Do You Have a Medical Malpractice Case?
If you think that a doctor or another health care professional might have made medical mistakes that caused your injuries but are unsure whether you have a viable malpractice claim, you are not alone. Many people are unsure whether they might have grounds to file a malpractice claim. While some forms of medical malpractice are clear, others are more complex and are not straightforward. The medical malpractice attorneys at Raynes & Lawn can evaluate what happened and explain whether your potential claim has legal merits. Here is some information about medical malpractice claims and their requirements.
Elements of a Medical Malpractice Claim
In a medical malpractice lawsuit, you will have the burden of proving each of the elements of malpractice by a preponderance of the evidence. If you fail to prove one of the elements, you will not be successful in a claim. Each of these elements is explained below.
You Had a Doctor-Patient Relationship.
The first element that you must prove is that you had formed a doctor-patient relationship with the doctor who is the defendant in your lawsuit. This means that you must have hired the doctor to treat you, and he or she must have agreed to be hired to treat you. For example, you cannot sue a physician for taking the advice you overheard him or her give to another person while you were riding on the subway. Questions about whether or not you formed a doctor-patient relationship might arise if a consulting doctor who did not directly treat you made a medical error.
The Provided Care Was Substandard.
The fact that you are unhappy with the treatment you received or the results does not mean that the doctor will be liable in a medical malpractice lawsuit. Instead, the care provided by the doctor must have fallen below the accepted standard of care. This means that you must be able to present evidence showing that the doctor’s treatment failed to meet the standard of care that would have been provided by a competent doctor with similar training in the same area and under the same circumstances. The care you received does not have to be perfect but only has to be reasonably careful and skillful. In Pennsylvania, you will have to retain a medical expert to provide a certificate of merit showing that the doctor’s care likely fell below the accepted standard of care before you can file a lawsuit.
Your Injuries Were Caused by the Doctor’s Negligence.
The third element of medical malpractice claims is causation. You must be able to show that the doctor’s negligence caused your injuries. For example, if the doctor failed to accurately diagnose your cancer when it was in an early phase and still treatable, you might have a claim for medical negligence if you were later diagnosed when it had progressed to stage 4 and was no longer treatable. By contrast, even if the doctor’s treatment fell below the accepted standard of care, you will not have a valid claim for medical malpractice if you did not suffer any injuries because of the doctor’s negligence.
You Sustained Specific Damages.
You must also be able to show that you suffered specific damages to succeed in a medical malpractice case. You cannot sue for malpractice if you did not suffer any losses. Some of the types of damages that you might be able to pursue include the following:
- Additional medical expenses caused by the medical mistake
- Income losses caused by the medical error
- Physical pain and suffering caused by the medical error
- Mental anguish caused by the medical error
Medical malpractice can occur in a broad variety of situations. Some of the most common types of medical negligence that result in claims include the following:
- Diagnostic errors
- Failure to treat or improper treatment
- Failure to warn about known risks
- Prescription errors
- Birth injuries
- Surgical errors
Statute of Limitations
In Pennsylvania, the statute of limitations for medical malpractice lawsuits is generally two years from the date of the injury. In some cases, the cause of action for medical malpractice will accrue at the time the medical care is provided. However, the statute of limitations might begin to run much later in other cases. Recently, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court held that the state’s 7-year statute of repose is unconstitutional. In certain situations, the statute of limitations will be tolled when you did not and could not reasonably have discovered the doctor’s negligence until a later date. In that type of situation, the statute of limitations will start to run from the date you discovered your injury or should reasonably have discovered it. If you have questions about the statute of limitations, you should talk to a medical malpractice lawyer at Raynes & Lawn as soon as possible.
If you try to file a medical malpractice claim outside of the statute of limitations, the defendant will file a motion to dismiss. The court will likely dismiss any claim that is filed too late, making it important for you to speak to a lawyer as soon as you suspect that malpractice might have occurred.
Certificate of Merit Requirement
Under Pennsylvania law, a plaintiff or a plaintiff’s attorney must file a certificate of merit at the time a medical malpractice lawsuit is filed or within 60 days of the filing date. This certificate must attest that a licensed medical expert has reviewed the case and believes that malpractice likely occurred. For this reason, it is necessary to retain a medical expert to help with your case. Expert testimony is also necessary to demonstrate how the doctor’s treatment fell below the accepted standard of care.
Get Help From a Philadelphia Medical Malpractice Attorney
Medical malpractice cases are complex and require help from expert witnesses. If you believe that you have been the victim of malpractice, you should speak to an attorney at Raynes & Lawn as soon as possible. Call us today at 1-800-535-1797 for a free consultation.
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