When doctors and nurses treat patients, they take on a big responsibility. Human error—which is made more likely by financial pressure from insurance companies to cut corners and reduce time spent with patients—can cause lifelong injury or even death. People place their trust in doctors at a time when they are at their most vulnerable when even a small mistake can cause catastrophe.
For decades, the attorneys at Raynes Lawn Hehmeyer have come to the aid of victims of medical negligence. Working with a team of trained healthcare professionals, we make the initial analysis as to whether we recommend filing a claim. Our attorneys have represented clients whose care involved almost every area of medicine, including obstetrics, gynecology, pediatrics, cancer, radiology, emergency care, cardiology, surgery, and orthopedics.
We approach each client’s case with dedication and concern. Our relationship with our clients has earned us the respect of the lawyers and insurance carriers who defend doctors and hospitals. They ask us to represent their families when negligence has occurred, and they regularly invite us to help mediate complicated cases where a knowledgeable outsider is needed.
Raynes Lawn Hehmeyer has been recognized as a 2018 Best Law Firm by U.S. News and World Report and has achieved a Tier 1 Ranking in the practice area of medical malpractice law for the Philadelphia metropolitan area. The Tier 1 ranking is the highest honor awarded and is based on several criteria, including client feedback and peer reviews.
When you need medical treatment and go to see your doctor or visit the hospital, you place trust in your medical professionals to help you get better. We often do not think about the possibility that doctors and other health professionals who treat us might make medical errors in our treatment.
In most cases, we expect doctors to perform their work with professionalism and skill. However, medical malpractice is much more common than most people know. According to a study by Johns Hopkins, as many as 250,000 people die each year because of medical errors. If you believe that you have suffered severe harm or have lost a loved one because of medical malpractice, our team at Raynes Lawn Hehmeyer may be able to help you.
What Is Medical Malpractice?
Medical malpractice occurs when doctors and other health professionals provide care that does not meet the accepted standards within the medical community, placing the patient at risk of serious injury or death. When doctors and medical professionals fail to meet the acceptable standard of care and their failure results in injuries, they may be liable to pay damages in medical malpractice claims.
Medical malpractice commonly involves a theory of negligence. Medical negligence consists of a breach of the standard of care or a failure to act that causes injury to a patient. If you are injured because of medical treatment that you received, you will have to prove that the doctor was negligent, and that the negligence caused your injuries and losses.
Do You Have a Medical Malpractice Case?
In a medical malpractice case, we will be required to prove that a healthcare professional’s negligence caused your injuries. Simply being unhappy with your outcome is not enough to confirm that your doctor was negligent. If the doctor’s treatment met the standard of care, you might not be able to prove a malpractice claim. Our attorneys can review what happened in your case and offer an honest assessment of the merits of your potential claim and the legal options you may have.
To recover compensation in a medical malpractice claim, you must have suffered harm as a result of the medical professional’s negligence. If a doctor made a medical mistake that did not cause harm, you would not be able to recover compensation. Harm can include financial losses, physical injuries, or non-economic losses. In many cases, people suffer all three types of harm.
The financial losses that may be associated with suffering severe injuries because of medical malpractice can quickly add up. You may face mounting medical bills, income losses, rehabilitation costs, and other expenses. Most families are unprepared to absorb these types of expenses. Non-economic losses are losses that are more difficult to value, including pain and suffering, disability, emotional trauma, and a reduction in your quality of life. Our attorneys fight for our clients to recover damages to compensate them for their economic and non-economic losses.
All medical professionals are expected to meet the standard of care for similarly situated medical professionals in the community. There are several ways that a doctor can be negligent, including the following:
- Delayed diagnosis or misdiagnosis
- Medication errors
- Surgical errors
- Mishandling medical equipment
- Creation of unsafe conditions during labor and delivery
Delays in diagnoses or misdiagnoses may cause patients’ conditions to worsen, and they may receive treatment that they do not need that could harm them. In severe cases such as cancer, a delayed diagnosis could result in the patient’s death.
Unfortunately, medical professionals can make medication errors. The doctor can make a prescription error, a nurse can administer medication to the wrong patient, or the pharmacist may make mistakes when filling the prescription. Drugs can interact with other medications in a dangerous way, and many people have allergies to certain medications. When medication errors are made, serious injuries or fatalities can result.
Various types of surgical errors can occur and cause injury to patients. Extreme examples can include leaving medical instruments inside of the body, wrong-site surgeries, or wrong-patient surgeries. Mistakes can also occur during the postoperative stage, such as failing to notice excessive bleeding or infection.
Some medical malpractice cases involve mishandled medical equipment. Some medical devices may be defective and cause injury. However, some are mishandled by medical professionals and cause further harm to patients.
