannot be tolerated for any reason. Emergency room errors happen far too frequently and are almost always preventable. Those with life-threatening conditions receive priority attention over other patients who may not receive the full medical attention they genuinely require. Some patients wait in emergency rooms for hours with their health visibly declining while they wait.

And even when a doctor is an independent contractor, a hospital can sometimes be sued for a doctor’s malpractice if the hospital knew – or should have known – that it was giving staff privileges to a negligent or incompetent physician. For example, if a doctor develops an issue with alcohol or drug abuse or addiction, and the hospital management is aware – or should have been aware – of the problem, the hospital can probably be sued if that physician injures a patient.

HOW DOES A MEDICAL MALPRACTICE CLAIM PREVAIL?

To prevail with a medical malpractice claim against a hospital, a plaintiff must demonstrate that a physician or another hospital employee violated the legal and professional duty of care to the patient. A plaintiff will also have to prove that the hospital’s negligence was the direct cause of the injury and that the injury resulted in economic or non-economic damages. That is, a plaintiff will have to prove that medical malpractice and the resulting injury led to additional medical bills, lost income, unnecessary pain and suffering, and/or the temporary or permanent loss of future earning capacity.

Surgical errors get media attention – when an amputation or an organ removal goes wrong – but the truth is that most malpractice incidents do not happen during surgeries. Every year in the U.S., about twelve million adults are misdiagnosed in emergency rooms, clinics, and doctors’ offices. Misdiagnosing a serious condition, and recommending the wrong treatment or medication on the basis of that misdiagnosis, can cause great harm to anyone who is already suffering, and it’s the leading way that patients are injured by medical malpractice.

While Consumer Reports links medical mistakes in U.S. hospitals to more than 400,000 deaths annually, the Leapfrog Group, a nonprofit organization that monitors safety in hospitals, recently gave consumers some good news about hospitals in the Chicago area. Twenty-six Chicago-area hospitals received grades of A in the Leapfrog Group’s most recent “Hospital Safety Score” report. Thankfully, no hospital in the Chicago area was given an “F” grade by the Leapfrog Group.

Medical malpractice law is a complicated body of statutes that can change from year to year and vary from state to state. If you believe that you or someone you love is a victim of medical malpractice – in a hospital or in any other medical setting – it is imperative to take action quickly. In Illinois, a medical malpractice claim usually must be filed within two years of the date that the victim discovered or should have discovered the injury.

Again, there are exceptions, but all medical malpractice claims must be filed no later than four years from the date the malpractice happened, even if the victim was still unaware of the malpractice for more than four years. If the malpractice victim is a minor, the statute of limitations is generally longer, and if you were prevented in some way from exercising your rights, you may still be allowed to file a claim. Finally, to reiterate, because every case is different, the victims of medical malpractice will need to have an experienced medical malpractice attorney assess the details of the case before taking any legal action.

The Safest Hospitals in Chicago

Posted on: July 20, 2016 by in Medical Malpractice
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Depending on where you get your information, medical malpractice in hospitals in the United States is responsible for between 98,000 and 440,000 deaths annually. If you need to stay in a hospital, your choice might literally mean the difference between life and death. If you’re injured in a hospital in Illinois – or if your health deteriorates – because of medical malpractice, seek advice from an experienced Chicago medical malpractice attorney. Medical malpractice victims in Illinois are entitled to full compensation for their injuries and related losses.

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Some Chicago hospitals get only average marks in a new patient safety report. Leapfrog Group, a Washington, D.C. nonprofit that monitors safety and quality in U.S. hospitals, gave Chicago-area hospitals grades of A through F in its most recent “Hospital Safety Score” report, gauging hospitals’ track records of preventing avoidable deaths due to causes like infections and miscommunication. The good news is that many Chicago-area hospitals rated highly. Scores are assigned by patient safety experts and are based on information mostly from 2015 and 2014 compiled from the American Hospital Association, Medicare, and the hospitals themselves.

WHICH HOSPITALS WERE RANKED CHICAGO’S BEST?

