What are our rights if a doctor operated on my wife’s eyelids recently and completely messed them up?

After the surgery, there are problems with both eyes. Her right eye can’t close completely which has caused severe dryness of the eye. In addition, the right eye now appears much smaller than the left eye. On the left eye and there is a popping sound when the eyelid is raised. The asymmetry of the creases is more pronounced. I contacted 2 local lawyers but they didn’t seem to be interested. How do we go about suing the doctor on our own? Are we limited to small claims court?

Asked on August 30, 2014 under Malpractice Law, Illinois

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 6 years ago | Contributor

You are not limited to small claims court; it's just that small claims court is much easier for people appearing pro se (as their own lawyers)--some rules are relaxed, and the procedures are simplified and streamlined. You can, however, represent yourself in any court, though if your wife is the injured person, she, not you, would have to do the lawyering (unless you are an attorney, you cannot represent any other person, even a spouse).

Malpractice cases are complicated and can be expensive: you need, among other things, a medical expert on your side, and they do not work cheap. However, they can be big cases, because you can potentially recover all medical costs caused by the malpractice (such as the cost to correct the problem) and possibly pain and suffering for life impairment or disfigurement.

Probably the best thing to do first is to consult with other surgeons about correcting the damage to your wife's eyes: if you get a quote for the cost of the surgery, that will give you a firmer number of what the damages (possible compensation) may be. You can, for purposes of discussion, "rough in" a possible pain and suffering award by doubling the medical costs--that's very rough, and the real award could be larger or smaller, but that gives you something to work with.

Armed with that information and maybe something in writing about what it will take to correct this from a surgeon, you'll be in a better place to discuss the matter with attorneys. If you still can't get any interested, then consider whether you're willing to bring the case yourself--but figure you'll spend $2,000 - $4,000 on the medical expert.


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