Philadelphia Medical Malpractice Lawyers: Get the Compensation You Deserve
Most Pennsylvanians receive competent medical care when they go to the hospital or their doctor’s office. However, some people have bad experiences that cause serious injuries or even death because of medical errors. When a medical provider’s care fails to meet the standard that is expected of competent medical providers in the same medical practice area and causes the patient’s injuries, the patient may have a viable medical malpractice claim. If you believe a doctor caused your injuries or worsened your condition by making medical mistakes, you might be entitled to pursue compensation.
Having the grounds to file a medical malpractice claim doesn’t mean that you will receive the compensation you deserve. Instead, it is important to understand how to build a strong case and work with an experienced medical malpractice lawyer in Philadelphia to improve your chances of succeeding with your claim. At Raynes & Lawn, our attorneys have vigorously represented the victims of medical malpractice for more than 50 years and have recovered billions of dollars on behalf of our clients. Here’s what you need to know about medical malpractice claims and how to recover the compensation you deserve.
Factors That Might Affect Your Claim’s Viability
The first thing you need to understand is that the viability of your claim can be affected by several factors. When you consult a Philadelphia medical malpractice lawyer, they will analyze the medical records and evidence and provide an honest evaluation of the legal merits. Some of the factors that might impact your ability to pursue a medical malpractice claim and the value of any claim you might have are discussed below.
1. The Relevant Medical Standard of Care
Before you can pursue a medical malpractice lawsuit, you’ll first need to determine the relevant medical standard of care that applies to your medical provider. All doctors are expected to provide treatment meeting the standard of care a reasonably competent doctor would provide under similar treatment conditions.
Doctors are compared to other physicians with similar education and training in the same practice area who practice in the same region and not to doctors in different locations or specialties. For example, a general practice physician in Philadelphia would not be compared to an oncologist in Los Angeles to determine the relevant standard of care. Instead, a general practice physician’s care would be compared to what other reasonably competent general practice doctors would provide in the same scenario.
Once the standard of care is determined, you’ll then need to determine whether the treatment you receive deviates from it. To make this determination, your medical malpractice lawyer in Philadelphia will consult a medical expert who can help determine the standard of care and whether the treatment you received fell below expectations.
2. The Severity of Your Injuries
One of the most important factors in determining the value and viability of your claim is how severe your injuries are. These are the injuries that you suffered as a result of your doctor’s medical negligence and don’t include the normal symptoms of the condition for which you sought care. However, if your condition substantially worsened as a result of your doctor’s mistake, the degree to which it worsened could support a claim.
Injuries that are severe and permanently disabling will support a much higher recovery amount than injuries that will not have a long-lasting impact on you. For example, if your doctor failed to diagnose and immediately treat sepsis, and you had to undergo a partial leg amputation as a result, your recovery will likely be much higher than if your injuries were not permanently disabling.
3. Causation and the Strength of Your Evidence
Not all situations in which you might have received treatment you were unhappy with will amount to medical malpractice. There is no guarantee that you will be happy with the outcome of treatment, and doctors can’t guarantee what will happen.
There are also some situations in which a doctor’s medical mistake doesn’t cause injuries. If your doctor made a mistake, but you didn’t suffer any injuries, you won’t have a case. Instead, you’ll need to present evidence showing that your doctor’s care amounted to medical negligence and that the negligent treatment caused your injuries.
If you only have weak evidence showing causation, it will be harder for you to succeed with a claim. If you instead have strong evidence showing your doctor’s medical mistake caused your injuries, you’ll have a much stronger case.
4. Cost of the Medical Treatment for Your Injuries
The cost of the medical treatment you need for the injuries you suffered because of your provider’s medical mistakes plays an important role in the value of your claim. If you suffered injuries requiring several corrective surgeries, hospitalization, extensive periods of rehabilitation, or other expensive treatment, the value of your claim will be higher.
By contrast, if your doctor made a mistake that caused a minor injury that didn’t require additional medical care, you likely won’t have a viable claim. For example, if your doctor’s hand slipped while using a scalpel for surgery and caused a minor cut without a resulting systemic infection, you probably won’t have a viable medical malpractice claim.
5. Damages Caps
Some states cap or limit the total compensatory damages malpractice victims can recover. However, Pennsylvania does not cap the economic and non-economic damages plaintiffs can recover in medical malpractice claims. Consequently, your total damages will not be limited by a state-imposed cap.
In the rare instance that a jury awards punitive damages, Pennsylvania does place a cap on them to no more than two times your compensatory damages. Punitive damages are awarded in situations in which the defendant’s conduct was particularly outrageous and typically aren’t awarded in medical malpractice cases. When they are awarded, they are paid on top of the total compensatory damages the jury awards.
