We place a great deal of trust in the hands of our health care provider to ensure that we receive the medical attention we need. Indeed, by the very nature of the relationship, we go to see them when we are feeling our worst and are at our most vulnerable. Luckily, for the vast majority of patients and doctors across the nation, this faith is well placed. That being said however when examples of negligence emerge in this special relationship, the breaking of this trust can be quite traumatic. More so, the medical effects of such negligence can have life-threatening consequences.
If you or a loved one believes that you are the victim of medical malpractice, you have legal recourse. At the heart of any medical malpractice action is the need to prove negligence on the part of your doctor, which leads to a serious medical complication. It can be very frustrating for you and your family members knowing that something has gone very wrong and you suspect that the person you would normally trust for answers might be the cause of the problem.
Mistakes happen, but mere mistakes do not constitute medical malpractice. Negligence should not happen, but when it does it is an example of medical malpractice.
Generally speaking, there are six areas that witness the bulk of malpractice claims. We will explore those areas as well as discover how a medical malpractice lawyer proves negligence in each of these claim types.
What Constitutes Negligence in Medical Malpractice Cases?
As mentioned, we rely on the expertise, experience, and knowledge from our health care providers to help us when we are feeling sick. Rarely do we think that we will be subject to the negligence of an uncaring, busy, or distracted doctor.
In law, simply suffering an injury does not entitle you to an immediate settlement with your doctor’s insurance company. Rather, your medical malpractice attorney will need to establish that negligence played a role in that injury. Towards that end, the following five components must be met to proceed with a medical malpractice case. These components include:
- Duty—includes the responsibility of proving that the defendant owed you the duty pf responsible care designed to not cause you any harm,
- Breach—is the effort to prove that the doctor violated standard care that resulted in an injury to you or a loved one,
- Cause in fact—is a legalistic term that simply means that you can prove that there is a correlation between the harmful actions that took place owing to negligence led to the harm you suffered,
- Proximate cause—is the ability to prove a direct linkage between the negative action and the harm you suffered,
- Harm—is the legal requirement to prove that you suffered financial loss or injuries directly owing to the negligence of another.
Sometimes these are referred to as the “4D’s of Medical Negligence;” Duty, Deviation (from standard care), Damages, and Direct cause. We know that our health care workers are mandated to “Do No Harm,” but when they do you have legal options.
Clearly, proving negligence is a challenge. This is particularly true because those insurance companies that would be tasked with paying out these claims tend to fight them with an army of litigators and investigators in an attempt to limit or eliminate these claims entirely.
Most Common Types of Medical Malpractice Lawsuits
While every medical malpractice incident is an individual tragedy, lawsuits that are filed in court against negligent health care providers tend to fall into five broad categories to include:
- Failure to treat
- Surgical errors
- Birth Injuries
- Prescription drug errors
When it comes to the most common types of medical malpractice cases, your personal injury attorney will be challenged by the same task, which is to demonstrate the “4D’s of Medical Malpractice” as detailed above.
To be clear, proving medical negligence is difficult. Typically speaking, it involves an aggressive legal strategy, paid medical expertise willing to testify for the plaintiff, and the skill and ability to parse through medical records, interview transcripts of eyewitnesses, and an understanding of “best practices” when it comes to patient care. Your medical malpractice attorney will be skilled at the practice of the law, but will also be highly cognizant of what it will take to strike the best negotiating stance with a health care provider’s malpractice insurance carrier.
Let’s begin with the first two issues, misdiagnosis and failure to treat their patient as a consequence of that diagnosis error. Perhaps one of the biggest areas this is seen in the diagnosis and treatment of Traumatic Brain Injury, or TBI, so let us turn our attention to this common medical error.
Misdiagnosis and the Failure to Treat
Perhaps one of the most tragic accidents that can befall a patient is receiving a traumatic brain injury. These types of injury are caused when a hard impact, or an incident that provides the body with a violent shaking that injures the brain. Ranging from slight severity representing simple short-term issues to very severe symptoms that can have long-term, shattering consequences, a TBI is a prime example of a misdiagnosis that leads to failing to correctly treat the condition.