The creation of unsafe conditions during labor and delivery can cause harm to the infant and the mother. These errors can include failing to identify signs of stress in the infant and the mother during delivery and other issues.
Examples of Medical Malpractice
Many different types of medical malpractice can cause harm. We have described some examples below.
Anesthesia errors can place patients at a high risk of severe injury or death. The potential complications of anesthesia errors depend on whether the anesthetic was administered locally, regionally, or generally. One complication of an anesthesia error occurs when a patient wakes up during the procedure and can feel or see what is happening but cannot communicate. Anesthesia errors that result in deaths or injuries can be the basis to hold the anesthesiologist liable. Some types of anesthesia errors that may form the basis of liability include the following:
- Administering the wrong drug
- Administering drugs that negatively interact with each other
- Administering the wrong dose
- Administering a drug to which the patient is allergic
- Failing to monitor the patient’s vital signs
- Failing to act when the patient’s vital signs change
- Failing to intubate
- Administering anesthesia too late
- Using faulty equipment
- Failing to use medical equipment correctly
- Turning off the alarm on the pulse oximeter
- Failing to inform the patient about the procedure properly
Emergency Room Errors
The emergency department is often hectic, but medical professionals must still uphold the expected standard of care when they treat patients. Emergency room errors can result in serious patient injuries. Some examples of emergency room errors that might form the basis of liability include the following:
- Misreading test results, x-rays, or charts
- Failing to diagnose cardiovascular problems that could cause a heart attack
- Misdiagnoses and delayed diagnoses of aneurysms, blood clots, pulmonary embolisms, strokes, or appendicitis
- Medication errors
- Failing to order proper diagnostic tests
- Failing to consult with a specialist
Hospitals may sometimes be directly liable for medical malpractice or vicariously liable for the malpractice of their employees. Hospitals must evaluate the qualifications of their prospective employees. When a hospital hires an underqualified or incompetent medical professional or fails to properly staff their units, the hospital may be directly liable for injuries that are caused by the employee’s incompetence or under-staffing. Hospitals can also be directly liable when they fail to check that the employee has the proper certification and degree when the employee causes harm to a patient. Hospitals can also be liable for failing to have in place proper protocols, procedures and policies.
Hospitals may be vicariously liable for the medical negligence of their employees. Vicarious liability is a theory of liability through which any employer, including hospitals, may be liable for the negligent actions of their employees that result in injury to others. Hospitals may be vicariously liable for injuries caused by any of their employees as a result of negligence.
Some examples of the types of employee negligence for which a hospital may be vicariously liable include the following:
- Failing to provide proper treatment
- Failing to monitor a patient
- Failing to refer a patient to a specialist
- Failing to order proper diagnostic tests
- Administering the wrong drug or the wrong dose
- Anesthesia errors
- Mishandling medical equipment
- Performing unnecessary surgery
- Failing to obtain informed consent
- Failing to follow hospital protocol
- Failing to identify postoperative infections
- Failing to properly monitor patients after treatment
Hospitals normally will not be vicariously liable for the negligence of independent contractors who perform work in the hospital. For example, many physicians are independent contractors and work in hospitals on a contract basis while also running private practices. Hospitals will only be liable for the medical negligence of independent contractors when the doctors do not have the required experience, are unqualified, or act under the hospital’s direction. However, under Pennsylvania law, a hospital can be held liable for the negligence of even an independent contractor under the doctrine of “agency.” Agency can be found if the patient can show that he or she believed the doctor was a hospital employee and/or the hospital represented to the patient that the healthcare providers were employees of the hospital.
Medical Device Errors
Medical devices are routinely used to treat and diagnose diseases. However, these devices sometimes fail or are mishandled, causing serious patient injuries or deaths.
Defective medical devices may contain manufacturing defects, design defects, or inadequate warnings. When these issues result in patient harm, the victim may file a lawsuit against the manufacturer of the defective equipment.
In some cases, medical professionals mishandle medical devices and cause patient injuries. When this occurs because of negligence, inadequate training, or a lack of knowledge, the professional that mishandled the device may be liable.
Misdiagnosis or Delayed Diagnosis
Failures to correctly diagnose medical conditions can cause major problems for patients. People who are misdiagnosed or who receive delayed diagnoses may receive improper treatment. Their conditions may worsen to the point that some may die. Some common conditions that are misdiagnosed include the following:
- Cancer of the breasts, lungs, ovaries, prostate gland, and brain
- Vascular disease
- Ectopic pregnancies
To prevail in a lawsuit that claims a misdiagnosis resulted in harm, the plaintiff will need to prove that the doctor was negligent. Several types of negligence can result in a misdiagnosis, including the following:
- Not listening to the patient
- Not recognizing the symptoms
- Not reviewing the patient’s medical history
- Failing to order needed tests
- Ordering the wrong test
- Failing to read the tests correctly
Doctors should listen to patients when they explain their symptoms and examine them. Failing to listen to patients can cause misdiagnoses and injuries. Doctors sometimes fail to recognize the symptoms of their patients to make accurate diagnoses, which can lead to injuries and liability. Misdiagnoses can also occur when doctors fail to review their patients’ medical histories.
