Medical malpractice cases are among the most costly of all personal injury cases. They also are almost always vigorously defended. With extensive experience in the field, the Law Offices of R.F. Wittmeyer, Ltd will be ready to protect your rights and provide you with the advice you will need against this vigorous defense.
Under Illinois law, medical malpractice occurs when:
- a healthcare professional (i.e. doctor) or institution (i.e. hospital)
- breaches a standard of care when treating a patient
- resulting in an injury or death.
Medical malpractice is more than simply a bad result from medical care and treatment. The medical professional must have done something or failed to do something that is considered a deviation from the accepted standard in that area of medicine for the care and treatment that was being administered to the patient at the time. Furthermore, the medical mistake is what must lead to or cause a serious injury or death in order to warrant prosecution of the claim. This may sound simple, but many times medical errors are made that do not cause any serious consequences, or the error is caught and then remedied by the medical professional involved. The reality is that, unless a serious and permanent injury or death has resulted from the medical mistake a long and expensive lawsuit simply cannot be justified.
However, as many as 98,000 Americans die in hospitals each year as a result of medical errors. No question, there are many, many medical mistakes made by physicians, hospitals, and nurses across the United States each year.
What Are the Challenges in a Medical Malpractice Suit?
The statistics show that the majority of medical malpractice cases that are tried to juries are won by the defense. Some of the reasons for this are that people generally trust, admire, and hold physicians in high esteem. Also, medical professionals especially in the same locale stick together, and will almost never criticize a colleague.
Another reason that medical malpractice cases, especially against doctors, are not easily resolved short of trial, is that physicians typically have a right to approve or reject any settlement. Physicians have little incentive to authorize a settlement, since any settlement in a malpractice case is reported to a central data bank. Unfortunately, victims and their attorneys do not have access to this data base. Additionally, a settlement is viewed as adversely affecting their reputation and future insurability.
If you believe that you or a loved one has suffered as a result of medical malpractice, you should contact our office or another personal injury lawyer who practices in this area to discuss your situation. If you have any questions, please contact the Law Offices of R.F. Wittmeyer, Ltd.
How Do You Approach a Medical Malpractice Suit?
After discussing the matter with you, if it appears that medical malpractice could be involved that resulted in a serious injury or death, all of the relevant medical records must be obtained. We may request that you obtain these records. No medical malpractice case can be evaluated without the relevant medical records. You have an absolute right to obtain a copy of your records. You can obtain a copy of the records by making a written request to the doctor, hospital, or other medical facility and most likely signing a medical records release form that they will provide to you. Depending on the amount of medical care involved, the records can be extensive and cost several hundred dollars.
Once we review your medical records, we will then discuss with you whether we believe that there may be a case worth prosecuting and, accordingly, whether it makes sense to proceed to the next step.
The next step is having your medical records reviewed by a medical professional in the same field of expertise as the professional whom we suspect of committing medical negligence. This review is mandatory for cases brought in Illinois and certainly a good idea for any medical negligence case. This review usually costs between $500 and $2,500, although it can cost upwards of that range. This cost must by advanced by the attorneys, shared, or paid by the client. We determine how this cost is handled on a case by case basis.
One of the reasons that medical malpractice cases are so expensive to litigate is that you cannot simply go into court and have the victim and/or family testify about what happened. The law requires that you use an expert witness or expert witnesses in order to prove your case. Furthermore, in Illinois, you need a written report from an expert witness who has reviewed the medical records and is willing to state that a meritorious case exists. This is why, in Illinois at least, you must have a medical professional review your case before you can even file a lawsuit.
Once we have a written report from a qualified medical professional stating that a meritorious case exists, then we are in a position to accept the case, file a lawsuit on your behalf and begin prosecuting the claim. From that point on, we will advance litigation expenses, which are reimbursed to us from the clients’ share of any recovery. Medical malpractice cases are expensive because of the cost of the medical experts. Experienced lawyers know this and are prepared to bear the costs, which could reach tens of thousands of dollars. Litigation expenses are in addition to attorneys fees. Attorneys’ fees in these cases are typically at least a one-third contingency fee. However, in Illinois, attorneys’ fees in medical malpractice cases are generally limited as follows: one-third of the first $150,000, twenty-five percent of the next $850,000, and twenty percent of any recovery of more than $1,000,000.
We hope that this brief discussion has given you some insight into medical malpractice cases. Most importantly, if you believe that either you or a loved one has suffered as a result of a medical error, you need a law firm that is experienced in litigating medical malpractice cases. The Law Offices of R.F. Wittmeyer, Ltd is qualified to handle this type of complex case and provide you with the level of legal representation you deserve.