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Should I contact the doctor if I am injured by a medical error?

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Those who are injured due to a medical mistake may be tempted to contact the hospital and try to work out a resolution. This could result in the loss of the chance to hold the doctor accountable in court.

It seems like the responsible thing to do. If you are injured, you reach out to the guilty party and attempt to come up with a solution to the issue. Unfortunately, although it may seem responsible, this move could end up causing you more problems than you would expect.

A recent case provides an example.

How could reaching out to the doctor that caused the injury result in more problems?

In the case, an injured patient sent a letter to the hospital that was responsible for an injury. She informed the hospital of her injury and requested the hospital provide a set amount of money that would be needed to help cover the costs that resulted from the accident. If the hospital did not comply, she stated that she would move forward with legal action.

Upon first glance, this seems like a reasonable letter. She was not making threats but simply trying to resolve the conflict before moving forward with litigation. Ultimately, the courts found that this informal letter began what is referred to as the statute of limitations.

What is the statute of limitations? Does Illinois have a statute of limitations?

The statute of limitations is a legal term that essentially means there is a time limit to file a suit against someone that causes injury. These statutes are generally state specific. Illinois has statute of limitations laws for many types of claims. The statute of limitations for a medical malpractice claim generally begins two years after the victim either discovered or should have discovered the injury.

As with all things in the legal world, the tolling of the statute of limitations is not as simple as the above definition implies. A number of other factors can impact how long a victim has to move forward with his or her med mal claim. The allotted time may be longer if the victim is a minor, or could be limited to a four year period after the medical treatment was completed. The details of the statute depend on the specifics of the case.

What happened in this case?

The court determined that the letter was pre-suit notice. As such, the statute of limitations was triggered. The victim did not move forward with an official suit within the required time period. By the time she did file suit, it was too late. The court dismissed the lawsuit as "time-barred." This essentially means the statute of limitations period ran out and there was no more time to hold the hospital accountable for the injury.

How can victims avoid similar issues?

Those who are injured while under the medical care of a physician are wise to promptly seek the counsel of an attorney. An experienced medical malpractice attorney can discuss your options and the various factors that can impact your case, including the statute of limitations.

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