1. Seek legal advice as soon as you suspect you or a family member might be the victim of medical malpractice from an attorney who focuses on medical malpractice.
2. Insist on certified copies of all medical records relating to your treatment. Medical records are confidential, as the patient you have a right to all records including bills.
- Under the HITECH HIPAA Act, you are entitled to copies of your records for a minimal fee. Be aware some companies that handle medical records request for doctors and hospitals will attempt to charge hundreds of dollars to send you copies of your records. This is a potential serious violation of Federal law, and if you are asked to pay more than $50, speak to one of our attorneys.
3. Keep a diary with notations on everything the doctor, medical facility and staff told you, or instructed you, to do.
4. Keep an accurate chronological record of when you first sought treatment, the names of any specialists to which you were referred, including outpatient care, etc.
5. Seek a second opinion from a qualified doctor but do not share your suspicions of malpractice with the second doctor.
6. Get an independent autopsy if you suspect there may have been medical malpractice that resulted in death.
7. Preserve all evidence related to your suspicion of medical malpractice. It is important to keep all the evidence which may be related to the malpractice, the healthcare providers at issue, and the harm which resulted. The available documentation will vary from case to case. Here are a few examples:
- Appointment cards
- Authorizations and waivers
- Medical billing statements/records
- Prescription records
- Medical records (Your attorney can help you access these).
- Prescription bottles
- Photos of wounds, scars, or other injured areas
Not all these materials may apply to your case, and others may be long lost. However, keeping what you have is important, and providing them to your attorney will help expedite the process.
1. Don't assume nothing happened, we all want to believe in the competence of those entrusted with our medical care. Often, when suspicions of malpractice are raised, the patient is told something by the healthcare provider to minimize those concerns, such as "this just happens sometimes" or "that's just the risk of this procedure." While risks are a fact of medicine, there is a distinction between risk and neglect. Just because there is a known risk to a medical course of action, the healthcare provider isn’t alleviated from minimizing the risks. Do not allow your suspicion of medical malpractice to go unanswered without proper investigation.
2. Don't talk to administrators without first consulting an attorney. When we are mistreated in a healthcare situation, administrators, and specifically risk management personnel, are not there to represent your interests, but rather to protect the medical institution and its staff.
- It is important to consult an attorney before saying anything to administration. An attorney who works for you will be able to ensure that any exchange of information with the administration is appropriate, fair, and in your best interest.
3. Don't wait to seek legal advice. The legal system, when it comes to medical malpractice cases, is often tilted in favor of the healthcare institution, rather than the victim.
- For example, the law benefits the healthcare providers by placing deadlines or 'statutes of limitations' which limit the amount of time a victim must file a medical malpractice claim before they become barred. In Illinois, the clock starts ticking at the time of the discovery of the malpractice. For this reason, you should contact an attorney immediately upon suspicion of malpractice.
4. Don't attempt to confront the doctor(s), medical staff, lawyers for the medical facility or anyone else regarding your suspicions until you've spoken with your attorney.
5. Don't sign anything, waive any rights or admit to any responsibility.
6. Don't discuss your suspicions with anyone except your attorney and your immediate family.
7. Don't post anything on social media or email anyone except your attorney about your suspicions.
8. Don’t expect a quick settlement. Because federal law requires all settlements be reported to the National Practitioners Databank, doctors are extremely reluctant to settle cases, as this will be a permanent mark on their career and can affect their future employment. Hospitals are also reluctant to admit to mistakes and will give their attorneys a blank check to fight your case.