The Chicago area hospitals that received “A” grades from Leapfrog Group are Rush University Medical Center, Presence Saints Mary and Elizabeth Medical Center, the University of Chicago Medical Center, Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center, Loretto Hospital, West Suburban Medical Center in Oak Park, Swedish Covenant Hospital, Loyola Gottlieb Memorial Hospital, the AMITA Adventist Medical Centers in La Grange and Hinsdale, Elmhurst Memorial Hospital in Elmhurst, and Advocate Lutheran General Hospital in Park Ridge.

Other facilities that received an “A” include St. Catherine Hospital of East Chicago, Advocate Good Samaritan Hospital in Downers Grove, the AMITA Health Adventist Medical Center in Glendale Heights, the AMITA Health Alexian Brothers Medical Center in Elk Grove Village, the Community Hospital of Munster, Northwest Community Hospital in Arlington Heights, and the AMITA Health Adventist Medical Center in Bolingbrook.

Leapfrog Group also assigned an “A” grade to Northwestern Medicine Central DuPage Hospital in Winfield, Edward Hospital in Naperville, Silver Cross Hospital in New Lenox, the AMITA Health St. Alexius Medical Center in Hoffman Estates, Rush-Copley Medical Center in Aurora, Advocate Condell Medical Center in Libertyville, Northwestern Medicine Delnor Hospital in Geneva, and Advocate Sherman Hospital in Elgin.

The Chicago-area hospitals receiving a “B” grade included Jackson Park Hospital, Presence Resurrection Medical Center, MacNeal Hospital in Berwyn, Loyola University Medical Center in Maywood, Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn, Westlake Hospital in Melrose Park, Presence Saint Francis Hospital in Evanston, Advocate South Suburban Hospital in Hazel Crest, St. Mary Medical Center of Hobart, the Presence St. Joseph Medical Center in Joliet, Advocate Good Shepherd Hospital in Barrington, Presence Mercy Medical Center in Aurora, Presence Saint Joseph Hospital in Elgin, and Vista Medical Center East in Waukegan.

Leapfrog Group gave a grade of “C” to Mercy Hospital and Medical Center, the University of Illinois Hospital, John H. Stroger Jr. Hospital, Advocate Trinity Hospital, Saint Anthony Hospital, Northwestern Memorial Hospital, Roseland Community Hospital, Norwegian American Hospital, Presence Saint Joseph Hospital, Thorek Memorial Hospital, Community First Medical Center, and Weiss Memorial Hospital.

Also receiving a “C” grade were Rush Oak Park Hospital, the Little Company of Mary Hospital and Health Care Centers in Evergreen Park, MetroSouth Medical Center (Blue Island), the NorthShore University HealthSystem Hospitals in Evanston, Skokie, Glenview, and Highland Park, Palos Community Hospital in Palos Heights, Ingalls Memorial Hospital in Harvey, the Methodist Hospitals of Merrillville Northlake in Gary, the Methodist Hospitals of Merrillville Southlake in Merrillville, and Northwestern Lake Forest Hospital.

WHICH HOSPITALS WERE RANKED NEAR THE BOTTOM?

While the Leapfrog Group assigned grades of “C” or higher to the overwhelming majority of hospitals in the Chicago area, several facilities received a “D” grade, including Mount Sinai Hospital, Holy Cross Hospital, and Franciscan St. James Health in Olympia Fields and in Chicago Heights. No Chicago-area hospital, thankfully, received an “F” grade from the Leapfrog Group.

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WHAT SHOULD A MEDICAL MALPRACTICE VICTIM KNOW?

If you are injured in any hospital in the Chicago area, your injury is not automatically considered medical malpractice. Illinois law does not presuppose that when someone is injured while under a physician’s care, the physician is automatically liable for the injury. Instead, the injury victim must prove that a doctor or other healthcare provider acted negligently in a way that directly caused the injury. If you are injured by medical malpractice and you choose to file a medical malpractice lawsuit, keep in mind these facts:

  1. Under the Illinois statute of limitations, with rare exceptions, a victim of medical malpractice only has up to two years from the date he or she knew or should have known of the injury to file a medical malpractice claim.
  2. If you are injured while receiving medical care in Illinois, it does not necessarily mean that medical malpractice has happened. To prove medical malpractice, a victim must show that a healthcare provider breached the accepted standard of care by acting carelessly or negligently.
  3. Three of the top five most trusted groups in the United States, according to a number of surveys, are doctors, nurses, and pharmacists. If jurors have any doubt about the claims in a malpractice trial, they will usually defer to the healthcare professionals.
  4. Keep and make copies of all the medical and insurance paperwork generated by your injury and by your claim. Keep complete records and obtain your own medical records when you believe that you are a medical malpractice victim.
  5. When you explain your case – even to your own lawyer – keep it to the basic facts. You should be able to tell others briefly and specifically how medical malpractice happened and how it has affected you; otherwise, jurors may not be able to understand your claim.

