Medical Malpractice in Pennsylvania

Philadelphia Medical Malpractice Lawyer

Medical malpractice, also referred to as medical negligence, is the professional misconduct of doctors, nurses, technicians and other medical professionals. In Pennsylvania there must be a preliminary finding of negligence on the part of a physician before a medical malpractice suit may proceed. Medical malpractice lawyers file lawsuits based on the negligent conduct of those individuals and entities. Medical errors do not receive the same attention as major accidents, and can be hidden if not reported.

Malpractice cases are caused by any number of mistakes from medical misdiagnosis to anesthesia errors and from failing to follow a standard treatment protocol to surgical errors. A medical malpractice lawyer can file a medical malpractice claim against hospitals, medical corporations, clinics, individual doctors, physician’s groups, nurses, technicians and insurance companies.

What is medical malpractice?

When health care professionals, through a negligent act or omission, harm or injure a patient, the negligence is known as medical malpractice. The negligence may be in the form of errors in health management or treatment, aftercare or in diagnosis.

About 9.5 percent of all deaths occur due to medical error.

The American Medical Association says medical malpractice is the third leading cause of death in the United States.

How common is medical malpractice?

The American Medical Association says medical malpractice is the third leading cause of death in the United States. In fact, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) report that medical malpractice kills 225,000 people every year. The U.S. patient-care study released in 2016, tracked deaths for eight consecutive years. Researchers discovered that based on 35,416,020 hospitalizations, there was 251,454 deaths per year — about 9.5 percent of all deaths — that occurred due to medical error.

According to the Pennsylvania Patient Safety Authority (PSA) there were more than 302,000 medical errors and nosocomial (hospital acquired) infections in 2017. Fewer than 300 were fatalities.

Over the last 10 years in Pennsylvania, medical malpractice settlements and claims, as documented by the state Insurance Department fund, have held relatively steady, averaging 379 claims and $461,052 in awards. However, the number of unanticipated medical accidents or errors in hospitals, other health care facilities and nursing homes grew by 327 percent to 302,515 between calendar years 2004 and 2017 said the Pennsylvania Patient Safety Authority (PSA).

What can you do if you have been injured?

It is essential that you begin the investigative process as soon as possible. Our lawyers have more than 100 years of combined legal experience and we know how to handle medical malpractice lawsuits that result in obtaining fair and equitable compensation for your injuries.

Common types of medical malpractice

The most common acts of negligence include, but are not limited to:

  • Fractures during surgery
  • Foreign object(s) left in body during surgery
  • Misread scans
  • Misdiagnosis
  • Wrong medication dosage
  • Administering medication to patient with known allergy

The most serious outcome of medical malpractice is death. In fact, death as a result of medical malpractice ranks at 19 percent of the total claims filed. Significant permanent injuries, also rank at 19 percent of all claims filed. Major permanent injuries rank at 18 percent of all filed claims. Furthermore, quadriplegia and traumatic brain damage fall at 12 percent of total filed claims.

Misdiagnosis and Surgical Errors

Surgical mistakes account for roughly 33 percent of medical malpractice claims for inpatient incidents. Misdiagnosis is responsible for nearly 50 percent of all malpractice claims for outpatient incidents. Out of the various medical disciplines and departments, obstetricians/gynecologists are defendants in virtually 20 percent of all medical malpractice lawsuits with primary care doctors and general surgeons a close second.

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How a medical malpractice attorney builds a case

Medical malpractice attorneys work to prove four elements in a successful medical negligence case. These elements are:

DUTY

That the doctor or other medical professional had a legal duty of care to the patient

BREACH

That a breach of that legal duty of care occurred due to negligence

CAUSATION

That there is a direct line connection between the breach of care and the patient's injury

DAMAGE

The patient sustained serious damages or injuries as a result of a breach of care

Proving malpractice requires several strategies

A medical malpractice lawyer builds their case around the four elements necessary to win such a case.

Building a case

A medical malpractice lawyer builds their case around the four elements necessary to win such a case. That process includes, but is not limited to:

  • Conducting research about the plaintiff’s injuries
  • Working with medical experts to develop case theories and digest expert reports
  • Retaining expert witnesses
  • Taking depositions from medical experts, others relevant to the case and the victim(s)
  • Collecting and analyzing patient medical records
  • Setting up/escorting plaintiffs to independent medical examinations to get a clear understanding and evaluation of the victim’s injuries.
  • Working with legal nurse consultants analyzing the merits of the case, reviewing records and doctors notes

Medical malpractice attorneys complete the same education as other lawyers, and that is seven years studying for and obtaining an undergraduate degree and a law degree and passing the bar exam in the state in which they wish to practice. An attorney wishing to specialize or pursue medical malpractice cases may also be board certified and meet exacting standards in the areas of education, ethics, experience, examination and excellence in professional liability law.

Statute of limitation for medical malpractice cases

There is typically no quick resolution for a medical malpractice lawsuit. Most injured victims wait roughly one year or longer before the suit is filed and then, the case may take two years or more to reach resolution.

The statute of limitations for a medical malpractice claim in Pennsylvania and New Jersey is generally two years. The statute begins when the patient discovers – or should have discovered – the injury. The statute of limitations for minors is generally until age 20.

Medical malpractice compensation and awards

Medical malpractice jury trials tend to result in high median damage awards. Furthermore, awards in medical malpractice trials are 17 times greater than awards in tort actions. The average jury award in a medical negligence lawsuit is roughly twice that of the average negotiated settlement arrived at outside the courthouse.

The top five states across the nation for significant medical malpractice settlements are: New York, Pennsylvania, California, New Jersey and Florida.

Over 43 states permit punitive damages in medical malpractice actions and more than half do not place any limits on punitive damages. Punitive damages can be quite high and at times exceed the figure awarded for compensatory damages.

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