What is Medical Malpractice?
Medical malpractice is a broad term used to cover incidents where a health care provider’s treatment fails to meet accepted standards, causing harm to the patient as a result.
According to the Journal of the American Medical Association, medical malpractice, or medical negligence, is the third leading cause of death in the United States, killing approximately 200,000 people every year. Surprisingly, this shocking statistic is not widely known. In 2014, almost $4 billion was paid out in medical negligence claim settlements and over $300 million of those were paid in Pennsylvania.
The Elements Needed to Prove Medical Negligence
In order to successfully win a medical malpractice claim, the Plaintiff and his or her lawyer must be able to demonstrate the following elements:
- 1. Duty of Care – You must be able to prove that the Defendant(s) owed the plaintiff a duty of care to follow an accepted standard of treatment.
- 2. Breach of that Duty of Care – Once a duty of care has been established, it must then be proven that the duty of care has been breached in circumstances that could have been avoided. The standard of care can vary based on the individual circumstances of the claim, the location of the claim and the specialties of the medical professionals involved.
- 3. Causation – That the breach of the duty to follow the appropriate standard of care resulted in, or caused, the Plaintiff harm and/or damages.
- 4. Damages – The Plaintiff in a medical malpractice action must be able to prove that they were harmed as a result of the medical professional’s negligence.
Hospital Malpractice vs. Medical Malpractice
Hospital malpractice is simply medical negligence that has taken place within a hospital setting. Negligence can occur through the actions of any staff employed by the hospital who were responsible for providing care to you.
Some examples of hospital malpractice are:
- Medication errors
- Surgical errors
- Leaving a foreign body (i.e., a sponge or surgical tool) inside the surgical site
- Misuse of anesthesia
- Improper treatment of an already diagnosed illness
- Failure to undertake proper tests
- Failure to refer to a specialist when needed
- Failure to monitor a patient adequately
- Birth injury or trauma
- Unnecessary surgical procedures
To prove hospital malpractice you need to show that staff within the hospital acted unreasonably and in a manner that resulted in a direct injury to yourself.
It’s important to consult with an experienced law firm about hospital malpractice as soon as possible. In Pennsylvania, the statute of limitations for a medical malpractice is two (2) years from the date you knew, or should have known, that the negligence occurred.
Informed Consent Does Not Waive Your Right To Make a Medical Malpractice Claim
Patients are usually asked to sign an informed consent document prior to undergoing surgical procedures. This process is designed to make patients aware of the potential risks and the fact that a poor outcome is possible.
In reality of course, people are already committed to that course of action through the advice and care journey they are on. So their actual value as a method of informing the patient is limited. They are therefore also a way for the care provider to fight back against any claims that may arise.
Signing an informed consent form is not a waiver of the patients right to be free from harm through negligent medical care. You should always be informed of risks well in advance. It is of course entirely reasonable for a health care provider to have a record that you have been made aware of the potential risks, but this does not mean you cannot claim against medical negligence.
What Should I Do If I Believe I Am The Victim Of Medical Malpractice?
Proving medical malpractice is a complex and sometimes difficult undertaking. You will definitely require the assistance of a law firm who have the experience and knowledge to successfully work on your behalf.
Because this is a complex field, where many issues feed into establishing whether injury or even death was caused through negligence, it is vital that you consult with a lawyer who has extensive experience in medical negligence claims specifically, rather than just general personal injury experience.
Because of the applicable statutes that come into play, there are requirements you must adhere to. As we have already said, you must provide timely notice of your intent to bring an action. You must also have a qualified expert sign a certificate stating that there is a case to answer. These are things you will need expert assistance with.
Even if you are not well enough to do this yourself, a relative or friend can assist you in starting the process of getting the compensation you deserve.