While it’s widely known that medical negligence can result in harm or death, there has been some controversy about the actual number of people affected by medical errors over the years. This is because medical errors do not have their own “cause of death” classification nationally. A Johns Hopkins study went through the data and determined that more than 250,000 people in America die every year from medical errors, making it the third-highest cause of death. The number of people injured by medical mistakes is substantially more and may be as high as one million every year.
In legal terms, “malpractice” refers to negligence by a healthcare professional that results in the worsening of a patient’s medical condition, a new injury, or wrongful death. There are five main types of malpractice that a healthcare provider can commit:
However, just because a healthcare provider has made one of the errors listed above doesn’t necessarily mean they are guilty of malpractice. A case can only be made for malpractice if it can be shown that the victim paid additional medical bills, lost wages, is expected to have a reduced future earning capacity, or has endured injury, pain and suffering.
While we typically think of medical doctors as the ones who commit malpractice, any healthcare provider can be held responsible if their action (or inaction) results in harm. Nurses, nurse practitioners, physician’s assistants, anesthesiologists, pharmacists, dentists, hospitals, clinics, and pharmaceutical companies are all legally responsible for what happens to patients under their care.
For a victim or their family to prove that a healthcare provider is guilty of malpractice, they must prove four things:
The part that’s the most difficult to prove is “failure to provide appropriate care.” For example, if a doctor sees you for migraines, they will likely prescribe migraine medication for you. If it’s discovered later that your headaches were caused by a brain tumor that’s now too large to recover from, you might think that the doctor who gave you the initial medication was negligent. After all, if they had diagnosed you correctly initially, the tumor would have been found while it was still small and treatable. But that may not be the case.
All healthcare providers are held to the same standard, which is referred to as the “standard of care.” This means that doctors aren’t automatically guilty of malpractice if they fail to treat their patient’s conditions properly. The standard of care refers to how a typical, sensible provider would have cared for their patient in a similar situation.
Using the above example, if the doctor had done an MRI when you initially complained of headaches, they would have seen what was causing the problem, and it could have been treated. However, that’s not what the average doctor would do in that same situation. Hindsight might make the correct treatment seem apparent, but that doesn’t mean that a doctor is negligent if they made a decision that seemed reasonable at the time but was later determined to be wrong.
If you suspect that your situation is a legitimate instance of malpractice (or if you’re not sure), it’s essential to consult with an attorney as soon as possible. In Pennsylvania, generally, you only have two years to file a claim from the date you learned (or reasonably should have known) about the medical injury that caused injury or death. Some narrow exceptions may apply to this rule, so it’s essential to consult with an attorney to find out what your options are, even if you’ve passed the two-year mark.
Once you’ve decided to explore your legal options, it’s crucial to find an attorney with extensive medical malpractice experience. Cases that involve complex medical issues can be difficult for even the best attorneys, so it’s essential to make sure your legal team has a strong reputation and a track record of success. Some questions you can ask before hiring an attorney to take on your case include:
If you’ve been seriously injured or if a loved one has lost their life due to a healthcare provider’s negligence, the medical malpractice lawyers at Ross Feller Casey can help you seek the compensation you deserve. We have a team of leading doctor-lawyers right on staff, so we have the knowledge and experience to handle even the most complex medical malpractice cases.
We work on a contingency basis, so there’s no charge to you unless we help you win your case, and your initial consultation is always free. Our expert legal team has a track record that speaks for itself. With over 50 $10-million-plus verdicts and settlements, and over $1 billion recovered for our clients over the past five years alone, we’re ready to put our resources and expertise to work for you.
Contact us today to get on the path toward receiving the justice you and your loved ones deserve.
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.