Doctors may miss the right diagnoses by ordering the wrong tests for their patients’ symptoms. They can also fail to accurately diagnose patients when they fail to order standard tests based on their patients’ symptoms.
Some diagnostic errors that cause injuries occur when doctors do order the right tests but misread the results. When a doctor misinterprets a test, he or she may be liable to pay damages for any injury that results.
Patients who receive delayed diagnoses may have poorer prognoses because their conditions can progress without proper treatment. Some patients may die as a result. For example, if a radiologist fails to identify a breast tumor during a mammogram in a woman who has breast cancer, the woman’s cancer may progress to a more severe stage and potentially become terminal before it is discovered.
After a patient receives surgery, he or she should be monitored and should receive postoperative care. Medical professionals are supposed to monitor patients for potential complications that can arise from the treatment. They should also watch for infections and treat them and provide detailed instructions to patients for follow-up care. Doctors must prescribe the right medications to patients to help with the recovery process and to prevent complications from occurring. Patients can be seriously injured when postoperative negligence occurs, leading to the basis for medical malpractice claims.
Postoperative negligence can cause the following types of complications:
- Internal bleeding
- Viral infections
- Surgical site infections
- Necrotizing fasciitis
- Tissue death
- Unnoticed organ perforations
- Staph infections
- Methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus (MRSA)
- Blood infections
- Blood clots
- Respiratory infections
Other medical professionals may also be medically negligent. Different types of medical malpractice include the following:
- Cosmetic surgery malpractice
- Chiropractic malpractice
- Pharmacist malpractice
- Dental malpractice
- Orthopedic malpractice
- Psychiatric malpractice
Why Do Medical Mistakes Occur?
The Johns Hopkins study that was previously mentioned found that medical mistakes result in an estimated 250,000 deaths every year. It is crucial to figure out why medical errors occur so that steps can be taken to prevent them.
Some of the reasons that medical mistakes occur that we have found include the following:
- Communication failures between hospital staff and doctors about patient care
- Poor record-keeping by medical professionals that cause doctors to miss important information about a patient’s allergies or medical history
- Understaffing that may lead to cutting corners
- Fatigue that can compromise good decision-making
- Alcohol or drug abuse by doctors and other medical professionals
Common Medical Malpractice Matters Our Lawyers Pursue
Hundreds of thousands of Americans are injured or killed each year because of preventable medical errors. These errors can be caused by doctors, nurses, surgeons, anesthesiologists, technicians, pharmacists, and other medical professionals. Individuals, hospitals, long-term care facilities, and skilled nursing facilities may all be liable for medical malpractice. Common types of medical malpractice claims that our attorneys pursue include the following:
- Birth injuries
- Misdiagnoses and delayed diagnoses
- Hospital infections
- Anesthesia errors
- Medication errors
- Administering drugs to which a patient is allergic
- Emergency room errors
- Fertility procedure errors
- Surgical errors, including wrong-site and wrong-patient surgeries
- Defective medical equipment
In many cases, victims do not initially realize that their injuries resulted because of medical negligence. If you have suffered injuries or have lost a loved one after a medical procedure, it is essential to talk to experienced medical malpractice lawyers to determine the cause.
People trust medical professionals with their lives and wellbeing. When medical errors cause injuries or deaths, the victims and the families of people who are killed are entitled to file medical malpractice lawsuits to hold the responsible parties accountable for their actions.
How Do You Know If You Have a Medical Malpractice Case?
Many people are unclear about whether they might have valid grounds to file a medical malpractice lawsuit. An experienced medical malpractice attorney can help you to figure out whether your claim has merit and can advocate for your rights if it does. Because of the strict time limits for filing malpractice lawsuits, you should act as quickly as possible and contact an attorney as soon as you suspect that your injuries were potentially caused by medical negligence.
Several factors may impact your ability to prevail on a medical malpractice claim. You must be able to show that you or your loved one had a doctor-patient relationship with the doctor who caused the injuries or death. You will also need to show that the doctor failed to provide treatment in a manner that was consistent with the accepted standards of care in the medical community. Medical professionals have legal obligations for the care that they provide to their patients.
After it has been demonstrated that there is a doctor-patient relationship and a duty of care, you will have to prove that the doctor breached the duty of care. This means that there was a failure to act in the same manner that a reasonable medical professional in the same practice area would have acted.
