Doctors, dentists, and nurses play a vital role in our communities. Any injured or ill person should expect to be able to visit these medical professionals and receive safe, professional treatment.
In some instances, however, a doctor may make a mistake that delays a diagnosis, worsens an injury, or actively causes a disease to progress. Such outcomes are common examples of medical malpractice. A Western PA medical malpractice lawyer may be able to help you recover compensation when a doctor or hospital error leads to an injury or illness. Reach out to a dedicated Western PA personal injury attorney today.
What does it Mean for a Medical Provider to Commit Malpractice?
A poor outcome while in the care of a medical professional is not necessarily an example of malpractice. Medicine is an inexact science, and not every patient will make a full recovery or return to full health. Instead, a plaintiff in a medical malpractice claim must prove that a defendant provider’s treatment fell below the appropriate standard of care and that deviation caused an unwarranted detrimental effect on the patient’s health.
Specifically, a defendant medical provider must violate the duty of care. Medical malpractice occurs when a defendant medical provider commits an unwarranted departure from generally accepted standards of medical practice resulting in injury to a patient.
Examples of this departure from appropriate medical care may include:
- A failure to make a diagnosis or to order tests that may point to a diagnosis
- Incorrectly interpreting diagnostic tests
- Performing a procedure incorrectly, such as failing to properly set a bone
- Surgical errors, including leaving an instrument inside a patient
- Medication errors concerning dosage or drug interactions
- Premature release from a hospital or doctor office
An Indiana, PA medical malpractice lawyer could help investigate whether medical malpractice occurred.
What Must a Plaintiff Prove in Court?
The attorneys could hire the necessary qualified medical experts needed to prove your case in court. In fact, a plaintiff cannot even pursue a claim for damages without working with one of these experts. According to Pa. R.C.P. §1042.3, any plaintiff in a medical malpractice case must submit a certificate of merit affirming that the plaintiff has consulted with a qualified expert and that the expert believes that there is a reasonable probability that malpractice has occurred, and has caused the plaintiff’s harm.
In pursuing your case in court, the attorneys must work with an expert witness to evaluate the actions of the medical provider by examining medical records, referring to established procedures that a defendant may have failed to follow, and offering an alternative means of providing care that may have prevented the injury. An Indiana, PA medical malpractice lawyer could help plaintiffs locate and hire expert medical witnesses who may be able to testify against negligent doctors or hospitals.
Potential Compensation in a Medical Malpractice Claim
In one respect, medical malpractice cases in Western Pennsylvania are similar to other personal injury claims. The goal is to collect monetary damages needed to make the injured party whole again.
One form of compensation that a claimant may seek is the repayment of all medical bills associated with the incident. This can include doctor bills, hospital costs, and payments for rehabilitation sessions. Claimants can also demand reimbursement for any lost wages due to an injury or illness.
In addition, a plaintiff can seek noneconomic damages, including pain and suffering, lost quality of life, and mental anguish. A Western PA medical malpractice attorney could help evaluate a case and demand full payments from at-fault medical providers.
Is There a Damages Cap on these Claims?
Claimants in Western PA medical malpractice cases are fortunate compared to residents in some neighboring states. While some legislatures have placed a limit on the available compensation in medical malpractice cases, known as a damages cap, Pennsylvania has not. As a result, claimants may seek and receive full compensation for the claim, as long as they can prove their losses.
There is one area in the law that does limit medical malpractice claims. This is in the area known as punitive damages. Punitive damages are only available when a jury believes that a defendant’s actions were so egregious that they aim to discourage any future violations. According to 40 P.S. §1303.505, an award of punitive damages may not exceed 200 percent of the compensatory damages in the claim. Additionally, only 75 percent of the punitive damages are paid to the claimant. The remaining 25 percent are paid to the Medical Care Availability and Reduction of Error Fund.
There is a Strict Time Limit to Demand Compensation
In addition to the other factors that may limit injured patients, the Commonwealth also places a time limit on when a claimant can pursue their cases in court. Under 42 PA Stat. §5524, the injured patient generally has two years from the time of the wrongful conduct to demand payment in court. In some cases, this may be extended if the plaintiff could not reasonably have known of the claim. A Western PA attorney could help to ensure that a medical malpractice case is filed within the statute of limitations.
A Western PA Medical Malpractice Attorney Could Help to Fight for You
Every medical provider in Indiana, PA and around the country must provide competent care. While this is no guarantee of a positive outcome, there is a general requirement that a doctor will act in accordance with the standard of care. Failure to take these steps may be an example of medical malpractice.
A Western PA medical malpractice lawyer could help you investigate, initiate, and litigate medical malpractice. The attorneys at Marcus and Mack could help with every stage of the process, from an initial evaluation, to locating a qualified expert witness, to pursuing your rights in settlement talks and court. Contact us today to schedule an initial consultation.