What is Medical Malpractice?
When a patient suffers an injury after visiting a healthcare provider, that patient may be wondering: what is medical malpractice?
It is important to recognize that all injury or unintended consequences from a medical procedure are not the results of medical malpractice.
However, many injuries in doctor’s offices, hospitals, and other healthcare settings do happen when a healthcare provider is negligent.
If you have questions about whether you are eligible to file a medical negligence claim, you should discuss the facts of your case with a Pennsylvania medical malpractice lawyer as soon as possible.
While each case has its own set of facts and circumstances, an experienced attorney at PhillyLaw can assess your case and can explain whether you are likely to have a successful claim.
What is Considered Medical Malpractice?
First, medical malpractice is a term that refers to a healthcare provider’s negligence that results in a patient injury.
Medical malpractice is also known as medical negligence.
Common Examples of Medical Malpractice
There are many different ways that medical negligence can result in a patient’s injury. Some example include:
- Diagnostic error, including the failure to diagnose a medical condition or misdiagnosis of a medical condition;
- Failure to order necessary medical tests;
- Surgical error, including wrong-site surgery, unnecessary surgery, performing surgery on the wrong patient, or leaving an object (such as a sponge or towel) inside a patient during surgery;
- Improperly taking a patient’s medical history;
- Anesthesia error, including too much anesthesia, an insufficient amount of anesthesia, or patient’s harmful interaction with anesthesia;
- Laboratory test errors;
- Insufficient or poor care following surgery or another medical procedure;
- Medication error, including prescribing the incorrect dosage, prescribing the wrong medication for a particular condition, or pharmacist’s error in filling the prescription with the wrong medication or incorrect dosage;
- Hospital’s employment of a healthcare provider who has not met necessary licensing requirements or has been subject to penalties for negligence in the past;
- Birth injuries resulting from improper procedures during labor and delivery; and
- Defective medical equipment, including surgical tools or laboratory testing devices.
As you can see, based on the different ways in which medical malpractice injuries might arise, many different parties can be responsible for injuries resulting from medical malpractice. Examples of parties who might be responsible in a medical malpractice lawsuit include but are not limited to the following:
- Hospital where the injury occurred
- Hospital staff
- Laboratory technician
Suing for Medical Malpractice in Pennsylvania
Under Pennsylvania law, in order for a patient to be able to file a medical malpractice lawsuit, that patient first must file a “certificate of merit.”
This certificate of merit is a signed statement from a medical expert (an “appropriate licensed professional”) who attests that she or he has examined the facts of the plaintiff’s claim and believes there is merit to the claim, or a “reasonable probability” that the healthcare provider was negligent.
Once a plaintiff files a certificate of merit, suing for medical malpractice in Pennsylvania means that the patient needs to be able to prove the elements of a successful medical malpractice claim. Those elements include the following:
- Duty of care: Defendant owed the patient a duty of care, which typically is easy to prove by showing that a doctor-patient relationship existed;
- Breach of the duty of care: Defendant breached the duty of care by failing to exercise the degree of care that another licensed professional in his or her specific field would have exercised in a similar situation;
- Damages: Patient suffered damages as a result of the injury, which can include physical or emotional damages; and
- Causation: Defendant’s negligence was the proximate cause or a substantial factor of the patient’s injury.
Medical Malpractice Statute of Limitations
The Pennsylvania statute of limitations for a medical malpractice claim is two years from the date of the injury.
While it may be possible to extend this statute of limitations in certain circumstances involving medical negligence, it is extremely important to begin working with an experienced Pennsylvania medical malpractice attorney as soon as possible to ensure that your claim does not become time-barred.
Contact a Pennsylvania Medical Malpractice Attorney
If you have questions about a medical malpractice lawsuit, an aggressive Pennsylvania medical malpractice lawyer at our firm can speak with you about your case.