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Individuals throughout the world trust medical professionals with their health and well-being every single day. They put their lives in the hands of the surgeons, physicians, nurses, and other medical personnel who treat them and their loved ones for a variety of conditions. Medical professionals play a role in many aspects of the lives of each and every one of us, who rely on their skill and experience to treat disease and relieve suffering

While the vast majority of doctors, nurses, and medical facilities treat patients properly on a regular basis, there are occasions when inappropriate healthcare is rendered, and something goes terribly wrong?  What happens then? More specifically, what should you do if you think that you or a loved one may be a victim of medical malpractice?

What is medical malpractice?

Medical malpractice, also known as medical negligence, occurs when a physician, other healthcare provider, or healthcare facility deviates from the accepted standards of care for patient treatment, and causes injury to the patient. If any type of medical professional fails to competently execute proper treatment to the patient, the end result may involve harm or even death being caused to this individual. Unfortunately, the negligence of medical staff members or a hospital has the potential to cause injuries that the patient may have to deal with for the rest of his or her life. Severe cases can also lead to death.

How can I detect if medical malpractice occurred?

Sometimes during or at the conclusion of medical care you have a “gut” sense that something has no gone appropriately? That intuition can be very helpful to discovering if medical malpractice has taken place. Patients and loved ones can often detect when things seem out of the ordinary. Many inquiries about medical malpractice begin with the potential victim or a family member describing the experience that raises questions about the quality of care. Oftentimes, the seed of doubt regarding medical care is planted when someone else shows concern about the appropriateness of the care as well.  Occasional clues come from comments of the doctors and nurses involved in the care itself.

Additionally, individuals today are tech-savvy and sophisticated, may to begin doing some research on their own using Internet available resources or the library.  There is a wealth of medical information available online of varying quality.  If you have a suspicion that medical malpractice may have occurred, you have probably already started investigating the issue yourself, and have looked for similar scenarios online. While your own online research will not be sufficient to make a legal case, it can assist you in making a rough determination concerning whether or not the problems at hand may have been a result of medical malpractice.

The next step is to take your concerns to a lawyer. A medical malpractice lawyer who is also a physician will have substantial knowledge on the standards of care and protocols that should have been followed during a hospitalization or other medical treatment. If the lawyer does not have that level of expertise, he or she will send the case details to a medical expert for analysis and review. Essentially, the ultimate determination of medical malpractice relies upon the evaluation of an expert.

Are there any signs that could point to medical malpractice?

While it may be difficult to accept, a bad outcome from medical care does not necessarily mean that a medical professional did something wrong. There are injuries and complications that can and do in doctors’ offices, hospitals and other types of medical facilities even when the care provided is appropriate, and medical standards of care have been met. However, there are certain instances where there may be more concrete hints or signs that something is not right.

Occasionally, medical professionals make statements like “I’ve never seen that before” or “that should have never happened” that are overheard by or stated to the family or patient.  This can be a big red flag. There have even been cases where a nurse or other healthcare provider has told a patient or family member that they should see a lawyer because of what happened.

In addition to hearing comments from the medical staff, some patients or family members may have a general sense that something has gone wrong. For instance, if you went in for treatment of an ingrown toenail, and eventually ended up losing a leg, there is obvious and justified cause for concern about the quality of the medical care. While that example may appear extreme, anything is possible under circumstances of severe cases of medical malpractice. Medical malpractice during childbirth is another topic of high interest. If you had completely normal prenatal visits and ultrasounds throughout the pregnancy and ended up with a complicated delivery that caused a devastating birth injuries baby, the possibility of medical malpractice exists.

When can I not pursue a medical malpractice case?

To put it simply, you cannot pursue a medical malpractice case when there has been no negligence.  Medical negligence, quite simply, is a deviation from accepted standards of medical care which results in an injury. A complication is not necessarily the result of medical negligence. Unfortunately, bad events and outcomes happen to patients a significant proportion of the time. While these are clearly undesirable, negative outcomes, often known as complications, can and do occur even when the medical care is appropriate and error-free.   A surgical procedure or medical treatment has side effects and is never without risk.  Generally, the patient was made aware of these adverse outcome before treatment is started.

Each medical scenario is unique, and it is difficult to make blanket generalizations about all instances of medical malpractice. You must have expert support by an appropriate healthcare provider in order to make a credible case that the standard of care was breached. A medical malpractice lawyer will diligently investigate exactly what happened, and then reach out to appropriate experts in the field to obtain the required expert report if medical negligence appears probable.

If you think that you or a loved one has suffered from negligent medical treatment, call the lawyers at Ross Feller Casey today.

About the Author

Dr. Mark A. Hoffman is an internationally recognized physician and leading plaintiff’s lawyer who joined Ross Feller Casey in 2014.

Mark Hoffman

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.