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There are no risk-free medical procedures. Physicians must make it clear to patients what the possible risks are. Only when someone entirely comprehends the risks should that person choose to have a medical procedure. Most doctors work diligently to reduce risk. Nevertheless, medical negligence still happens far too frequently in hospitals in Illinois and across the country, and far too many victims in the Chicago area still end up seeking legal help from a Chicago medical malpractice attorney.

Infographic – What You Need To Know About Medical Malpractice

Posted on: April 1, 2016 by in Infographics, Medical Malpractice
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Medical malpractice occurs when a health or medical professional violates or neglects the standards of care while attending to a patient. As a victim of medical malpractice, the law entitles you to financial compensation that could cover everything from wrongful death or disfigurement to lost earnings, loss of consortium, medical bills and even compensation for your pain and suffering. But first, you must speak with a medical malpractice lawyer about your case. If you believe that a doctor or healthcare provider is responsible for injuries or ill health sustained by you or a loved one, speak with an experienced medical malpractice attorney to discuss your legal options.

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Medical Malpractice Filings Way Down, Insurance Company Profits Up

Posted on: February 10, 2016 by in Medical Malpractice
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Every day in the United States, people seeking medical treatment are injured by health care providers who are careless or negligent. Some of these injuries are catastrophic leading to temporary or permanent disability or even wrongful death. Medical doctors, chiropractors, osteopaths, dentists, technicians, nurses, and others can be careless and cause injury, and when that happens, those professionals can be held accountable for their negligence. When the employee of a health care institution or facility is directly responsible for committing medical malpractice, that facility may also be a defendant in a malpractice claim. Health care providers are expected to adhere to high professional standards that protect both patients and the health care providers themselves.

Despite those standards, if you or someone you love is injured by medical malpractice – which can include medical misdiagnoses, surgical errors, and the prescribing of improper or dangerous drugs – discuss your legal rights and options at once with a good malpractice lawyer, and in the Chicago area, contact one of our experienced Chicago medical malpractice attorneys. A number of recent studies indicate that the number of deaths in the United States caused by preventable hospital errors may be as high as 98,000 annually. That’s more than 250 fatalities every day due to medical malpractice. Medical malpractice costs this nation more than $3.6 billion per year, and several reports say that medical malpractice is the third leading cause of death in the United States.

CONCERNS ABOUT HIGH COSTS

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 31 million people are injured severely enough each year to require medical treatment in the United States. However, the number of personal injury lawsuits filed each year is nowhere near 31 million. In fact, the total number of all civil lawsuits filed in the United States is about 15 million a year, and the number of medical malpractice claims is slowly declining. In Illinois, the total number of civil lawsuits in Illinois has declined by 26 percent since 2007. Medical malpractice cases in Illinois are down nearly 40 percent since 2003. And in 2013, Illinois’ largest medical malpractice insurance provider, ISMIE Mutual Insurance, reported record profits of $80 million, up forty percent from 2012. In fact, the company’s profits have increased each year since 2009 – when its profits totaled under $15 million – at the same time that the number of malpractice claims is dropping.

Doctors are justifiably concerned about the high cost of medical malpractice insurance premiums – and patients are concerned about the high price of health care – at a time when insurance companies are raking in huge profits. When suggestions about regulating the insurance industry are made, insurance industry spokespersons are quick to blame others for the high cost of malpractice insurance and health care. According to some in the insurance industry, high premiums are merely the result of too any lawsuits and “out of control” medical malpractice payouts. Of course, the problem with that position is that it simply isn’t true. Malpractice insurance and health care costs continue to rise even as lawsuits and payout amounts have declined.

