Philadelphia Medical Malpractice Lawyer
At the Philadelphia, Pennsylvania personal injury law firm of The Levin Firm we represent clients who have been injured by medical malpractice. Our Philadelphia medical malpractice attorneys understand that medical practice cases require a team of lawyers, nurses and others trained to review the facts of these cases, including medical records. At The Levin Firm, our Philadelphia, Pennsylvania medical malpractice personal injury lawyers aggressively and zealously represent our clients and obtain the best possible results. We also work with highly-regarded medical malpractice experts to determine the type of medical malpractice and how and why it happened. At times, we will work with other personal injury lawyers that have particular expertise to assure that our clients receive the most thorough and zealous representation.
What Constitutes Medical Malpractice?
Medical malpractice happens in many ways, and the effects of a doctor’s or a hospital’s negligence can lead to catastrophic injuries. Medical malpractice occurs when a physician, nurse, or other health care provider deviates from the appropriate standard of care in the medical community and injures a patient. The most common types of medical malpractice include anesthesia mistakes, improper treatment, failure to deliver a baby properly, prescribing the wrong medication or the incorrect dosage of a drug, diagnosis errors, performing surgery improperly or performing surgery that was not necessary, failure to diagnose cancer and other conditions, infections that occur from improperly sterilized equipment or facilities, and failing to obtain a patient’s informed consent before performing surgery or other procedures.
When you go to a doctor or other healthcare professional seeking care, you rightfully expect that the care you receive will make your condition better, not worse. Unfortunately, not all doctors are created equal and some fail to provide the standard of care expected in the medical profession.
Medical malpractice is a widespread problem that can happen to any patient when they least expect it. While medical malpractice laws recognize that injured patients should have the right to seek financial recovery, such laws are strict and can be confusing. For this reason, if you have been injured by poor medical care, it is time to consult a medical malpractice attorney. With the help of a skilled Philadelphia medical malpractice lawyer, you can be compensated for the injuries you received at the hands of a doctor, nurse, or hospital.
Every doctor and similar medical professional has the responsibility to act with a certain duty of care. This duty of care is to perform in a way that a similarly situated medical professional with reasonable skill and competence would have performed under the same circumstances. When a doctor fails to uphold this standard of care and a patient suffers unnecessary injury, medical malpractice occurs.
Medical errors can be minor or they can be severe, even causing the death of a patient who otherwise would have survived. In an article regarding medical malpractice, Forbes Magazine reported that an estimated 200,000 people die as a result of medical errors on an annual basis. Even if patients survive the medical error, such mistakes can cause unnecessary complications, can exacerbate medical conditions, or even cause new illnesses or injuries that otherwise would not have been suffered.
Though medical malpractice is relatively rare—as most medical professionals do meet the appropriate standard of care—it is important to be educated on the different types of medical malpractice and how they can affect you a loved one. The following are brief overviews of the most common types of medical malpractice in the United States.
What Is Medical Malpractice?
Failure To Diagnose, Delay In Diagnosis, Or Misdiagnosis
When you go to an emergency department or doctor’s office presenting certain symptoms, the doctor should ask all of the appropriate questions, run all of the proper tests, and take any other necessary steps to accurately and completely diagnose your condition. Unfortunately, some medical professionals do not delve deep enough into a patient’s medical history or symptoms to correctly diagnose their condition in a timely fashion.
For example, the symptoms of a minor heart attack are often similar to that of acid reflux. Too often, doctors diagnose a patient with acid reflux and send them home with medication, only to have the patient have a more severe heart event at a later date. On many occasions, if the doctor had performed tests such as an electrocardiogram or an angiogram, or had simply asked more about the patient’s family medical history, the first heart attack would have been easily diagnosed and the patient would have received proper treatment to avoid future episodes.
Diagnosis issues often cause additional complications because it causes a delay in the proper treatment for a patient’s illness. For instance, if a cancer patient receives a diagnosis at stage one, the disease can often be successfully treated. If a doctor error causes the diagnosis to be delayed to stage four, the patient has a much lesser chance of survival even with treatment.
When you have symptoms of an illness arise, your first instinct should be to visit your doctor or another type of healthcare provider to have any medical condition diagnosed. There are many tools that doctors have for diagnosing illnesses and a proper diagnosis is imperative to ensure you receive the necessary treatment for your condition. Unfortunately, a large number of patients receive an inaccurate diagnosis each and every year in Philadelphia and across the U.S.
