When a medical professional or facility fails to perform medical duties competently, resulting in patient harm, it is medical malpractice. This facet of law comes with its own rules for filing and proving fault. Like other personal injury claims, medical malpractice cases come down to the legal theory of negligence. It is the court’s duty to decide if the defendant was negligent in its duties of care to the plaintiff. “Negligent” means the defendant performed in a way that a reasonably competent individual would not have in similar circumstances. Contact the Philadelphia medical malpractice attorneys today at Anapol Weiss if you or a loved one has been a victim of medical negligence.
Medical malpractice can lead to physical, mental, emotional, and financial harms. An injured patient may suffer temporary or permanent disabilities because of a physician’s malpractice. In other cases, malpractice may result in the worsening of a patient’s condition or death. In these situations, the only way for a victim or his/her family to fight for monetary compensation for these harms is with a medical malpractice claim.
The Pennsylvania court system gives injured parties a way to seek compensation for their physical injuries, pain and suffering, emotional distress, medical bills, and other harms related to medical malpractice. When pursuing a claim, seek help from a competent attorney in Philadelphia. While it’s possible to represent yourself, these cases are complex and require in-depth knowledge of several legal processes. Anapol Weiss wants to be your stronghold during tough times. Let us represent you and your family during a medical malpractice case, and see the difference talented attorneys can make.
Types of Medical Malpractice
Medical malpractice can take many forms. The number of mistakes and errors a medical professional could potentially make are endless. However, there are certain categories most cases fall into. In our 40-plus years of legal experience, we at Anapol Weiss have handled a variety of medical malpractice claims throughout Pennsylvania.
Physicians have a duty to listen to a patient’s symptoms and make an accurate diagnosis based on professional knowledge. Misdiagnosing a condition can lead to missed treatment opportunities, and the prescription of treatments that could cause harm to the patient. If a reasonably competent doctor would have properly diagnosed the condition in the same circumstances, the defendant may be guilty of malpractice.
Here’s an overview of the most common types we’ve encountered:
Unnecessary or avoidable delays in diagnosing a condition can result in delay of treatment. For some conditions, this can lead to the worsening of symptoms and even wrongful death. Delayed diagnoses are especially harmful in circumstances such as cancer, where timely diagnosis and treatment are crucial to the prognosis of the patient.
Failure to Diagnose
In some cases, a doctor may not take a patient’s complaints seriously or downplay the patient’s symptoms. Failure to diagnose can lead to inadequate treatment and health problems. If a competent doctor would have discovered the patient’s condition, the patient may have a medical malpractice claim.
Negligent Prenatal Care
A lot can go wrong during pregnancy. It is an obstetrician’s job to carefully monitor expecting mothers, detect signs of issues such as preeclampsia, gestational diabetes, or placental abnormalities, and recommend proper and prompt treatment. Improper prenatal care can lead to injuries to the mother and/or child.
During labor and delivery, doctors must monitor the mother’s and infant’s vital signs and react to fetal distress with immediate emergency measures. Improper use of birthing tools, failure to recommend a cesarean section, excessively long labor, hemorrhage, surgical negligence, or shoulder dystocia/nerve injuries to the baby are all examples of negligence-related birth injuries.
Medication and Prescription Errors
Someone may make a medication error at any point on the path from the doctor’s office to the patient’s mouth. Doctors, nurses, and pharmacies must work together to administer the proper medications to patients. Medication errors such as the wrong type or amount can lead to major health defects or death.
In the operating room, surgeons can make mistakes such as puncturing organs, operating on the wrong body part, operating on the wrong person, or leaving surgical equipment inside the body cavity. Negligent postoperative care may cause patient harms, such as infection.
Anesthesiologists have complex jobs, and they must perform them with high levels of skill and care. Giving too much or too little anesthesia, failing to monitor vital signs, improperly intubating the patient, and using defective equipment are all examples of anesthesia errors. Negligence during this part of surgery can lead to anesthesia awareness or brain damage.
Failure to Warn
Doctors have a duty to warn patients of certain risks of a surgery, procedure, or course of treatment. This way, patients can give their informed consent or else decide against the procedure. If a patient was not aware of the risks and sustains an injury or dies because of treatment, the patient or his/her family may sue for medical malpractice.
Any failure on a doctor’s part to properly care for patients as a reasonably competent doctor may be medical malpractice if it leads to patient injury. This may be the case if a doctor is incompetent, negligent, careless, or distracted during patient care and administration of treatment.
A doctor or hospital may be guilty of gross negligence if the entity breaches a duty of care in a way that is so dramatic as to be an error that is obvious to everyone. Examples may include a surgeon who fails to prepare for a surgery, a doctor who makes a huge error in treatment, or a hospital that fails to maintain its equipment.
