The Chicago Tribune reports that the family of a man who died after surgery recently won a $3 million verdict against Elmhurst Hospital.
In 2011, Edward Smolinski slipped from the cab of his work truck, rupturing a tendon in his leg. On June 8, he had surgery at Elmhurst Hospital to repair the injury. He went home later that day.
Less than two weeks later, Smolinski reported chest pain, shortness of breath and an accelerated heart rate while he was at physical therapy at the hospital. He later experienced leg swelling. These are common symptoms of a pulmonary embolism, but Smolinski's symptoms weren't reported to the hospital's doctors and no tests were performed to rule out the possibility that he was suffering from this dangerous condition.
50 days after his surgery, Smolinski was found dead in his home. Smolinski's wife filed a lawsuit, alleging that the doctors failed to prevent, diagnose and treat the pulmonary embolism that led to his death. The Cook County Circuit Court jury awarded Smolinski's family $3 million for their claim.
Illinois Medical Malpractice and Wrongful Death Laws
In Illinois, most medical malpractice and wrongful death lawsuits are based on a claim of negligence.
In order to demonstrate negligence, you must be able to prove four things:
- The hospital had a duty of care. Hospital employees have a duty to serve a patient in accordance with a certain standard of care. This standard of care is based on what other hospitals and medical staff with the same level of experience and training would do in similar circumstances.
- The hospital deviated from that standard of care. Proving that a hospital or other medical provider was negligent requires demonstrating that they deviated from this standard of care. In Smolinski's case, his family's attorneys successfully demonstrated that the hospital deviated from this standard of care by failing to recognize the common symptoms of a pulmonary embolism.
- This deviation caused the injury. This is often the most difficult element to prove. People undergoing medical treatment are often injured or sick before any kind of negligence occurs. You must be able to demonstrate that negligence, rather than a pre-existing condition, led to the injury.
- The injury resulted in damages. There are both economic and non-economic damages or losses. Economic damages include things like medical expenses and loss of earnings. Non-economic damages are things like emotional anguish, loss of enjoyment of life, and pain and suffering.
If the negligent actions lead to a person's death, the Illinois Wrongful Death Act allows certain family members or representatives to file a wrongful death claim. If the deceased individual could have filed a negligence lawsuit, their surviving family members may do so as well. This way, families can receive compensation for their suffering and losses. A successful wrongful death claim also holds the person or company that caused the death responsible, which can help prevent them from injuring or killing others.
In most cases, the time limit for filing a wrongful death, medical malpractice or hospital negligence lawsuit in Illinois is two years. However, the time limit may be shorter or longer depending on the specific circumstances of the case.