While many medical providers are competent and skilled, some provide substandard care that can result in injuries to patients. When this situation occurs, these providers may be liable for medical malpractice. Injured individuals who believe that they are victims of medical malpractice should not hesitate to contact an Altoona medical malpractice lawyer for advice.
Medical malpractice is a highly complex area of law that is difficult to navigate on your own. Proving that your surgeon, doctor, nurse, or other healthcare provider committed malpractice and caused your injuries can be a challenging process. With all the different ways that medical malpractice may occur, you may wish to rely on a skilled Altoona personal injury lawyer for help.
Types of Medical Malpractice in Altoona
Medical malpractice occurs when the care and treatment that medical personnel provide for their patients falls below the accepted standard of care for that profession. If patients suffer injuries or a worsening of their medical conditions as a result of the substandard medical care, they may have a cause of action for medical malpractice.
Various situations can lead to medical malpractice. For instance, a doctor may fail to diagnose or misdiagnose a medical condition or disease. A missed diagnosis may result in crucial delays in treatment that could substantially worsen the condition or make it untreatable. Another typical medical error may occur when doctors, nurses, or pharmacists make mistakes in prescribing or administering medication to patients. In doing so, they may:
- Fail to recognize a potential drug interaction with a medication that the patient is already taking
- Substitute the wrong medication when filling a prescription
- Administer the incorrect medication or the wrong dosage
When a patient receives the wrong medication, severe side effects or drug interactions can result. As a result, patients may suffer injuries, worsening of existing medical conditions, or even wrongful death. A medical malpractice lawyer in Altoona may be able to investigate the circumstances that led to the injuries or death of patients and determine whether malpractice occurred in specific cases.
What Are the Filing Requirements for a Malpractice Case?
The Pennsylvania Rules of Civil Procedure establish a certificate of merit requirement that all medical malpractice plaintiffs must fulfill within 60 days of the case being filed, or the case will be dismissed. This certificate affirms that an “appropriate licensed professional” has examined the plaintiff’s case and that there is a reasonable probability that the medical provided deviated from the appropriate standard of care, and that such deviation was a cause of the plaintiff’s harm. This gate-keeping function is designed to deter frivolous lawsuits.
The plaintiff may ultimately have a different medical expert with related experience and training testify in the trial.
Establishing Liability Against a Healthcare Provider
Doctors are not the only potential defendants or liable parties in medical malpractice claims. Hospitals, long-term care facilities, and assisted living facilities can also face liability for the negligence of any medical providers that they employ. These entities are responsible for the actions of their staff members through the legal theory of vicarious liability. This means that an employer can be held vicariously liable for the negligent acts of employees, provided the employees were acting in the course and scope of their employment. Additionally, if hospitals failed to hire, supervise, or manage health care providers properly, they may be directly liable for any ensuing harm on a theory of corporate negligence.
Many entities that provide medical care to patients adopt standardized hiring practices and supervision methods for their employees. They may also establish rules of patient care and other policies that govern how medical professionals act while in their employ. If facilities fail to ensure that their employees follow these standards or do not follow their own rules, they may be liable.
Damages in Altoona Medical Malpractice Claims
Injured patients may be eligible to seek various damages in medical malpractice claims, which can be both economic and non-economic losses. Economic losses in medical malpractice cases could include medical expenses, lost wages, rehabilitation costs, and long-term care expenses. Non-economic damages may be more challenging to calculate, but these damages provide compensation for pain and suffering and permanent impairment resulting from the malpractice.
Unlike some states, Pennsylvania places no caps on compensatory damages in medical malpractice cases. Punitive damages, which are designed to punish negligent health care providers in egregious cases, and are capped at three times the amount of compensatory damages. If punitive damages are awarded, 25 percent of the punitive damages allocation are paid into the Medical Care Availability and Reduction of Error (“MCARE”) fund.
Could Comparative Negligence Reduce Recoverable Compensation?
Healthcare professionals may accuse plaintiffs of contributing to their own injuries in order to avoid bearing fault themselves. If a court agrees that the plaintiff in a malpractice case bears partial fault for his or her damages, the court could reduce the compensation accordingly.
For example, if a plaintiff is found 20 percent at fault for a misdiagnosis because he or she failed to notify the doctor of critically important symptoms, that plaintiff would be restricted to recovering for 80 percent of his or her total damages. Furthermore, if that plaintiff were found more than 50 percent to blame, he or she would not be able to recover any compensation whatsoever.
What Filing Deadlines Apply to Malpractice Claims?
Under state law, a plaintiff seeking to file suit over medical malpractice must file the lawsuit within two years of when the defendant physician provided negligent care. However, in some situations, this two-year filing period will not actually start until the date the plaintiff becomes aware that he or she suffered harm as a result of medical error. This “discovery rule” serves as an exception to the statute of limitations, which generally begins to run at the moment of the wrongful conduct.
Additionally, the statute of repose for malpractice claims sets a maximum deadline of seven years after the date of injury for potential plaintiffs to file suit, regardless of when they actually discovered their injury. The only exception to this seven-year deadline is in cases involving a surgical tool or implement being left inside a patient’s body by a careless surgeon.
Consult with an Altoona Medical Malpractice Attorney at Once
In most medical malpractice cases, the opinion of a neutral medical expert provides the best evidence to support a claim. An Altoona medical malpractice lawyer could help ensure that you obtain the medical proof necessary to recover full compensation for your injuries. Contact us at Marcus & Mack today to schedule a consultation with the attorneys.