Indeed, it is estimated that upwards of 60% of TBI’s are missed and therefore misdiagnosed. Generally speaking, the condition’s symptoms are often confused with those of inner ear problems, mental illness, tendencies towards hyperactivity, or in other words a host of issues that would fail to adequately treat your condition.
While proving negligence can be difficult, your seasoned medical malpractice attorney will quickly bring to bear evidence and expert witnesses to help build their narrative before the bar.
An array of medical tests is available to ascertain whether a TBI exists, and your personal injury attorney will move to collect and available evidence garnered from the medical staff under investigation. While TBI’s once went unnoticed, it entered the diagnostic language of doctors by the early 1990s. Three decades later, health care professionals routinely worry whether symptoms might be attributed to a traumatic brain injury.
These testing diagnostic tools include:
- Computerized Tomography—often called a CT or CAT Scan. These x-rays are taken of the brain from a myriad of angles to form a complete picture that allows for identifying bruises, bleeding, or another brain injury.
- Magnetic Resonance Imaging—known as an MRI employs radio waves and magnets to provide for a detailed mapping of the brain. Considered a more in-depth test than a CAT scan, the MRI is the go-to resource for doctors looking to identify a potential brain lesion.
- Glasgow Coma Scale—is a diagnostic test that a health care professional will administer to better understand the functionality of three very important areas; speech, eye movement, and agility. These results can help pinpoint the level of severity of a TBI.
- Intracranial Pressure –is a medical procedure that counts as one of the more invasive procedures that aim to monitor swelling of the brain by inserting a probe through the patient’s skull to stop further damage.
Having an attorney by your side is critical as you begin to navigate the medical malpractice claim process. A team of trained litigators knows what to look for when they are looking at your medical records, and they understand that a TBI can have a devastating impact on your future. If negligence is at the heart of the failure to properly treat your medical condition, your personal injury attorney knows how to find that proof and press your legal claim.
When Birth-Related Injuries Are Caused by Negligence
The birth of a child is one of the happiest moments in a family’s life. Sadly, not all births are uneventful, and sometimes birth injuries occur. Health care workers who fail to adhere to the best practices of obstetrics are subject to blame should their negligence lead to an otherwise avoidable birth-related injury. When these medical professionals make an error, they should be held liable for the long-term consequences of their mistake.
Further, insurance companies, hospital administrators, manufacturers of medical equipment, and others might be found to be responsible for a birthing injury depending on the circumstances. In addition to problems that might present in the delivery room, the danger time span extends beyond the delivery room to include the pregnancy and post-partum period.
As such, rather than merely during delivery, doctors have the obligation to recognize signs of impending problems and danger before, during, and after the birth. Failing to do so not only open them up to charges of negligence, it can lead to an array of injuries with life-altering complications for their patients such as:
- Facial nerve damage
- Bleeding in the skull
- Oxygen deprivation
- Brain damage
- Perinatal stroke
It is important to note that complications do occur in the birthing process, but when those complications result from medical error and negligence; your family is the ones left to suffer. That is why the law allows you legal recourse in the face of negligent behavior. A birth injury can lead to decades of expensive medical treatment for the unfortunate patient, and your family will need the resources to help pay for those treatments.
A seasoned medical malpractice attorney can help you determine the causes of your child’s injury and help you hold those people accountable. Obviously, physicians do not actively go out to hurt their patients, so what are some of the causes of birth injuries?
Surgical Errors Lead to Malpractice Suits
A sad commentary on patient concerns regarding their overall health in an overtaxed health care system has witnessed an emergent policy trend before surgery. Baked into the surgery pie is a three-step process designed to reduce surgical errors. The policy begins with a pre-operative meeting in which the surgical staff game plans the upcoming surgery. Second, the part of the body to be operated on is clearly marked. As an example, if the patient was going in for their leg to be amputated, the indicated appendage would be marked “amputate this leg” in bold lettering. The final piece of the policy is known as a time-out before the commencement of surgery or anything of an invasive nature.
