Starting a Medical Malpractice Case: First Steps


In Pennsylvania, patients who have been injured and families of patients who have died because of their medical providers’ negligence can file medical malpractice claims. These types of lawsuits might have multiple defendants, including doctors, hospitals, nurses, pharmacists, hospital staff, technicians, and others. Determining whether a healthcare provider was negligent involves analyzing whether the care provided by the provider failed to meet the standard of care expected of other similarly situated providers in the same practice field and region. While most doctors and other medical providers strive to exercise the best standard of care for their patients, some make critical errors that can cause serious injuries. If you believe that your injuries or your loved one’s death were caused by a medical provider’s poor care, you might have grounds to pursue compensation through a medical malpractice case. The medical malpractice lawyers in Philadelphia at Raynes & Lawn can assess your case and help you understand your next steps. Here are some of the initial steps that you might need to take to bring a medical malpractice lawsuit in Pennsylvania.

1. Get Copies of Your Relevant Medical Records

You have a right to get copies of your medical records, and they are normally the strongest evidence in medical malpractice lawsuits. Because of privacy laws, you will either need to ask for copies of your medical records yourself or sign a release form to allow your lawyers to obtain copies of them. Asking for copies of your medical records as soon as you believe that you might have been the victim of medical malpractice can help to speed the process of filing a claim.

You should request records from every hospital, medical facility, and doctor that treated you for your condition. Your records should include things like nurses’ notes, doctors’ notes, diagnostic information, lab exam results, medication administration records, copies of any documents you signed, and discharge papers. Once you obtain your medical records, bring a copy of them to your lawyer’s office. This will allow your attorney to begin an in-depth analysis of your case and to secure a medical opinion about what happened from a medical expert. Depending on what your medical records reveal, it is possible that a lawyer will advise you that you do not have sufficient grounds to file a medical malpractice lawsuit. However, even if you are told that you do not have a viable claim, learning this can help you to avoid incurring unnecessary expenses and wasting time. If your attorney believes that you do have a viable claim, you can then proceed.

2. Notify the Involved Medical Professionals

Before you file a medical malpractice claim, you should contact the involved medical professionals. This can help you learn what might have happened and provide your doctor with an opportunity to determine whether it can be remedied short of a lawsuit. In many cases, doctors are willing to provide additional services to solve a problem.

3. Contact the Pennsylvania State Board of Medicine

If you are not able to resolve the issue by discussing it with the doctor, you might want to contact the State Board of Medicine, which is the agency that issues medical licenses. You can file a complaint with the board. While the State Board of Medicine cannot order the doctor to compensate you, it can discipline the practitioner and provide you with some guidance about what to do.

4. Know the Statute of Limitations

All states have statutes of limitation that provide deadlines for filing different types of legal actions. Under 42 Pa.C.S. § 5524, the general statute of limitations for medical malpractice claims is two years from the date the malpractice occurred or from the date that you discovered or reasonably should have discovered it. If you fail to file your claim within the limitation period, it will be time-barred. This means that you will not be able to recover damages for your losses. Knowing the statute of limitations and talking to a medical malpractice lawyer early can help you to avoid this problem.

5. Comply With Pennsylvania’s Pre-Suit Requirements

Pennsylvania is one of a number of states that have established pre-suit requirements before malpractice lawsuits can be filed. Before you can file a malpractice lawsuit, you must get an expert’s opinion about the applicable standard of care and whether the medical provider’s care deviated from it and caused your injuries.

Under Pennsylvania law, you must file a certificate of merit at the time you file your medical malpractice lawsuit or within 60 days of the filing date. This certificate is an attestation that your case has been reviewed by a medical expert who can provide an expert opinion that your care fell below the expected standard of care and caused your injuries. If you do not comply with this requirement, your case might be dismissed.

6. Retain an Experienced Medical Malpractice Lawyer

Because of the intricacies of medical malpractice cases and the need to work with medical experts, retaining an experienced lawyer is critical. An attorney who has handled malpractice claims in the past and who understands the relevant laws and rules might help to increase your chances of winning your case. Working with a lawyer from the start can also provide your attorney more time to investigate your case and build the strongest possible evidence of liability.

7. Try to Negotiate an Out-of-Court Settlement

Medical malpractice claims can take a long time and involve significant expenses. As a result, most medical malpractice cases are resolved through negotiated settlements outside of court. It is often in malpractice victims’ best interests to settle claims out of court instead of risking losing their claims at trial. However, if your case is very strong, your attorney might recommend taking it to trial. Your attorney can help you decide whether to accept a settlement or go to trial.

8. Speak With the Philadelphia Malpractice Attorneys at Raynes & Lawn

Finding a skilled medical malpractice lawyer can make the difference between receiving compensation for your losses or losing your claim. The attorneys at Raynes & Lawn can help you understand the strengths and weaknesses of your potential claim and advise you about your legal options. Call us today at 1-800-535-1797 to request a free consultation.


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