6. Having Calculable Damages
You must show you suffered damages caused by your doctor’s medical malpractice. Damages refer to losses you suffered because of the actions of your doctor. Some examples of damages include medical expenses, income losses, psychological trauma, pain, suffering, disability, and others. To prove damages, you’ll need to present medical records, wage statements, medical bills, and expert testimony to prove your losses and their value.
If you can’t prove you suffered any losses because of your doctor’s medical malpractice, you won’t recover compensation in a lawsuit. You are required to present evidence proving each of the elements of medical malpractice, including damages. An inability to prove one element would mean you don’t have a viable case.
Valuing Your Claim
When you work with a Philadelphia medical malpractice lawyer, they will value your claim to give you an idea of what it might be worth. Your attorney will start by calculating your economic losses, with include all of the out-of-pocket expenses you have suffered and will likely suffer in the future because of your injuries. These include the following types of damages:
- Past and future medical expenses to treat your resulting injuries
- Income losses caused by missing work because of your injuries
- Costs of rehabilitative care
- Home modification costs if you were left with a physical disability
- Cost of additional surgeries
- Other out-of-pocket expenses
Once your attorney has calculated the value of your out-of-pocket losses, they will then calculate your non-economic losses.
Non-economic losses are harder to calculate because they are intangible and include things that are difficult to place a monetary value on. Some examples of your non-economic losses include the following:
- Pain and suffering
- Emotional distress/psychological trauma
- Loss of the enjoyment of life
- Loss of consortium for spouses
Typically, attorneys will use a multiplier method to calculate the likely value of your non-economic losses. This method uses a multiplier between one and five and multiplies it by your total economic losses. For example, if you suffered a life-changing, permanent disability that will negatively affect you for the rest of your life, your attorney might choose a higher multiplier. If you instead suffered an injury and are expected to fully recover within seven months, a lower multiplier will be used.
This gives a rough idea of what a reasonable settlement might be worth to help you evaluate any offers you might receive from the malpractice insurance company. It’s important to note that settlement values and trial values differ. When an insurer considers a trial value, it is the amount the insurance company might expect to be forced to pay if the case goes to trial and includes things such as reputational harm to the doctor, publicity, and other factors.
Juries can be unpredictable, so it’s impossible to know what a jury might award. A risk-benefit analysis is important before deciding to go to trial. If you take your case to trial, you might win a higher verdict amount than what you might receive in a settlement. However, if you lose at trial, you won’t receive anything. Understanding the rough value of your claim can help you evaluate settlement offers and decide whether accepting an offer is in your best interests. Your attorney can advise you on whether you might want to settle your case or if you should instead take your chances at trial based on the facts and evidence.
Building a Strong Case
Building the strongest case possible is important to recovering maximal compensation in a medical malpractice claim. You will need to gather as much evidence as possible to support your claim and show the damages you have suffered. While your attorney will work hard to build a strong case of liability for you, there are some things you can do to help as discussed below.
What You Can Do to Build a Strong Case
When you are working with an attorney, you must be completely honest about your symptoms and how they affect your day-to-day life. Don’t try to exaggerate how your injuries affect you. If you embellish anything, the insurer will likely argue you are malingering and use it as a reason to deny your claim. Do the following things:
1. Attend All Medical Appointments
After you are injured by a medical provider, keep all medical appointments to treat your injuries. This doesn’t mean you have to continue seeing the same doctor who injured you, but you need to keep all appointments with your new practitioner and follow the recommendations you are given. If you fail to seek care for your injuries and follow the recommendations you receive, it will be hard to prove your injuries are serious and affect your life.
2. Get Copies of Your Medical Records
You have a right to your medical records. Request copies of your records from each provider who has treated you for your injuries, including the records from the doctor and facility where you received medically negligent care. You’ll need to ask for all of the medical records, including the doctor’s notes, nurses’ notes, lab reports, imaging studies, medication administration records, etc. If you need help, your attorney can request them for you.
You should also save all of your medical bills as you receive them. Your attorney will need to review them to calculate your total medical expenses. Bring your medical records and the bills you receive to your lawyer’s office.
3. Gather Wage Statements
If you were forced to miss work because of your injuries, ask your employer for wage statements showing the income you lost as a result of your injuries. If your injuries prevent you from returning to work, ask your employer to write a statement about how your injuries negatively affect your ability to perform the tasks of your job.
4. Keep a Detailed Pain Journal
Keep a journal in which you describe how your symptoms affect you each day. Be detailed, but don’t exaggerate. Rate your pain and explain how your injuries prevent you from engaging in activities you previously enjoyed.