You will also have to demonstrate that the breach of the duty of care caused your injuries. Causation may be proven by using medical records and other documentation as well as the testimony of expert witnesses.
Finally, you will have to demonstrate that the negligence of the medical professional caused economic or non-economic damages. A medical professional will not be held liable if you did not incur any economic or non-economic losses.
If you file a lawsuit, you might be able to receive compensation to pay for all of the losses that you have suffered. Our attorneys can offer a free case evaluation to determine whether you have grounds to file a claim.
Damages and Compensation in a Medical Malpractice Case
Those who win their medical malpractice claims either through out-of-court settlements or through verdicts will be awarded damages. These are monetary sums that are paid to injured patients and the families of patients who have been killed to compensate them for their losses.
Compensatory damages include general and special damages. General damages include damages for physical pain and suffering that you experienced because of your injuries, emotional distress, disfigurement, scarring and a reduction in your ability to enjoy life. Special damages are monetary amounts that are meant to compensate you for your economic losses. These can consist of your past medical expenses related to your injuries and the future anticipated costs for the care that you will need in the future. Special damages may also be available for any wages that you lost or may lose in the future because of your injuries.
Wrongful Death and Survival Actions
When a person dies as a result of medical negligence, close family members and the victim’s Estate may bring a claim for their loved one’s death. These cases are really two claims in one case; known as a wrongful death and survival action. Close family members may seek to recover for the loss of the services, guidance, tutelage and companionship of their family member caused by their wrongful death. Recovery may also be made for medical expenses for the care of their loved ones from their injuries until they died. The victim’s Estate would have a Survival Action claim to recover compensation for the economic losses caused by the death. Recovery could be made for things such as funeral and burial expenses and for the amount of income that has been lost because of the victim’s death. In a Survival Action, damages may also be available for the physical pain and suffering that your loved one experienced until he or she died.
In some cases, punitive damages may be available. These are monetary amounts that are above and beyond what is needed to compensate the victims and are meant to punish the defendants. Punitive damages are only awarded in cases in which the conduct of the medical professionals was especially outrageous, malicious, or willful. Most medical malpractice cases will not result in an award of punitive damages. Examples of when punitive damages might be awarded include botched operations while surgeons are under the influence of alcohol or drugs, wrong-patient surgeries, amputations of the wrong limb, and other similarly egregious scenarios.
What Does a Medical Malpractice Attorney Do?
If you believe that you may have a medical malpractice claim, you will likely wonder how you can find a good lawyer and what an attorney can do for you.
Medical malpractice claims involve both medicine and law, which makes them more complex than other types of personal injury claims. Medical malpractice cases require the help of an attorney who is knowledgeable about law and medicine. You should look for an attorney who has a solid understanding of medicine and who understands how to interpret complex medical records. Your attorney should understand the types of experts that should be consulted and the questions that need to be asked. Finally, a lawyer should be able to anticipate the defense strategies that the doctor’s attorneys might use.
When you find an experienced medical malpractice attorney for your claim, he or she should do the following for you:
- Review all of the information that you provide to determine whether you have a claim
- Collect additional evidence in support of your claim
- Properly value your claim
- Identify all of the potentially liable parties
- Conduct a thorough investigation
- Consult with experts
- Explain your legal rights and the options that you have
- Navigate the technical procedures and rules of the court
- Negotiate on your behalf
- Litigate for you if a settlement is not reached
The viability of your claim may depend on your attorney’s ability to establish a causal link between the doctor’s negligence and your injuries. At Raynes Lawn Hehmeyer, our attorneys understand how to build strong cases of liability for our clients. We know how to present complex information to juries in an understandable way and how to rebut defense arguments.
What is a statute of limitations?
Every state has a statute of limitations for medical malpractice and personal injury claims. The statute of limitations sets a deadline by which you must file a claim. If you fail to file a claim on time, you will not be able to recover compensation for your losses. It is important not to delay contacting an attorney.
While the statutes of limitations provide deadlines for filing claims, it is in your best interest to talk to a medical malpractice lawyer as soon as you suspect that you were injured because of a medical error. The complexity of medical malpractice cases requires an in-depth investigation to uncover all of the evidence and to identify the liable parties. By getting help quickly, you may provide your lawyer with more time to conduct a thorough investigation and to preserve the crucial evidence to support your claim. If you are unsure whether you may have missed the deadline for filing a claim, you should talk to an experienced lawyer immediately to find out about your options.
Contact Raynes Lawn Hehmeyer
Suffering serious injuries or the loss of a loved one because of medical mistakes and negligence can be devastating. If you believe that you may have a claim for medical malpractice, you should consult with an experienced medical malpractice attorney at Raynes Lawn Hehmeyer as soon as possible. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation by calling 800.535.1797.
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