We trust that doctors, nurses, surgeons, anesthesiologists, and other healthcare professionals will support and care for us in our times of need. Unfortunately, even at world-renowned hospitals and healthcare systems, this support is not always provided.
Mistakes happen, and sometimes a doctor will fail to diagnosis a rare condition. Medical care is not perfect and there is often a bit of trial and error before a workable treatment is found. However, there are times when the medical errors are unjustifiable, and the results could range from a worsening condition to death. Medical and healthcare professionals should be held liable when their negligent mistakes cause harm.
Insurance companies will do nearly anything to devalue or outright deny your medical malpractice claim for damages. Doctors and nurses may play the ‘blame game’, making it difficult to determine fault or liability for an injury caused by medical negligence.
When doctors or health care facilities are careless, negligent, or under-qualified, innocent patients can be seriously injured, permanently disabled, or even killed. The experienced Philadelphia medical malpractice lawyers at the Reiff Law Firm will help you recover compensation if you were hurt due to medical negligence from a doctor or healthcare institution. For a free consultation, contact our law offices at (215) 709-6940.
What Constitutes “Medical Malpractice” in Philadelphia?
Medical malpractice can be defined as the negligent act or failure to act by a healthcare provider. Typically, medical malpractice occurs when a medical or healthcare professional fails to provide a patient with the appropriate treatment, to take appropriate action, or to provide the acceptable standard of care, resulting in harm or injury to their patient. Some common examples of medical errors or negligence include misdiagnosis, medication errors, mismanagement of treatment, and insufficient aftercare.
Victims of medical malpractice have rights. Under Pennsylvania law, patients could recover compensation for any harms that result from sub-standard medical treatment.
Causes and Types of Medical Malpractice Claims
Unfortunately, serious medical mistakes are more common than most individuals realize. A recent study led by researchers from Johns Hopkins Medicine revealed medical errors to be the third leading cause of death in the United States, accounting for an estimated 250,000 fatalities each year: a figure surpassed only by deaths related to cancer and cardiovascular disease. Nonfatal injuries are even more common.
There are many different forms of medical negligence, but all have the potential to be extremely dangerous for patients. In addition to the physical injuries and emotional damage that medical malpractice can cause, the victims typically suffer tremendous financial setbacks. Common types of medical malpractice claims include:
- Birth Injury Medical Malpractice
- Failure to Diagnose / Delayed Diagnosis
- Medical Misdiagnosis / Incorrect Diagnosis
- Prescription Drug and Medication Errors
- Surgical Errors or Mistakes
Who Can be Held Liable for my Medical Malpractice Injuries?
You are able to sue any medical professional or institution that caused you injury, illness, or death by way of medical negligence.
Proving a Medical Malpractice Claim in Philadelphia
A medical procedure with a poor outcome is not enough to warrant a medical malpractice personal injury or wrongful death claim in Pennsylvania. A patient can be compensated only if the medical provider’s negligence caused injury or damages.
One of the first things a plaintiff must prove in a medical malpractice case is that a doctor-patient relationship existed between the plaintiff and defendant. For this relationship to exist, you must have hired the doctor and the doctor agreed to treat you. For example, you have a doctor-patient relationship with your regular doctor if you see them every six months or if they are treating a specific medical condition. However, if you hear a doctor offer someone advice at a bar, you have not established a doctor-patient relationship. You cannot hold that doctor responsible if following his advice caused harm. In most cases, it is not difficult to establish a doctor-patient relationship existed.
Medical malpractice claims are complicated. A doctor is not necessarily liable for medical malpractice if a patient’s treatment results in a negative outcome. To hold a physician or other healthcare professional responsible for your injuries, you must demonstrate that the doctor’s conduct was negligent.
There are four main elements of negligence in a medical malpractice lawsuit. If the following elements apply to your situation, you may have a case against your doctor or hospital for medical malpractice.
- The doctor, or another healthcare professional, owed the patient a legal duty of care.
- The doctor violated, or “breached,” the appropriate medical standard of care.
- This breach is the cause of the patient’s injury, illness, or death.
- The patient suffered harm as a result of the doctor’s medical negligence.