Unfortunately, with more than 4,000 surgical mistakes each year, there is a myriad of ways in which you or a family member might fall victim to one of these mistakes. Of those 4,000 preventable mistakes that occur in the operating theater, 60% lead to temporary illnesses or injuries, a full third of the population, or 33%, suffers some form of permanent harm, and 7% of these incidents result in the death of the patient.
These are truly sobering statistics. Permanent harm, not to mention death obviously, will have a significant financial impact on you, your family, or your surviving family members. The basis of filing a medical malpractice claim is the ability to demonstrate an economic loss owing to the medical error.
As an example, if a medical error leads the patient to have debilitating headaches, which makes it impossible to work any kind of regular schedule, the patient would have a claim to present the court indicating an economic loss. Sitting down with your medical malpractice attorney will allow you the chance to discuss whether you have a viable claim.
As such, it is very easy to understand the hurt and pain you or a family member goes through in the aftermath of such a medical mistake. It is also easy to understand why you would want to seek legal redress following such an operating room error. Contacting a lawyer experienced in the ins and outs of medical malpractice claims is the first step in reclaiming your life on the road back to recovery.
As with all malpractice claims, your attorney will seek out experts in the field, interview eyewitnesses to the event, pour through the available patient information to tease out the causes of the event. Should negligence be found at the core of the incident, your lawyer will be ready to press your claim at either the negotiating table or the plaintiff table in a court of law.
Prescription Pill Errors: When Medicine Hurts
We’ve become accustomed over the past decade or so to see the occasional arrest of what newscasters call “pill doctors.” In the aftermath of the overprescribing of oxycodone and the resultant opioid epidemic, the FDA cracked down on these medical procurers of addiction. Overprescribing opioids is not the only way medical practitioners run afoul of the regulatory agency, however.
Indeed, our medical malpractice attorneys have seen numerous cases of negligence that lead to harm in the prescribing of medication. Some of the more common prescription errors include giving a patient the wrong medication, or the wrong dosage of prescription medication. Additional concerns include mislabeling medication, prescribing a medication that reacts in a negative manner to existing medication or failing to warn the patient of any potential side effects of the medication.
We have become a pill culture, so receiving a prescription for what ails us is as natural as ABC. This potential cocktail of pharmaceutical remedies might pose a range of health issues if a health care provider makes a mistake owing to negligence. If a doctor breaches his/her duty to not cause harm in the care of their patient and that patient becomes ill, then they have a potential claim if negligence can be proven.
Proving medical malpractice can be difficult from both a medical and legalistic standpoint, but your malpractice lawyer will carefully review your case so as to ascertain whether you have a case of legal action against the health care provider. That being said, however, living with the effects, the harm, of a negligent medical procedure is far more difficult. Having an attorney working on your side during these difficult times gives you the space, time, and resources as you work to recuperate.
Contact Wapner Newman to Discuss Your Medical Malpractice Claim
If you or a loved one suspect that you have sustained an injury that was the result of your medical team’s mistake in the delivery of your care, then we encourage you to reach out to the knowledgeable and experienced team of medical malpractice lawyers here at Wapner Newman.
Whether a surgical error, disease misdiagnoses, failure to treat properly, or a myriad of other scenarios that cause injury, you have the legal right in Pennsylvania. Getting past and piercing the wall of silence to prove that medical errors or incompetence occurred is the job of an experienced medical malpractice lawyer. Here in Pennsylvania, injuries related to medical negligence are both a tragedy and legally actionable. Call us for a free consultation with one of our medical malpractice lawyers to determine whether your injuries were the result of your doctor’s failure to take adequate care of their patient.
Many cases are subject to a strict statute of limitations to file a claim, so you want to make sure that you act quickly if you suspect that either you or a loved one might be the victim of medical negligence. Call our office today to get the answers you need to start planning for tomorrow.