Figures from the National Practitioner Data Bank show that medical malpractice payouts nationwide dropped considerably between 2003, when they neared $5 billion, and 2013, when total payouts were about $3.7 billion. In Illinois, payouts decreased by $28 million from 2012 to 2013, even as Chicago-area providers continue paying some of the highest medical malpractice insurance premiums in the nation. According to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, medical malpractice insurance has twice the return on net worth for insurance companies that property and casualty insurance has.

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ACT TO PROTECT YOURSELF

Injury victims are not the cause of high insurance premiums, despite insurance companies’ claims that a lawsuit “crisis” is driving up malpractice premiums. Medical malpractice lawsuits are filed by injured people who are the victims of preventable medical errors, and those victims deserve compensation and justice. The way to reduce the number of lawsuits – and in turn to reduce medical malpractice insurance and health care costs – is to prevent medical malpractice. Consumers seeking health care can take some steps to protect themselves. To reduce their own costs, the health care industry is taking measures of its own.

Has your doctor been accused of malpractice in the past? If so, what was the result? One way to find out about your doctor is to check the court records in the county where he or she practices as well as the state medical licensing board and the state department of insurance (you can ask the latter if any claims are on record for the doctor). One malpractice suit alone is probably meaningless – it’s typical for doctors to be sued, and many cases are dismissed or the doctor prevails, so the fact that a doctor has sued isn’t necessarily disqualifying. Most malpractice cases are resolved out-of-court, which means there will be no court records. However, if you find that a doctor has been sued several times, and if any of those suits have resulted in large settlements or awards, you should probably consider a different doctor.

GUIDELINES AND NEW MEASURES

Don’t ignore the suggestions of friends and relatives, either. If someone you trust has relied on the same doctor for twenty or more years, that doctor may be the one you should see. While you’re looking for a doctor, stay healthy, eat right, and get plenty of sleep and exercise. If you are lucky, you may not require more than a check-up. If you do become a victim of medical malpractice, legal help is available. No one likes to be sued, of course, so the health care industry constantly seeks ways to reduce its own insurance costs and to reduce the number of malpractice incidents. A panel of doctors recently published a list of recommendations for medical providers and health care facilities in the New England Journal of Medicine. The doctors insist that hospitals must create guidelines for confronting mistakes and for managing the disclosure of details about malpractice incidents.

Two professors at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine writing in The BMJ (formerly the British Medical Journal) advocate the installation of video cameras in every operating room to record medical procedures, deter medical malpractice, and reduce the number of surgical mistakes. Timothy Pawlik and Martin Makary write that video in the O.R. could substantially improve the care of patients, shield hospitals and doctors from dubious allegations, and provide medical students with a superlative tool for learning surgical procedures. In medical negligence claims, video could help determine if malpractice did or did not take place.

IF YOU FILE A MALPRACTICE CLAIM

If the medical profession adopted these and other guidelines, it would dramatically reduce and change medical malpractice litigation and make it easier for victims and families to get justice without acrimonious courtroom battles. If you are injured in an incident of medical malpractice, and if you make the decision to file a medical malpractice lawsuit after consulting with a medical malpractice attorney, keep these facts in mind:

  • A failed medical treatment or procedure does not necessarily mean that medical malpractice has been committed. For malpractice to occur, a health care provider must breach the accepted professional standard of care by acting negligently, irresponsibly, or recklessly.
  • According to polls, doctors and nurses are two of the top most-trusted groups in the United States. If a case leaves jurors with doubts, they will usually give health care professionals the benefit of that doubt.
  • When you explain your case – even to your own attorney – cut to the chase. You should be able to explain quickly and specifically how a doctor or a hospital committed malpractice; otherwise, jurors may not be able to understand your story.
  • Keep comprehensive and accurate records and copies of all insurance and medical documents and paperwork pertinent to your case. If you believe that you are a victim of medical malpractice, obtain a complete set of your medical records as quickly as possible.

