We place our faith in physicians, doctors, surgeons, nurses, and other healthcare providers to make the best decisions regarding our health and wellbeing. Whether diagnosing a medical condition or performing a surgical procedure, we expect medical professionals to adhere to a certain level of care. When errors occur, the resulting complications could be life-altering.
Medical professionals should be held accountable when their mistakes result in serious complications or death. However, medical malpractice cases are often challenging because of the difficulty in proving negligence. At the Reiff Law Firm, our West Chester, PA medical malpractice lawyers have decades of experience handling complicated cases. You can take advantage of this experience.
If you or a loved one believe you are the victim of medical malpractice, contact the Reiff Law Firm. We have the staff, resources, lawyers, and access to medical experts necessary to build a compelling personal injury case. Let our West Chester, PA medical malpractice lawyers review your case. Call (215) 709-6940.
Proving Negligence in a West Chester Medical Malpractice Case
Most medical malpractice cases in West Chester proceed under the legal theory of negligence. To prove that a medical professional’s conduct constituted negligence, the injured patient must establish four elements.
- An injured patient must prove that a duty of care existed between the medical professional and the patient. In most medical malpractice cases, this duty can be demonstrated by showing a doctor/patient relationship existed.
- Demonstrate that the medical professional deviated from the applicable and acceptable standard of medical care. This is a breach of the duty the medical professional owed the patient. A breach does not necessarily occur when a medical professional makes an error. The conduct, decision, or inaction must be something no reasonable medical professional would have done under the same circumstances.
- The medical professional’s breach of duty must have caused the patient’s injury or adverse complications. This is often challenging because a negative outcome is not always proof of medical malpractice.
- The injured patient must have suffered harm or damages.
Proving that a medical professional’s conduct fell below the generally accepted standard of medical care is difficult. To establish that both the standard that should be applied and demonstrate that the conduct in question deviated from that standard, our West Chester medical malpractice lawyers will have to rely on the testimony of medical experts.
The “Res Ipsa Loquitur” Doctrine and West Chester Medical Malpractice Cases
Establishing negligence on the part of a medical professional or another healthcare provider is often difficult. As stated above, a plaintiff will have to hire expert witnesses to testify that the defendant’s conduct deviated from what a prudent medical professional would have done under the same circumstances. Another problem present in many medical malpractice claims is that the reports that serve as the basis of the lawsuit were written or prepared by the defendant medical professional. In many cases, these reports are framed in such a way to either justify the actions taken or provide alternative explanations for the outcome.
However, a patient might be able to rely on another legal theory. For example, it might be impossible for a patient to know that the adverse symptoms they are experiencing is because of an error committed during a medical procedure. However, if the type of injury would not typically be present without negligence on the part of the medical professional, a plaintiff could rely on a legal doctrine known as “res ipsa loquitur.” The translation of this Latin phrase is “the thing speaks for itself.” The implication is that the plaintiff only has to prove that the particular result, an injury or adverse medical complication, would not have occurred without negligence.
When this doctrine is successfully used, the burden of proof shifts to the medical professional. The defendant must now prove that they were not negligent. However, res ipsa loquitur is not viable in every medical malpractice case. For a plaintiff to invoke it, a number of conditions must be present.
- Evidence of the cause of the injury or harm must not be obtainable.
- The injury or symptoms would not ordinarily exist without negligence.
- The plaintiff was not responsible for or did not contribute to their injury.
- The medical professional or the healthcare facility had exclusive control over the instrument or procedure that caused the injury.
- There were no other possible causes of the harm other than the instrument or procedure.
While the concept of res ipsa loquitur might at first appear as a means to circumnavigate the need to establish negligence, the required conditions are difficult to meet, especially in a medical malpractice case. For example, an infection after surgery is a possible complication, whether a surgeon did everything correctly or accidentally left a sponge in the patient.
Failure to Obtain Informed Consent in West Chester, PA
Another example of medical malpractice is when a doctor or other medical professional fails to obtain a patient’s informed consent before providing treatment, administering medication, or performing a procedure.
Informed consent in Pennsylvania includes giving, receiving, and understanding information. Therefore, a doctor must ensure that their explanations are intelligible and clear to a layperson. Conversely, a patient has a duty to ask questions if they do not understand what their physician is trying to explain.
In Pennsylvania, informed consent is required in eight types of treatments.
- Surgical procedures
- The administration of anesthesia
- Blood transfusions
- Insertion of a surgical device
- Administration of experimental medicine or device
- Experimental use of an approved medicine or device
A doctor in West Chester is not required to obtain informed consent for any other procedure.
West Chester, PA Medical Malpractice Lawyers Working For You
At the Reiff Law Firm, our West Chester, PA medical malpractice lawyers are committed to holding negligent medical professionals, healthcare providers, hospitals, and other facilities liable for the harm they cause. Call (215) 709-6940 to review your medical malpractice claim.