Medicine in general is complex which makes medical malpractice lawsuits in Illinois complex as well. If you are at a stop light and get rear-ended, it’s common sense that you have a case. But if a doctor fails to diagnose an aortic aneurysm or doesn’t find cancer in time, it’s not as clear cut that you’d have a case.
As a result, one of the most common questions we get is “Do I have a medical malpractice case?”
The answer depends on a bunch of things. Here are ten things we look for when evaluating whether or not to take a case.
1. Is there a major, long term injury? A doctor can screw up, but if it doesn’t hurt you then there’s not a case for us. I hear all of the time, “I could have died!” I’m sympathetic, but if you have a case where a doctor is negligent and nothing happens it’s not worth pursuing. If it’s a death, brain damage, permanent disability, etc it’s worth looking in to.
2. Was it really negligence or just a bad result? If your loved one has a really risky surgery and dies on the operating table or if you have a knee replacement and aren’t fully recovered in six months, that doesn’t mean someone screwed up. We’d still look in to the case, but it’s no slam dunk.
3. Was what happened to you a risk of the procedure? Getting your colon punctured in a colonoscopy is a risk of getting that done. If it happens and there isn’t more to the story, it’s not a lawsuit.
4. How long is there to file the case? There are various statutes of limitations for bringing a lawsuit in Illinois for malpractice. It typically takes 3-6 months to properly investigate a case. If you call us a week before the deadline to file, we wouldn’t get involved because there just isn’t enough time for us to do a proper investigation.
5. What county is the case in? The reality is that in smaller Illinois counties it’s really hard to bring a case if it’s not a slam dunk. It’s not easy in Cook County either, but you get more of a fair shot.
6. Do we know what the ultimate recovery will be? The sooner you call a lawyer if you suspect malpractice, the better. That said, sometimes we know there was a screw up, but we don’t know what the long term harm will be. In those cases we take a wait and see approach.
7. If there was a death, was there an autopsy? It’s not mandatory, but in some cases you can’t prove malpractice without it.
8. What “co-morbidities” does the victim have? Sad, but true, if you are 85 years old, have diabetes, renal failure and stage 4 lung cancer, if you die due to a surgical error that case wouldn’t have much value as your life expectancy is essentially nothing.
9. Did you listen to your doctor? Let’s say you go to the doctor with pain in your side and they tell you that you are likely alright, but should return if the pain persists. If you ignore their advice and two weeks later die of an aneurysm it’s a very defendable case.
10. How old is the victim? Another sad truth is that a doctor or hospital can sometimes be negligent in the death of a very old person and nothing happens because it would cost more to bring the case than can be recovered. My grandmother was the greatest person ever and very active up until she passed at 97 years young. So I get it when people tell me about their active and healthy parents and grandparents who were suddenly taken away from them. You might have a case, but it’s not as strong as if it happened to someone much younger.
I don’t want any of this to discourage you, but I do want to paint a realistic picture of what goes in to investigating and pursuing these cases. If you would like to talk to an attorney for free about a possible case, please call us any time at 312-346-5320 or fill out our contact form and we will call you.