How the Coronavirus Outbreak Affects Malpractice Cases in Illinois

Healthcare providers throughout the state are facing challenges as the COVID-19 outbreak fills more hospital beds than ever before. On top of that, lower staff numbers and a ban on elective procedures add to the difficulty.

Perhaps for these reasons, the governor has granted many providers full immunity from civil liability for the duration of this emergency, making malpractice claims far more difficult—if not impossible—to pursue.

Immunity to Civil Liability

An executive order was made the last week of March to provide immunity to healthcare providers who are currently providing care related to COVID-19. That immunity isn’t limited only to treatments for the disease itself—as long as the provider is treating the disease in some form, all of their services are immune to liability.

As such, if you go to a doctor to be treated for a broken elbow (for example), and if that doctor’s practice also provides treatment for coronavirus symptoms, you won’t be able to sue them if your own procedure goes wrong.

The exception to this rule is if your provider acted in a way that was grossly negligent, or if they willfully caused injury to you. In addition, if your provider doesn’t provide COVID-19 treatments, they’re not covered by the executive order, though claims may be more difficult in those cases as well during this time.

Obstacles to Pursuing Malpractice Claims

A malpractice claim is difficult in even the best of circumstances—the very best cases still have a high chance of failure. Given the immunity granted by the governor, Illinois residents will have an even harder time pursuing claims in the event that they need to.

In many cases, the lawsuit will simply be impossible due to civil liability immunity. However, even if your doctor doesn’t provide pandemic-related care, juries are more likely to favor them during this difficult time, making any potential claims more difficult than usual.

For cases where gross negligence is involved, the evidence needs to be solidly in favor of the plaintiff (the injured party). Otherwise, the case is likely to fail—if it’s not dismissed outright. In cases where the parties involved settle, settlement amounts are likely to be much smaller than what might be normally expected.

Pursuing a Malpractice Claim

The best way to avoid these difficulties is to avoid having unnecessary procedures at all until the pandemic is over. However, that doesn’t mean to put off important treatment—delaying some procedures can negatively impact your health in the future.

In the event that you have been injured by medical treatment from a healthcare provider who also treats coronavirus patients, odds are that your lawsuit won’t be viable. However, if there was gross negligence involved—such as if a doctor willfully caused you harm—there may be a chance. It’s best to consult with an attorney in these cases since they can give you a good idea of whether your claim is viable or not.

If you have questions about a medical malpractice claim, contact Hart David Carson LLP. We can advise you on the best course to take during these difficult times.

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