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How “contributory negligence” could affect your Illinois medical malpractice claim

Medical malpractice is, unfortunately, more common than many people realize. Naturally, doctors, clinics, hospitals and insurance companies are all eager to limit their losses when malpractice leaves a patient with injuries — and that’s where contributory negligence can come into play.

When you’re the victim of medical malpractice, expect the other party to look very hard for any contributory negligence on your part so that they can reduce their losses.

What’s contributory negligence?

Your doctor’s failure to live up to their duty to provide you with a certain standard of care is considered negligence. Anything you may have done that contributed to your injuries, however, is considered your negligence.

Every state has their own way of allocating fault and dividing up the responsibility for any injuries or losses between two parties. In Illinois, you can only claim compensation for your injuries if your negligence was less than 50% of the reason for your injuries. Plus, whatever compensation you may be due will be reduced according to the percentage of negligence you are assigned.

How could this play out in a malpractice claim?

If you were a patient under anesthesia and your surgeon operated on the wrong body part, there’s literally nothing you could have done to prevent your injuries. Your contributory negligence would likely be 0% and your surgeon would be liable for 100% of your damages.

On the other hand, imagine this: Your doctor prescribes a statin to control your cholesterol. You’re warned not to eat grapefruit with the drug because it can cause kidney damage. You forgot, ate some grapefruit and ended up in the hospital. There, you learn that your doctor misread your bloodwork and you should never have been prescribed that particular drug in the first place.

Who is at fault for your injuries? The jury may decide that you and your doctor are more-or-less equally responsible for your condition. The doctor made a mistake, but you also failed to follow instructions and that aggravated the problem.

Medical malpractice claims can be incredibly nuanced. Talk to an attorney about your situation as soon as possible if you’ve been injured so that you can better understand what steps to take next.