The practice of medicine is both an art and a science. Medical treatments can bring about significant improvements in health, even cure devastating diseases, but the human body is unpredictable. Sometimes the result of medical care is no change in condition or a worsening of a condition or ailment. In some cases, negligent doctors just flat-out get it wrong, allowing their own mistakes to endanger the lives of patients.
Medical Malpractice: A Basic Definition
Medical negligence, or medical malpractice, is the term attorneys give to errors, mistakes and lapses of judgment that, when committed by a medical professional, harm a patient. In a broader sense, malpractice is a concept that includes:
- improper, negligent or illegal behavior
- committed by a professional
- that harms a person under their care or receiving their services
While that definition may seem straight-forward, proving that a doctor, radiologist or nurse’s mistake or inappropriate conduct should constitute malpractice is far more difficult in reality. In fact, many poor treatment outcomes – even some outright harms – aren’t actually caused by someone’s negligence. Medicine is an inherently difficult field of practice; some complications can’t be avoided. Moreover, some undesirable health outcomes may just be the unique way an individual responds to treatment.
You May Have A Negligence Claim
However, in some cases, it is clear that a doctors’ errors or the mistakes of other health care providers have caused serious injury, illness or death. Medical errors are now considered the third leading cause of death in the United States, according to Johns Hopkins Hospital, contributing to or directly causing 10% of all fatalities. In short, medical negligence is an enormous problem in America. Pennsylvania is no exception.
If you or a loved one suffered harm due to medical negligence in or near Philadelphia, the medical malpractice attorneys at Marciano & MacAvoy, P.C. are prepared to evaluate your case. You may have a medical malpractice claim for compensation that can help you and your family cope with resulting expenses and losses.
Learn more about your rights and legal options today by calling our experienced lawyers for a free consultation. Medical malpractice can take a significant toll, both on patients and their families. You and your loved ones are likely to face significant needs, expenses and losses, such as:
With the help of our medical malpractice attorneys, many victims have been able to secure significant financial compensation, allowing them to focus on recovery, rather than soaring expenses.
Our Verdicts & Settlements
The attorneys at Marciano & MacAvoy have secured an impressive track record of success fighting for the rights of injured medical patients. Here’s a small sample of the multi-million dollar jury verdicts and out-of-court settlements that our experienced lawyers have won for past clients:
- $2.5 Million – Our attorneys helped a family from Delaware County recover more than $2 million in compensation for the tragic death of their 26-year-old daughter. After being seen at a local emergency room with flu-like symptoms, the young mother of three was sent home – despite a battery of medical tests that should have sent up red flags.
- $1.35 Million – Our lawyers secured a $1.35 million jury verdict in Philadelphia County court to help a 57-year-old woman who developed life-threatening blood clots after receiving inappropriate medical directions from a cardiothoracic surgeon.
- Settlement – We recovered a substantial settlement for a 59-year-old woman who was left to battle Stage 4 ovarian cancer after a radiologist misinterpreted her medical images. Due to the medical professional’s negligence, our client was forced to undergo a rigorous series of chemotherapy treatments, leading to a significantly diminished quality of life.
At Marciano & MacAvoy, we pride ourselves on providing every client thorough and personal attention. In fact, our lawyers often take on the most difficult cases of medical negligence, litigation that other attorneys frequently decline. To learn more about our legal victories, visit our Verdicts & Settlements page.
What Is Medical Negligence?
Healthcare professionals have a basic legal responsibility to provide adequate medical care. Likewise, patients become entitled to receive an adequate standard of medical care after entering into a doctor-patient relationship. In short, medical professionals are bound, both ethically and legally, to diagnose and treat patients using the well-accepted standards of their profession.
How To Build A Malpractice Case
Medical negligence is what happens when a doctor, nurse or other healthcare professional’s work violates the standard of care, allowing harm to befall a patient. The concept of medical negligence is central to every medical malpractice, but securing compensation is remarkably complex. In order to win a malpractice lawsuit, injured patients will have to prove five central facts about their case:
- the healthcare professional owed the patient a duty of care, usually demonstrated through the existence of a doctor-patient relationship
- the patient’s medical condition, medical history and surrounding details warranted a certain standard of care, a level of medical attention that another doctor, similarly-educated and reasonably prudent, would have provided under the same circumstances
- the healthcare professional’s actions or inactions fell below that standard of care, amounting to medical negligence
- the professional’s medical negligence caused the patient to suffer injuries, harm or led to a significantly diminished prognosis
- the injuries suffered by the patient can be quantified in some way, as monetary damages
Where damages are concerned, most medical malpractice victims pursue compensation to cover medical expenses and lost wages, along with pain, suffering and lost earning potential in the future. In wrongful death lawsuits, surviving loved ones can pursue funeral and burial expenses, hospital expenses, pain and suffering damages, as well as damages like loss of comfort and companionship intended to compensate survivors for the absence of their deceased loved one.
Notably, Pennsylvania’s laws do not “cap” most types of medical malpractice damages at a specified amount. In other states, legislators have limited the amount of damages malpractice victims can recover. While Pennsylvania has one damages cap in place, it only affects “punitive” damages, which are awarded to punish healthcare professionals for particularly reckless behavior.
What Caused The Injury or Death?
A doctor’s obligation to provide acceptable medical care extends throughout the doctor-patient relationship, from initial diagnosis to the end of medical treatment. As a result, medical negligence can creep in at any point:
- Failure to diagnose
- Late or delayed diagnosis
- Birth injuries
- Hospital infections
- Birth injuries
- Defective or recalled medical devices
- Medication errors, including over- and under-administration
- Anesthesia errors
- Surgical errors
Doctors can misread pertinent medical tests, or ignore them altogether. Diagnostic technicians can conduct tests carelessly, missing out on crucial insights to the patient’s health. Physicians can fail to communicate properly, leaving nurses without the tools they need to save a life. In some cases, negligence is blatant and obviously intolerable. A shocking proportion of patients become the victims of wrong-site surgery, in which surgeons accidentally operate on the wrong body part. More often than not, however, negligence lies below the surface.
Medical malpractice attorneys rely on the guidance of independent medical experts to rigorously analyze patient records, searching for instances of negligence that may have led to patient harm. In fact, Pennsylvania requires the testimony of expert medical witnesses in any and all malpractice trials. Whether obvious or hidden, many examples of medical malpractice are entirely preventable – if only a healthcare professional had used more care.
Delayed & Misdiagnosis Of Cancer
Our experienced medical malpractice lawyers have handled some of the most complex cases involving medical negligence, namely cases where misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis of cancer was involved. We encourage you to review more information about this area of medical practice, which could account for up to 70% of malpractice claims in the United States:
Pennsylvania Statute Of Limitations
Like every other state, Pennsylvania has a limit on the amount of time medical malpractice victims have to file a lawsuit. This law is called the “statute of limitations.” In most cases, patient will have only two years to file suit, beginning on the day that the patient knew (or should have known) that they were injured and that their injuries may have been caused by a medical professional’s negligence.
There is, however, a hard limit to filing a medical malpractice lawsuit in Pennsylvania, a so-called “statute of repose.” Wait more than seven years after you know or should have known that malpractice may have caused your injuries and you have likely lost the chance to file a lawsuit, legal resource All Law reports.
Wrongful death lawsuits are governed by a two year statute of limitations, beginning on the date of death. When a child has been injured by medical negligence, the victim has up to seven years from their 20th birthday to file a medical malpractice lawsuit.