Philadelphia Medical Malpractice Lawyers
When you’re under a doctor’s care, you trust that your doctor will make decisions that are in the best interest of your health. Yet, every year, thousands of people suffer injury or die because of medical errors. If you or a family member has suffered an injury due to medical error, don’t wait to get help – medical malpractice cases must be filed within a certain time period after an injury is discovered. Contact a medical malpractice lawyer in Philadelphia today for a free consultation: (800) 529-6600.
What is medical malpractice?
Medical malpractice is the area of law that covers negligence committed by healthcare providers which results in harm to patients. It could cover all types of healthcare providers and institutions that provide healthcare. Negligence is more than a mistake or an unplanned outcome.
Standard of care
In order to show a healthcare provider was negligent, the plaintiff (the person filing the lawsuit) needs to show what the standard of care was in the case and that the defendant (the party being sued) breached or violated that duty, causing harm. The standard of care is the watchfulness, attention, caution and prudence that a reasonable person in the circumstances would exercise. The standard of care in a medical malpractice depends on the type of healthcare provider at issue. The standard of care for a family doctor would be different than one for an orthopedic surgeon.
Why Errors Occur
Medical mistakes can happen for a number of reasons:
Communication – When communication breaks down between two doctors treating the same patient, or among hospital staff, people making important decisions for patients may not have all the information they need.
Record-keeping – Inconsistent, outdated, or inadequate record-keeping can cause doctors to miss important details, like a patient’s medication allergies.
Procedures – A health care facility may lack adequate procedures for sanitation and patient handling.
Staff shortages – In understaffed health care facilities, people may try to get more done by cutting corners, or ignoring procedures.
Lack of sleep – Some doctors and surgeons work incredibly long hours – so much so, that their ability to think clearly and handle medical instruments may be compromised.
Chemical dependence – Medical professionals encounter a lot of stressful situations that could increase their risk of alcohol and drug dependence. In a 2012 survey of 7,197 surgeons, 15.4 percent who took the Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test (AUDIT) had scores indicating alcohol abuse or dependence.
Medical errors may include:
- Undiagnosed or misdiagnosed conditions and diseases
- Medication overdoses and prescription error
- Surgical errors
- Infection or illness caused by unsanitary equipment
- Failing to advise patients about behaviors that could worsen their condition.
These types of cases require plaintiffs to prove many points in order to prevail on a claim of medical malpractice. Wapner, Newman, Wigrizer, Brecher & Miller has litigated many cases on behalf of medical malpractice victims and their families, so we understand how to achieve favorable results for our clients.
What should you do if you suspect negligence?
Just because a mistake was made by a healthcare provider, this doesn’t necessarily mean negligence took place. However, if a medical situation was treated badly, a serious illness wasn’t diagnosed, treatments took place without authorization, there were serious and unexpected consequences to a medical procedure, or a medication error led to a dangerous reaction, negligence may have taken place. You should contact our Philadelphia medical malpractice attorneys so we can discuss the situation.
Statute of limitations in Pennsylvania
In Pennsylvania the statute of limitations (the deadline to file a legal claim) on most medical malpractice claims is two years. There are exceptions if the victim is a minor or child or the victim is unaware of the malpractice despite a reasonable investigation as to whether the injury was caused by malpractice (but this can be no longer than seven years after the injury). If the patient was a child at the time of the malpractice, the deadline to file a lawsuit is before he or she turns 20 years old.
Our Philadelphia Medical Malpractice Lawyers Prove…
Usually, in personal injury cases not related to medical care, proving that a defendant was negligent requires only a few conditions – plaintiffs must show that defendants knew their action or inaction could result in serious injury to another person. In medical malpractice cases the law requires additional proof as a means of protecting healthcare providers from false claims.
A plaintiff must prove:
- The existence of a doctor-patient relationship – This means the patient agreed to be treated, and the doctor agreed to be hired.
- Doctor negligence caused the injury – A patient may need to get the opinion of a medical expert to prove that the injury was caused by doctor negligence.
- The injury caused the alleged damages – A patient must demonstrate a causal relationship between the injury and damages such as loss of income, additional medical expenses, or pain and suffering.
- The doctor was negligent – To prove negligence, a patient must show a doctor caused injury by acting in a way contrary to how a competent doctor would behave.
Prevalence of Medical Errors in Pennsylvania
A study published in the September 2013 issue of the Journal of Patient Safety reported the number of deaths attributable to hospital error could be at least 210,000 – and perhaps as high as 440,000. Those figures are extrapolated from case studies and don’t include errors made in non-hospital settings.
According to the study’s author, a toxicologist for NASA, a number of factors make it difficult to say exactly how many deaths are caused by hospital error. Some medical errors are simply not reported. Another study found that 45 percent of physicians who believed fellow doctors were impaired or incompetent didn’t report their suspicions to anyone.
Medical errors may be immediately evident, such as a medication overdose that causes cardiac arrest. Symptoms of other medical errors may be delayed, such as a disease caused by contaminated equipment. And in one shocking case reported in the quarterly medical journal Hippokratia, a woman discovered three years after a liver operation that her surgeon had left the forceps in her abdomen.
Who can be liable for medical malpractice?
It can cover any healthcare provider, from dentists to surgeons, EMT’s to pathologists, nurses to radiologists, pharmacists and podiatrists. Institutions such as hospitals, pharmacies and nursing homes could also be subject to a medical malpractice lawsuit.
Common injuries from medical malpractice
Medical malpractice during pregnancy or birth could result in cerebral palsy, or Erb’s or brachial palsy. Facial paralysis could be caused by forceps during delivery. Bone fractures could occur during a breech delivery. Injuries caused by negligence during surgery, including anesthesia errors, can include blindness, partial or complete paralysis, punctured organs, brain injuries, infections and internal bleeding. Injuries due to improper diagnosis include the actual condition’s progressing to the point that it can’t be treated as well as harm done by unnecessary treatments or procedures.
Featured Article: Need For A Malpractice National Registry
According to the National Practitioner Data Bank, Medical Malpractice Payment Reports and Adverse Action Reports, the United States had 599,945 medical malpractice claims that had plaintiff payouts spread out among 364,893 health care practitioners from 2004 through 2014. In the state of Pennsylvania alone, the number of medical malpractice claims tallied up to 25,283 plaintiffs, entailing 15,479 health care providers, during the same timeframe. According to some reports, approximately 44,000 to 98,000 people die in hospitals every year due to medical errors. Yet, the Journal of Patient Safety states that the numbers are likely higher, ranging from 210,000 to 440,000 patients. Without a doubt, health care in the nation isn’t as safe as it should be. Some even feel it’s a nationwide health care crisis… [read more]
Contact a Philadelphia Medical Malpractice Lawyer
A sloppy surgery, misread X-ray, or incorrect prescription are just some of the errors that can cause injury or death. It’s true that everyone makes mistakes. But medical professionals are expected to abide by a higher standard – and to understand how their actions or inaction could affect their patients.
If you or a family member has been injured because of a medical mistake, you’ll need an experienced Philadelphia medical malpractice attorney who will look out for your best interests. Pursing a claim of medical malpractice could help you recover from your losses, as well as protect other people from dangerous or careless doctors. Call us today at (800) 529-6600, or fill out our contact form for your free consultation.