Common Harmful Misdiagnoses
While any medical condition could potentially be misdiagnosed, there are some conditions that are misdiagnosed more regularly than others and that can cause particular harm to patients. The following are some examples of commonly misdiagnosed illnesses.
- Heart Attack – One of the main symptoms of a heart attack is chest pain, however, there are many other signs that a patient has suffered a heart attack and may have serious heart disease. However, in many situations, a heart attack can be misdiagnosed as a panic attack or even simple indigestion. This results in patients with serious cardiovascular risks being sent home from the emergency department or doctor’s office with antacids or anti-anxiety medication. In many cases, these patients may have needed heart medicine or even surgery to protect them from future heart attacks. Without the proper treatment, many patients will suffer additional life-threatening heart attacks that could have been prevented with a proper diagnosis.
- Cancer – Different types of cancers can have widely varying symptoms. Symptoms like fatigue, weakness, or nausea can often be misdiagnosed as a wide range of simpler illnesses, especially if there is no obvious tumor site. However, when cancer is diagnosed in the early stages of the disease, there is a much better chance of successfully treating cancer with less severe treatments. However, cancer that is not diagnosed initially can quickly progress into later stages of the disease, which can require significantly more invasive and aggressive treatments such as surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation. These treatments can make a cancer patient seriously ill and can lower their immune system, thereby increasing the risks of life-threatening illness. Sometimes, if a cancer diagnosis is delayed too long, the disease may not be treatable at all and may be fatal.
- Meningitis – Meningitis is an often life-threatening illness that requires immediate medical treatment to save a patient’s life – especially if the patient is a child. Unfortunately, meningitis can often be misdiagnosed as a virus if a doctor does not perform the necessary tests to identify a bacterial illness. Bacterial meningitis1 is the most severe and life-threatening type. If bacterial meningitis is misdiagnosed as a viral condition, the patient may suffer brain injuries or even death.
The above are only a few of the many serious situations that can result from a medical misdiagnosis. If you are concerned about the well being of a loved one learn what your next steps should be to get them help. Act now and contact the skilled Philadelphia personal injury attorneys at the Levin Firm for legal assistance. Reach out to us online or give us a call at 215-825-5183 Today.
Common Reasons for a Misdiagnosis
Sometimes, a misdiagnosis is based on simple human error, as other doctors in the same situation may have also missed the correct diagnosis. However, in many cases, a misdiagnosis occurs because a doctor was negligent.
There are many forms of medical negligence that can result in a medical misdiagnosis, including the following:
- Failing to ask the proper questions regarding symptoms;
- Failing to inquire about a patient’s medical history;
- Not performing the tests needed to screen for certain conditions;
- Misinterpreting the results of lab or imaging tests;
- Not referring a patient to a doctor in a more specialized practice when needed;
- Failing to follow up with patients regarding the continuation of symptoms;
- Not exploring alternative diagnoses when treatment is ineffective.
Doctors can make many mistakes during surgery that can lead to greater injury for a patient. If it is a simple mistake, it will likely not rise up to the level of medical malpractice. However, if a doctor uses poor judgment during a surgery and does not perform as a surgeon should, it is likely that medical malpractice occurred. Some examples of surgical malpractice include being distracted, fatigued, or even impaired during a procedure or allowing an unqualified assistant to perform tasks during the procedure. Surgical errors can result in the following and more:
- Operating on the wrong side of the body or even the completely wrong body part
- Performing the wrong procedure on the wrong patient
- Puncturing organs near the surgery
- Leaving instruments or objects inside the body
- Mistakes involving surgical robots or other technologies
- Not performing appropriate care post-operation resulting in infection
All of these mistakes can cause serious complications for a patient, even if they were only undergoing a minor procedure. Furthermore, particularly ill, elderly, or other relatively weak patients may not survive such surgical mistakes.
Errors Involving Medication
A study conducted in 2006 estimated that approximately 1.5 million individuals suffer harm from medication errors on an annual basis in the United States. The processes of distributing and administrating prescription medication have many opportunities for harmful errors. Some of the most common medication errors include the following:
- A medical professional prescribes the incorrect medication for the condition.
- A doctor fails to inquire into patient allergies or other medications that may react with the newly prescribed medication.