So how do these four elements work within a medical malpractice case? Duty of care is usually obvious in a medical malpractice case – you are in the care of a medical professional and they have a legal obligation not to cause harm. However, that does not mean that a healthcare provider will be liable for a negative outcome.
The key component is proving that the medical professional breach their duty. Our Philadelphia medical malpractice attorneys will have to establish that your healthcare provider deviated from the acceptable standard of medical care. In other words, you will have to prove that the physician’s conduct differed from what a reasonable and similarly trained medical professional would have done under the same circumstances.
To prove a medical professional deviated from the acceptable standard of medical care requires testimony from other medical experts in the field. The testimony must demonstrate that the decisions or actions your doctor took were not something their peers would have done if they were in the same position. Not every medical professional will agree on a course of treatment. The burden to prove negligence is more than a difference of opinion. To prevail in a medical malpractice case, our office will have to show that no reasonable medical professional would have taken the same course of action or make the same decisions given the circumstances.
Harm Because of the Healthcare Provider’s Negligence
Proving that your medical professional’s conduct deviated from the appropriate standard of medical care is only part of the equation. As stated above, the next step in proving negligence requires showing that the doctor’s conduct led to the injury or made your condition worse.
An injured plaintiff will have to establish that no underlying conditions other than the healthcare provider’s actions could account for the harm or worsening condition. The defense will vigorously examine your medical history to try and identify any preexisting condition that could have contributed to your current health problems. Because medicine is not an exact science, this is often a challenging hurdle.
Damages Available in a Philadelphia Medical Malpractice Lawsuit
In Philadelphia, a victim of medical malpractice is permitted to seek damages for economic and non-economic losses. Collectively, these types of damages are commonly known as compensatory damages.
Economic damages refer to the actual out-of-pocket expenses a plaintiff incurs because of medical malpractice. One common set of economic damages include the cost of any medical treatment, including extended hospitalization, additional surgeries, medication costs, and the secondary costs associated with treatment, such as parking fees. Medical malpractice victims could also recover any wages they lost because of the healthcare provider’s negligence.
Non-economic damages is the other category of compensation that is recoverable in a Philadelphia medical malpractice case. Non-economic damages are not financial losses. Rather, they are intangible and refer to the physical and emotional suffering the victim endured. Some common non-economic damages include insomnia, anxiety, depression, fear, physical pain, and the inability to partake in everyday activities.
In some rare cases, a plaintiff could be awarded punitive damages. Unlike compensatory damages, punitive damages are awarded to punish a defendant rather than compensation the plaintiff.
Are There Caps on Damages for Medical Malpractice Suits?
Some states place statutory limits on the compensation medical malpractice victims could be awarded. This means, if the damages suffered were significant, a plaintiff might not be compensated for their complete losses. Fortunately, Pennsylvania does not place a limit on the economic or non-economic damages awarded during a medical negligence suit. These damages may include:
- Past, present, and future medical bills related to the injury or damages
- Past, present, and future income or wage losses
- Compensation for pain, suffering, and emotional distress
The state of Pennsylvania does, however, place a limit on punitive damages to be awarded. Punitive damages are only available if the doctor or medical provider’s actions were egregious or dangerous and are limited to 2x the amount of actual damages.
What is the Statute of Limitations for Medical Malpractice Lawsuits in Philadelphia?
Generally, in Pennsylvania, you have two (2) years from the date of injury to file a medical malpractice or medical negligence claim. In certain cases, you may still have a right to file a malpractice claim for up to seven (7) years if your claim meets the following conditions:
- A reasonable delay in finding the injury
- The victim was under the age of 18 at the time of injury
- The medical provider fraudulently hid details relevant to your medical negligence case, or
- A foreign object was left in the body after surgery
Our Philadelphia Medical Malpractice Lawyers are Here to Help
The Philadelphia medical malpractice attorneys at the Reiff Law Firm have nearly four decades of experience representing personal injury and wrongful death victims in Pennsylvania. To discuss a potential medical malpractice claim in a free and completely confidential legal consultation, call us at (215) 709-6940, or contact us online.