We trust that doctors, EMTs, nurses, surgeons, anesthesiologists, and other healthcare professionals will support and care for us in our times of need. It is when we are sick, weak, and scared that we need the utmost attention and consideration, but unfortunately this support is not always provided. When doctors are careless, under-qualified, or when medical negligence occurs innocent patients can be seriously injured or even killed.
If you were harmed by your doctor due to medical negligence, you may be entitled to compensation for your injuries, suffering, and medical expenses. The Philadelphia medical malpractice attorneys at Reiff & Bily have more than three decades of experience representing injury and wrongful death victims and are prepared to handle even highly complex multi-party claims. We fight aggressively for maximum compensation and offer free initial consultations, so call us today at (800) 861-6708 to learn more about your legal options.
Do I Have A Medical Malpractice Case In Pennsylvania?
After a bad medical outcome where a diagnosis was missed, a mistake was made, or some other event that resulted in injury, illness, or a reduced chance for survival, an individual or their family members may be angry and upset. They may regret certain decisions or wish that that they and the doctor had approached the medical issue in a different manner. However, medical malpractice requires more than simply a bad medical outcome or a bad medical result. Actionable medical malpractice requires certain behaviors on the part of a doctor, surgeon, nurse, or other medical professional that fall below a certain standard.
Assuming that a duty of care exists, the three necessary elements to sustain a successful medical malpractice claim are:
- A violation of the appropriate medical standard of care
- The violation of the standard of care is the actual cause of the medical injury or increased risk of death or injury experienced
- The full and total extent of injury and loss suffered as a result of the medical negligence
Generally, the standard of care in Pennsylvania requires a doctor, surgeon, or nurse to have the same level of medical knowledge as a similarly situated medical professional. Generally, this requires doctors and other medical professionals to continually update their skills and knowledge so that they apply generally accepted methods and practices in their treatment. Thus, typically the plaintiff must show that “a reasonable degree of medical certainty” exists that the standard of care was breached bringing about the harm. Mitzelfelt v. Kamrin, 584 A.2d 888, 891 (Pa. 1990).
Proving a Medical Negligence Case
Aside from proving a breach of the standard of care, proof that the negligence was the factual or actual cause of the injury is necessary. In matters where a breach of the standard of care is established or conceded, opposing counsel and experts may argue that the breach was merely incidental or coincidental to the injuries. Thus, it is important to have an attorney who understands and can anticipate certain defenses counsel for the medical professional may raise.
The medical malpractice victim must also prove the full extent of his or her damages in a medical malpractice claim. Damages suffered by the patient may include the actual physical injuries suffered, the pain and suffering caused by the injuries, lost wages, decreased future earnings, a decreased chance of survival or a shortened lifespan, and many other problems. In many medical malpractice injury cases, defense counsel may argue that the error merely aggravated a pre-existing condition or that the injured person is exaggerating their injury.
How Long Do I Have To File a Malpractice Claim?
In Pennsylvania, the general rule is a plaintiff has two years, under 42 Pa. C.S. § 5524(2), to bring a medical malpractice claim. However, potential inequitable and harsh results that would otherwise be brought about by this rather short time period to bring a claim, are somewhat mitigated by the discovery rule. Under the discovery rule, a plaintiff actually has two years from the time he or she knows or reasonably should know that an injury has occurred, the act or omission that caused the injury, and the nexus – connection – between the conduct and the injury. The classic case of delayed discovery of a medical injury is a medical implement or tool that is left behind after surgery. The injured party may not discover the source of the injury for months or years until additional diagnostic testing or an emerging medical issue reveals its presence.
However, the discussion regarding the time limits to bring a medical negligence action would not be complete without discussing Pennsylvania’s Statute of Repose. The statute of repose is part of the Medical Care Availability & Reduction of Error Fund (MCARE). The rule holds that despite the leeway provided by the discovery rule under the statute of limitations, all claims stemming from an act of alleged medical negligence must be brought within seven years. One specific exemption to this rule include foreign objects left behind during or in the course of surgery. 40 P.S. § 1303.513(b). An exemption to the seven-year rule set forth by the statute of repose is also exempted in the case of medical injuries to children.
What Are Common Types Of Medical Injuries & Claims?
By law, doctors and other healthcare professionals must supply their patients with a certain level of care. If a doctor negligently fails to provide adequate care and consequently injures or kills a patient, he or she may be held financially liable.
There are many different forms of doctor 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 also typically suffer tremendous financial setbacks.