5. Avoid Social Media
Whenever a medical malpractice claim is filed, the insurance company will investigate. Investigators look for any indication that a plaintiff’s injuries are not as severe as they have claimed. One tactic that they frequently use is to pore through a plaintiff’s social media accounts.
Don’t post about your injuries or what has happened to you. Avoid sharing pictures of your vacation. Even if you avoid posting about your case, being tagged by your friends after an outing can be used against you. If you can, it’s best to stay away from social media while your case is pending.
What Are the Chances of Winning a Malpractice Lawsuit?
Medical malpractice cases are notoriously difficult to prove and win. In a comprehensive, 20-year study of the outcomes of medical malpractice lawsuits, researchers found that doctors win between 80% to 90% of all cases taken to trial when the evidence is weak. In cases in which the evidence is average, the researchers found doctors win 70% of trials. Even when cases involve strong evidence, doctors win 50% of the time.
There are several reasons why medical malpractice lawsuits are so difficult to win. First, these cases involve complex medical terminology and legal issues. It can be hard to understand the medical terms used in your medical records and to effectively communicate what they mean to a jury. Similarly, explaining the standard of care and how your doctor’s treatment deviated from it is difficult. This is why you will need to work with medical experts who can explain the terms in a way the jury can understand. By working with an experienced malpractice lawyer in Philadelphia, you can also ensure the legal concepts are presented in a comprehensible way.
The second reason why it’s hard to win a medical malpractice lawsuit is that juries tend to be biased in favor of doctors. People want to trust doctors and tend to view them favorably. You will need to present strong evidence clearly showing your doctor’s care was negligent and caused your injuries. In most cases, simple mistakes won’t be enough to support a claim.
Should You Accept a Settlement?
If you receive a settlement offer from your doctor’s medical malpractice insurer, you should carefully review it with a competent medical malpractice lawyer in Philadelphia at Raynes & Lawn. Your attorney will evaluate the offer and can negotiate with the insurer to try to recover a higher amount. You shouldn’t accept the first offer you receive, especially if you are unrepresented. Consult an attorney, determine the value of your claim, and let your lawyer negotiate on your behalf. Your attorney can talk to the insurance company for you and help you decide whether to accept a settlement or continue with your case.
The Role of a Philadelphia Medical Malpractice Lawyer in Winning Your Claim
If you believe your injuries or worsened condition were caused by your medical provider, you should speak with the attorneys at Raynes & Lawn as early as possible. An attorney can provide you with key advantages to help you achieve a more favorable outcome.
Identifying and Gathering the Right Evidence
When you work with an experienced lawyer, they can help you gather crucial evidence to establish the important facts of your case. Your lawyer should be able to review your case and identify evidence that needs to be gathered and work to secure it. In addition, your attorney might look for evidence that the provider or facility committed medical malpractice in the past to show they have a pattern of medical negligence.
Working With Medical Experts
In Pennsylvania, you must have your case reviewed by a medical expert before filing a claim. A competent attorney will identify a medical expert and partner with them to build your case. An expert witness can testify about how your doctor’s care failed to meet the expected standard and caused your injuries in a way the jury can understand. We can work to find a medical expert we can consult about your case to gain insights into the particular negligent acts that caused your injuries and losses.
Building a Compelling Case
Whether your case is settled or goes to trial, you’ll need to present your case as compellingly as possible. Attorneys know how to present evidence in such a way as to establish liability. During negotiations, a strong presentation can encourage an insurance company to make a fair settlement offer instead of risking a trial. If your case does go to trial, your attorney should be prepared to present the strongest possible case to overcome any potential juror biases and explain why the jury should award you the compensation you deserve.
Dealing With the Insurance Company
When you retain a lawyer, they will handle all communication with the insurance company for you. Insurance companies often try to take advantage of unrepresented claimants and make unreasonably low offers. An attorney can give you a good idea of the value of your case and then work to secure a reasonable offer by negotiating with the insurance company. Your lawyer can also help you understand the risks of taking your case to trial so you can evaluate whether to accept an offer or litigate it through the court and trial process.
Contact a PA Medical Malpractice Attorney
Medical malpractice lawsuits are incredibly complex, and you shouldn’t attempt to handle your case without strong legal representation. If you believe your injuries were caused by the negligent actions of a doctor, healthcare facility, or another medical provider, consult an experienced malpractice lawyer at the Philadelphia law firm of Raynes & Lawn. Our attorneys have decades of successful experience fighting for the rights of medical malpractice victims, and we are dedicated to helping our clients recover the compensation they deserve. To learn more about your case and your legal options, schedule a free consultation with us today by calling 1-800-535-1797.
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