How to Find Out Whether You have a Medical Malpractice Claim

  • There are times when medical treatments you received go terribly wrong due to the negligence or incompetence of a medical professional or facility. If you have been damaged from such medical care, you may have grounds for a medical malpractice lawsuit to get compensation for your loss. However, not every complication, injury or even death that occurs when something goes wrong is grounds for a medical malpractice case.

     

    How do you know whether you have a valid claim? Medical malpractice law is highly regulated by a complex body of rules. For a successful claim, the burden of proof is on the injured patient; and, if the case goes to trial, Pennsylvania law requires proof of several elements and the sworn testimony of expert witnesses. To make sure you get the compensation you deserve, it is essential to enlist the help of a medical malpractice lawyer.

     

    What is Medical Malpractice in Pennsylvania?

     

    Medical professionals are required to keep informed of the contemporary developments in their profession and use current skills and knowledge. According to Pennsylvania law, medical malpractice occurs when a healthcare professional commits medical negligence by not conforming to the generally accepted standard of care in that profession. The medical negligence must have directly resulted in the patient's injuries.

     

    Elements for successful medical malpractice claims include:

     

    • Standard of care. The medical professional owed a professional duty of care to the patient – the standard of care generally accepted in that profession.
    • The duty of care was breached or violated. It must be proven that a health care provider in a similar circumstance would not have committed the act of medical negligence.
    • Factual cause. The breach of the duty of care through actions or omission of actions by the professional resulted in injury or harm to a patient.
    • The injury resulted in damages such as needing another surgery, high medical bills, disfigurement, disability or pain and suffering.
    • Certificate of Merit. To prevent frivolous lawsuits, Pennsylvania requires timely filing of a Certificate of Merit, signed by an expert witness, to verify that there is a basis to conclude that the care, skill or knowledge by the medical professional fell outside of professional standards and was a cause in bringing harm to the patient.

     

    Proving the elements of a successful medical malpractice claim requires investigation and gathering of evidence, including the opinions of other medical professionals in the same field.

     

    What are examples of medical negligence?

     

    Examples include:

     

    • Making an incorrect diagnosis, failure to diagnose, or inappropriate treatment for the diagnosis
    • Prescribing wrong medication or dosage
    • Not considering a patient's medical history
    • Surgical errors, doing unnecessary surgery or operating on the wrong body part
    • Laboratory errors or ignoring laboratory results
    • Leaving a foreign object in the body after surgery
    • Errors in anesthesia administration
    • Birth injuries
    • Emergency room injuries
    • Lack of informed consent.

     

    What compensation can I receive?

     

    If you win a medical malpractice case, you may receive compensation for economic or monetary damages and for non-economic damages as well.

     

    Possible economic damages include:

    • Past and future medical expenses, such as costs for rehabilitation, therapy, and corrective surgeries
    • Time spent away from work, lost wages and earnings, and past and potential future earnings
    • Funeral costs.

     

    Non-economic damages refer to intangible losses, such as emotional or psychological inflictions stemming from the injury, including:

     

    • Pain and suffering
    • Emotional distress and trauma, embarrassment and humiliation
    • Loss of consortium and companionship
    • Disfigurement
    • Loss of enjoyment of life.

     

    In some cases, where a medical professional acted in ways that are deemed malicious and reckless and there was actual intent to harm the patient, punitive damages may also be awarded by the court to discourage similar situations from happening again.

     

    Modified Comparative Negligence Standard

     

    Pennsylvania has a modified comparative liability doctrine that assigns a degree of fault to each party in a malpractice case. In cases such as intentional fraud, intentional harm, or if a patient is more than sixty (60%) percent liable for the harm, it will degrade any proposed medical malpractice recovery accordingly.

     

    Statute Of Limitations

     

    In Pennsylvania, the statute of limitations for bringing medical malpractice claims is two years from the time the patient discovers or reasonably should have discovered that the injury occurred. For cases after March 2002, injured patients are allowed up to seven years from the date the medically negligent act occurred (two years for death cases). A minor does not have to start action prior to age twenty. Pa. Stat. Ann. tit. 40, § 1303.513 (Westlaw 2007).

     

    Due to the statute of limitations, patients who believe they were victims of medical malpractice must act quickly; time limits will apply, and delaying action could mean forever losing your right to seek compensation.

     

    If you or a loved one has suffered from medical malpractice, time is of the essence. It is essential to have a skilled and knowledgeable medical malpractice lawyer on your side. Many law firms offer free consultations, which you should take advantage of to meet with an attorney to get their evaluation of your case.