Medical errors that carry particularly severe consequences include birth injuries (birthing malpractice), surgical mistakes (surgical malpractice), prescription drug and medication errors (medication malpractice), misdiagnosis, and failure to diagnose. The risks and injuries that these types of malpractice can result in include:
Birth Injury Malpractice
Birth injuries can leave newborns with permanent disabilities. When a doctor, OB/GYN, nurse or other medical professional provides sub-standard medical care during a mother’s pregnancy or delivery, negligence can cause conditions like Erb’s palsy or cerebral palsy. The risk of cerebral palsy is increased if the mother suffers an infection during or before childbirth, or if oxygen supply to the newborn is compromised.
Errors committed by surgeons, anesthesiologists, or nurses before, during or after surgery can result in serious injuries or death. Surgical errors include operating on the wrong organ, operating on the wrong side of the body, providing sub-standard post-operative care, and administering the wrong medication. Anesthesia errors can include a failure to recognize allergic reactions or the administration of too little or too much anesthesia. Anesthesia errors can lead to tracheal damage, brain damage, paralysis, and stroke.
Pharmacy Mistakes and Medication Malpractice
This form of malpractice occurs when a patient is prescribed the wrong dosage of medication or is given the wrong drug, increasing the risk of deadly drug interactions or an untreated condition growing worse. Prescription drug malpractice also covers a wide variety of medication errors such as mislabeling a prescription or supplying incomplete or incorrect patient information, such as a patient allergy.
Cancer Misdiagnosis and Radiology Mistakes
This occurs when a doctor, such as a radiologist or an oncologist, negligently fails to diagnose cancer or otherwise delays a cancer diagnosis which another doctor would have noticed under the same circumstances. The misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis may limit the treatment options available to the cancer patient, which could dramatically affect the patient’s recovery outcome, or even reduce the patient’s life expectancy.
Medical malpractice cases include a wide variety of medical errors and are not limited to those listed above. The most important factor to note is that a healthcare professional’s negligence, either by act or omission, caused a patient a severe and often life- changing injury.
Our Top Pennsylvania Medical Malpractice Results & Settlements:
We have recovered millions of dollars in compensation for our clients, that may have been in similar situations to yours. The lawyers at Reiff & Bily strive to get our clients maximum compensation. Some of our notable medical malpractice results include:
$1,539,803.50 Medical Malpractice Verdict
Our client was injured when a laparotomy sponge was left inside her during a hysterectomy. The plaintiff sued her doctor and the hospital after the malpractice error resulted in an abscess, months of suffering, and required another surgery to extricate the sponge.
$5.7 Million Dollar Award
Our client was injured during a diagnostic procedure. He suffered a life-altering brain damage, that required a lifetime of medical care. After spending time investigating the case, we discovered that a medical record had been changed, implying an attempt to cover up the medical error.
$1,450,000 Medical Malpractice Recovery
A woman with depression that was referred to a psychiatrist by her health care provider’s HMO referral booklet (HMO) was drugged and sexually assaulted by the doctor. Evidence later revealed that the psychiatrist was not a licensed doctor and the health care facility never checked his credentials.
$800,000 Medical Malpractice Award
The jury awarded plaintiff damages after surgeon left 40 X 60 cm fabric towel in the abdomen after an exploratory laparotomy and the repair of an abdominal aortic aneurysm. The hospital was also a defendant in the medical malpractice lawsuit.
$650,000 Medical Negligence Settlement
Delayed diagnosis of breast cancer in a 32-year-old woman. Settled immediately prior to trial for $650,000.
However, it is important to note, the past results are merely illustrative of possible outcomes. All matters are contingent upon different, unique sets of facts and circumstances. Furthermore, the conduct and approach of the judge and performance of witnesses can vary and significantly impact trial results. Furthermore, juries in Pennsylvania are free to weigh the facts presented on the basis of their own judgment. Jurors may also choose to believe or disbelieve certain evidence or testimony. Thus, there are many factors that can impact the decision.
Contact Our Philadelphia Medical Malpractice Attorneys
At Reiff & Bily we understand how difficult being a victim of medical negligence can be, and are here to help you fight for compensation for your injuries, losses, and to prevent the medical professional from inflicting similar harm on others. We may be able to recover monetary compensation for your current and future medical costs, pain and suffering, and other associated damages. Call our Philadelphia medical malpractice attorneys at (800) 861-6708, or contact us online for a free consultation.