I Believe I Am A Victim Of Malpractice, How Do I Know For Sure?

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By Dr. Mark A. Hoffman, M.S., M.D., J.D., LL.M., M.Bioeth., M.B.A.

Recent studies have shown that an estimated 440,000 Americans die annually due to preventable hospital errors, making medical malpractice the third leading cause of death in the country behind heart disease and cancer. That overwhelming number does not include victims of medical malpractice who suffer injury but survive, sometimes with life altering medical, emotional, and financial burdens.

What Exactly Is Medical Malpractice?

Medical malpractice, also known as medical negligence, occurs when a doctor or another medical professional (nurse, technician, etc.) does something, or alternatively, fails to do something, do that would otherwise meet the accepted “standard of care.” A necessary element of medical negligence is that the failure to meet the accepted “standard of care” causes an injury and results in harm.  The “standard of care” used to determine whether a health care provider has committed medical malpractice is generally based on how a comparably qualified professional should have acted in the same or similar situation. The main thing to remember about medical malpractice is that two things must have occurred:

  • A medical professional made an error that rises to the level of a deviation from the accepted “standard of care,” and
  • The error caused the patient to suffer an injury. 

Determining if medical malpractice has occurred and proving the malpractice are complex and technical undertakings. The fundamental question becomes: Did the doctor deviate from accepted “standards of care” and cause the victim an injury? To answer that question requires knowledge in both the medical and legal fields, and an expert or experts in both of those areas should be consulted. If the answers to both of those questions is found to be “yes,” then there is a reasonable basis to allege medical malpractice and to potentially file a medical malpractice lawsuit.

How Do You Know If You Have Been A Victim Of Malpractice?

Establishing whether or not malpractice has occurred begins with the victim or the victim’s family. Doctors and other medical staff are generally not going to readily admit to wrongdoing, so it is up to the patient and his or her loved ones to determine if they believe something might be out of the ordinary that deviates from the accepted standard of medical care. It may begin with a patient having an inkling that something has gone wrong, or something seems unusual enough to suspect that something else should have occurred or that something should not have happened. It may be that something happened in the hospital room that caused concern, like family members being rushed out, or overhearing medical personnel say something like, “I’ve never seen that before,” or “That should never have happened.” These are things that patients and their families should take note of in case there is an injury or harm sustained by the patient.

Keep in mind that a complication or a bad outcome of medical treatment is not necessarily medical negligence or malpractice. There are always things that can go wrong even when appropriate care is provided.  These are often referred to as side effects and complications, and they may accompany a surgical procedure or other medical treatment in which no one has done anything wrong. However, some cases are quite obvious. For example, if you or your loved one goes to the emergency room for a headache and fever and you’re told to take aspirin and go home, but days later you are diagnosed with meningitis, you may be a victim of malpractice because the emergency room doctor did not adequately check for signs and symptoms meningitis. Many cases of malpractice are not so obvious though, so patients and their families must pay attention to events and ask questions during any medical procedure or treatment.

Once a case is brought to a lawyer, the involvement of an appropriate medical expert is generally necessary.  In this way, the lawyer can appropriately determine whether the care is actually medical malpractice or not. There are plenty of times when patients or their family members take their case to an attorney, thinking that they have been a victim of malpractice, but it is determined that they have suffered a complication of a procedure or treatment, and that the care was actually appropriate. However, there are also numerous cases where a person thinks that they have been a malpractice victim and are correct in their assessment. For that reason, it is absolutely imperative that if you believe that something went wrong during your medical care that you reach out to an experienced malpractice attorney.

What Should I Do Now?

At Ross Feller Casey, we have the legal and medical experts that you need to evaluate your case. Our medical malpractice attorneys are knowledgeable, experienced, and successful in litigating medical malpractice cases. We have a team of leading, Ivy League educated doctors on staff to help legally diagnose and care for malpractice cases from the first client meeting all the way through to verdict or settlement. Two of the three doctors are also attorneys, which streamlines the typical need law firms have of consulting with physicians outside of the firm on a case-by-case basis. Ross Feller Casey truly supports and guides clients, as conveniently as possible, throughout the course of their cases.

If you suspect that you or a loved one is a victim of medical malpractice or negligence, or if your medical procedure, surgery, or treatment had a devastating outcome, please contact one of our attorneys for a free evaluation of your case. Most malpractice cases have a statute of limitations of only two years, so don’t delay, your time may be running out.

At Ross Feller Casey, our attorneys work on a contingency basis, so there is never a charge to you unless there is a financial recovery.

Learn more about Hospital Malpractice Lawyers.

Disclaimer - Ross Feller Casey, LLP provides legal advice only after an attorney-client relationship is formed. Our website is an introduction to the firm and does not create a relationship between our attorneys and clients. An attorney-client relationship is formed only after a written agreement is signed by the client and the firm. Because every case is unique, the description of awards and summary of cases successfully handled are not intended to imply or guarantee that same success in other cases. Ross Feller Casey, LLP represents catastrophically injured persons and their families in injury and wrongful death cases, providing legal representation in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.


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