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YOU MUST ACT PROMPTLY

You must act promptly if you become a victim of medical malpractice. The “statute of limitations” is the legal term for the deadline you have for filing a medical malpractice lawsuit against a health care provider. An attorney in your own state can tell you what you need to know about statutes of limitations; in Illinois, speak with an experienced Chicago medical malpractice attorney. Medical malpractice claims typically have some of the shortest statute of limitation periods of any kind of lawsuit.

In Illinois, you must start the lawsuit within two years of when you became aware of, or should have become aware of, the medical malpractice or the resulting injury. Regardless of when you discover the injury, there is a limit of four years from when the malpractice occurred. (The exception in Illinois is that if the injured victim was younger than eighteen when the medical malpractice occurred, the statute of limitations is eight years or when the injured person turns twenty-two, whichever comes first.) Don’t wait four years to speak with an attorney, or even two. Evidence deteriorates rapidly, and so do the memories of witnesses. If you’ve been injured by medical malpractice, speak with an experienced medical malpractice attorney immediately.

Over many decades, the work of lawmakers, activists, and medical malpractice attorneys to hold hospitals and physicians responsible when their negligence injures patients has led to substantial improvements in the way medicine is practiced and to the development of more rigorous safety standards that protect patients and prevent negligent acts. That’s the main reason why the number of malpractice cases is declining. Health care and insurance costs should be declining, too.

Chicago Medical Malpractice Lawyer Stephen D. Phillips Wins $10 million dollar Settlement for 31 year old Chicago man who Suffered Paralysis from Undiagnosed Spinal Infection

Posted on: April 28, 2015 by in Medical Malpractice
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Chicago Medical Malpractice Lawyer

On April 22, 2009, Stephen Schmitz, Jr., age 31 father of one, went to the Emergency Room at Little Company of Mary Hospital and Health Care Center in Evergreen Park, Illinois, with complaints of severe back pain and profound weakness in his legs. After spending an hour in the waiting area of the emergency room in tremendous pain, moaning and “making a scene,” he was finally taken to the examining room for triage. Thereafter, the triage nurse began her assessment of Stephen and noted the presence of fever, back pain and neurological deficits – the classic presentation of epidural abscess. However, Stephen’s first ER physician did a quick evaluation and ordered a stat abdominal CT scan to rule out an abdominal aortic aneurism. Stephen had no history of vascular disease and no pulsations in his abdomen.

Neither the triage nurse nor the ER physician ever examined Stephen’s back, where he had a large, infected boil in his mid-spine precisely in the area where an epidural abscess was found at surgery 10 days later.

The hospital’s policies and procedures required that a stat CT scan be done within 15 minutes from the time of an order. However, Stephen did not leave the ER for an abdominal CT for over 90 minutes after the order. When the results of the CT scan came back over three hours after Stephen presented to emergency room, it was negative for abdominal aneurism. Thereafter, Stephen was not seen by another ER physician for another 90 minutes, even though the ER physician was told by multiple nurses that Stephen’s color “looked gray.” The second ER physician finally ordered an MRI of Stephen’s thoracic spine to find out why his paralysis had progressed all the way from his feet to above his waist in the 4.5 hours since he had been in the emergency room.

After the four hour MRI scan where it was noted that Stephen had significant problems with pain and claustrophobia, no physician went from the ER to the MRI scanner to see him or to determine what could be done to expedite the MRI process in light of his progressive paralysis, opting instead to casually order additional doses of Ativan and Morphine at arm’s length. Despite the fact that Epidural Abscess was in the second ER physician’s differential diagnosis, the MRI of Stephen’s thoracic spine was not ready to be read until approximately 11:20 p.m. that evening – almost 4.5 hours after it had been ordered and 9 hours after he arrived.

At that time, the scan was sent to a radiologist, who was on-call at his home. The doctor read the radiology study as virtually normal and advised the ER physician and neurologist, accordingly. Of particular importance, the radiologist’s interpretation indicated “no enhancing abnormality” on Stephen’s thoracic MRI, an interpretation which proved fatal to Stephen’s chances for improvement or recovery from paralysis. At the same time, Stephen’s neurologist also read Stephen’s thoracic MRI as showing “no enhancing abnormality”; it was therefore decided that Stephen had inoperable, irreversible, dysfunction of his spinal cord around the T4-T5 level which was not treatable with back surgery.