Patients should expect competent care from medical personnel. Negligence or breaches of duty resulting in patient injury or wrongful death do not have to go without legal consequence. Anapol Weiss has experience with many types of medical malpractice and knows Pennsylvania’s laws regarding this type of professional negligence. We help victims understand their options moving forward. We help them take a stand against incompetent and harmful patient care.
Filing Malpractice Claims Against Doctors
Not all negative or undesirable outcomes in a health care facility stem from medical malpractice. The plaintiff must have proof that the physician acted negligently and that this negligence caused or contributed to the harms. Conversely, not all instances of medical malpractice are grounds for a civil claim. Even if there is proof a medical professional acted negligently, if this negligence did not cause patient injury, the patient has no case. One must have all four elements to bring a claim for medical malpractice:
- A doctor-patient relationship at the time of the harm. The doctor or hospital you are suing must be one where you are a patient. You must have hired the doctor, and the doctor must have agreed to the hire. Without this relationship, the physician would not owe you any professional standards of care. Poor medical advice from a doctor at a social gathering would not be medical malpractice even if it resulted in injury since no doctor-patient relationship existed.
- The doctor was negligent. Simply being unhappy with your medical outcomes is not enough to sue a doctor or hospital. You must have proof the defendant was negligent with your care to sue for malpractice. The courts do not require medical care to be the best possible but only in line with the accepted standards of care in the medical industry.
- The doctor’s negligence caused the patient’s injury. Medical negligence is not always grounds for a personal injury case. The negligence must be the proximate cause of the patient’s injury or wrongful death. The patient must prove the doctor’s incompetence “more likely than not” directly caused the harm. Patients often use medical experts to testify that the doctor’s negligence caused the injury.
- The patient suffered specific damages. If a person did not suffer damages in the incident, he/she has no reason to bring a claim, even if the doctor’s negligence is obvious. The plaintiff must have sustained damages for which he/she is now seeking recovery. Damages may include medical costs relating to the injury, physical pain, mental anguish, lost work, or lost earning capacity.
Proving a medical malpractice claim can be difficult and involves many complicated actions. With help from the attorneys at Anapol Weiss, you can feel in control of your case. We’ll walk you through the entire process, from the discovery phase to the final court date. We’ll investigate your claim, gather any evidence that points to malpractice, and hire experts if necessary to testify on your behalf. Decades of trial experience makes us an obvious choice for medical malpractice cases in Philadelphia.
Malpractice Laws in Philadelphia
Every state has unique laws and statutes regarding medical malpractice cases. To bring a claim in Pennsylvania, you must abide by the state’s statute of limitations, filing stipulations, and court etiquette. You should be aware of what types and limits of damages the state makes available to plaintiffs of medical malpractice cases. Here are a few must-know facts about medical malpractice claims in the Keystone State:
Statute of Limitations
You have two years from the date you knew an injury occurred, knew what conduct caused the injury, and knew the relationship between the injury and what caused it, to file a medical malpractice claim. Regardless of these three factors, you must file a claim within seven years of the date the injury occurred, unless your case involves a foreign object left inside the body.
Cases Involving Wrongful Death
If the case involves wrongful death, you have two years from the date of the death to file. Failing to file before the deadline can lead to the courts refusing to hear your case. Exceptions do exist regarding the statute of limitations. A minor, for example, has seven years from the date of his/her 20th birthday to bring a medical malpractice claim, regardless of when the injury occurred. Speak to an attorney before assuming you have missed your deadline.
Affidavit of Merit
In Pennsylvania, the courts require all parties filing medical malpractice claims to include an affidavit of merit within 60 days of filing the initial claim. This sworn certificate of merit must state that an expert has provided a statement that asserts one or more of the following are true:
- There is a probability the defendant breached a standard of care.
- The defendant was responsible for the person at the time of the breach.
- There is no need for expert testimony to pursue the claim.
An attorney must sign the affidavit to make it valid. The courts use the affidavit to weed out claims that have no merit.
- Expert testimony requirements. The courts also require expert medical witness testimony during case proceedings. The expert witness will establish what the acceptable standards of care were in a situation and how the defendant breached these standards. If negligence is obvious to a layperson, this requirement does not exist.
- Damage caps. Pennsylvania limits the damages a plaintiff can receive in medical malpractice cases. However, limits only apply to punitive damages, not economic or non-economic damages. Plaintiffs may only receive punitive damages in an amount two times that of actual damages in the case. Punitive damages are rare in these cases, so chances are, you will not encounter a damage cap for your claim.
- Periodic payment. If the future damages in a case equal more than $100,000, the courts require the defendant to pay the damages in installments. Future damages include medical bills, lost wages, and costs of disability.
Medical malpractice laws can vary considerably from state to state. You need an attorney who understands the specific laws in Pennsylvania to file a claim on your behalf. Otherwise, you risk getting trapped in the web of rules surrounding these delicate cases and potentially losing your right to compensation. Speak to the skilled team at Anapol Weiss for more in-depth information about Pennsylvania’s medical malpractice laws.