The next morning, April 23rd, a second radiologist read the radiology report of Stephen’s thoracic MRI from the preceding day and, in stark contrast to the first, noted there was significant and extensive enhancing abnormality on the MRI between the spinal cord and bony canal at levels T3-T4 and T4-T5. Significantly, the enhancement from the contrast material (gadolinium) used in Stephen’s thoracic MRI indicated areas of inflammation consistent with an epidural abscess or epidural infection, (pus) in the space between the spinal cord and the bony spinal canal. However, the second radiologist did not notify anyone that he read the film contrary to the first reading and he instead simply posted his final read on the hospital computer system.

For seven (7) days it was of assumed that Stephen’s paralysis was the result of something inside his spinal cord – transverse myelitis. On April 30, 2009, Defendants finally called a neurosurgeon to consult on Stephen’s case. The neurosurgeon viewed the MRI of Stephen’s thoracic spine taken April 28, 2009 and immediately ordered a follow-up MRI, which revealed an epidural abscess.

By May 4, 2009, Chicago medical Malpractice lawyer, Stephen was finally operated as he had become significantly septic due to the continuing presence of bacteria in his spine. At that time a large pocket of pus (abscess) was discovered at three (3) levels of his thoracic spine. Unfortunately for Stephen, this surgery came too late and he remained paraplegic.

Stephen Schmitz has complete paraplegia below spinal level t-5 meaning he has neither feeling nor motor function below spinal level t-5. He hasn’t walked since entering Little Company of Mary on April 22, 2009, will never walk again, and will be confined to a wheelchair for the rest of his life. His spinal cord injury also results in chronic pain and sudden, unpredictable bouts of spasticity in his lower extremities.

A tragic byproduct of Stephen’s complete paraplegia was the amputation, in January 2010, of his right leg due to chronic, non-healing ulcers and osteomyelitis in his right heel. Unfortunately, the lack of both feeling and motor function in Stephen’s extremities placed him at increased risk for ulcers of this nature. Stephen had many surgeries, including debridements and flap procedures, on his right heel. However, neither these procedures nor the use of antibiotics could stop the spread of infection to Stephen’s right heel, necessitating amputation of his right heel bone and, with it, his entire right lower limb pursuant to established surgical technique.

As with his right heel, Stephen’s paraplegia created a risk for development of ulcers on his buttocks and sacral area. He has battled severe infections on his buttocks following his injury that resulted in a draining wound with tunneling and, ultimately, chronic osteomyelitis in his sacral bone. After undergoing multiple debridement surgeries and flap procedures to manage these wounds, Stephen had both his sacral bone and extensive gluteal tissue removed in July 2010.

On the eve of trial, the parties engaged in a two day pre-trial settlement conference before the honorable Edward S. Harmening, who diligently and ably reached a settlement between the Plaintiff and 3 Defendants, including the Little Company of Mary hospital, an emergency room physician and a radiologist. The settlement was split evenly between the Hospital and the insurer for the Doctors.

This settlement will help provide the care, therapy, assistance, and medical equipment that Mr. Schmitz needs through his lifetime. According to his lawyers, Mr. Schmitz wants to be able to participate in his child’s life, return to some outdoor activities and be a more active father.

Also handling the case with Mr. Phillips on behalf of Mr. Schmitz was Terrence M. Quinn and Elise A. Waisbren from Phillips Law Offices.

For more information contact Stephen D. Phillips at 312-550-0005.

Phillips Law Offices
161 N. Clark Street, Suite 4925
Chicago, Illinois 60601

Johnson & Johnson DePuy Unit Announces $2.5 Billion Settlement

Compensation for patients with ASR™ hip systems

On November 19, 2013, DePuy Orthopaedics division of Johnson & Johnson and a court-appointed committee of lawyers representing plaintiffs with the DePuy ASR (Articular Surface Replacement) system announced a $2.5 billion settlement agreement. The settlement is intended to compensate ASR patients in the United States who had to have revision surgery to replace their ASR hip as of August 13, 2013. A separate pool of $475 million will cover additional payments to compensate patients who suffered more severe injuries as a result of the device implant, its removal, or its replacement. Continue Reading