- A doctor prescribes the incorrect dosage for a particular patient.
- A nurse or another hospital staff member administers the incorrect medication or dosage despite having a correct prescription.
- Medical equipment meant to automatically administer medication malfunctions, which often results in a patient receiving too large of a dose in too short a time.
Medication is often an integral part of a patient’s treatment, stabilization, and more. When medication errors occur because doctors or other medical professionals are not sufficiently careful, patients can suffer serious injury and complications.
Statistics indicate that an estimated 28,000 children are born with birth injuries every year in the United States. A large number of these birth injuries are caused due to medical malpractice. Medical malpractice can lead to childbirth injuries in many different ways, including the following:
- Failing to identify medical conditions of the mother during pregnancy, including preeclampsia, anemia, hypoglycemia, gestational diabetes, ectopic pregnancies, and more.
- Failing to identify significant birth defects that would require special treatment or consideration during pregnancy.
- Failing to otherwise provide proper prenatal care.
- Failing to properly identify potential complications during childbirth (i.e. umbilical cord around the baby’s neck) and prepare for them as such.
- Not properly monitoring the condition of both mother and child during labor and delivery.
- Not responding to distress on the part of the mother or child in a timely fashion.
- Improper use of a vacuum or forceps during childbirth.
- Not ordering a cesarean section in a timely manner when appropriate.
Such mistakes during pregnancy and childbirth can result in numerous injuries to the mother and child. Some of these injuries, such as cerebral palsy, Erb’s Palsy, spinal cord injuries, and perinatal asphyxia, can affect a child for the rest of his or her life.
Other Types Of Medical Malpractice
There are many different ways that medical malpractice can occur, as there are many different mistakes that doctors can make in many different situations. Some common causes of medical injuries can include the following:
- Delayed diagnosis
- Cosmetic/Plastic surgery errors
- Infections contracted in a hospital or due to a doctor’s care
- Mistakes during C-sections
- Cerebral palsy due to errors during labor and delivery
- Cardiac catheterization
- Surgery on the wrong patient or the wrong site in the body
- Foreign objects left in the body after surgery
- Laparoscopic surgery mistakes
- Performing surgery while fatigued or intoxicated
- Severed nerves
- Severed arteries
- Punctured arteries
- Birth Injuries Caused By A Doctor’s Negligence
- Surgical Errors
- Post Surgery Injuries Due To Negligence
- Elder Care Abuse
- Nursing Home Abuse
- Abuse Of Those With Special Needs
- Mistakes In The Emergency Room
- Medical Malpractice Leading To Amputation
- Medical Malpractice leading to Wrongful Death
- Failure To Diagnose
Pennsylvania Medical Malpractice Law
It is important for injured patients to understand that Philadelphia medical malpractice claims are significantly different and often much more complicated than ordinary personal injury claims. This is why it is important to find a Philadelphia medical malpractice lawyer who is familiar with the process and the laws, which can vary significantly from state to state.
For example, in Pennsylvania, the following laws may have a substantial impact on your case:
- Statute of Limitations – This is the time limit that you have to file a claim with the civil courts. In many situations, this time limit is fairly straightforward. However, in medical malpractice claims, many variables can affect what the statute of limitations may be in your case. For example, the following may apply:
- Two years from the date you reasonably discovered that you suffered an injury due to a medical professional;
- Seven years from the date of the injury even if you did not discover it until late (this time limit does not apply if you had a foreign object left in your body);
- For minors, seven years from their 20th birthday, regardless of when the injury happened or was discovered;
- For cases resulting in death, two years from the wrongful death.
- Damage Caps – Unlike many states, Pennsylvania does not have laws that limit the economic damages or non-economic damages2 in medical malpractice cases, which can be for medical bills, pain and suffering, and more. Instead, the law only limits the amount of punitive damages you can seek, which are damages awarded to punish the doctor. While punitive damages are rare, they can be awarded in cases involving particularly egregious or intentional actions on the part of your doctor. Punitive damages are capped at twice the amount of the economic damages you suffered.
There are also laws that address when damages must be paid periodically, the requirements for the testimony of experts, contributory negligence, and many other legal issues that may be present in a medical malpractice case. If you have been injured as a result of a doctor’s negligence, you have a limited time to act. The sooner you meet with a Philadelphia medical malpractice attorney attorney, the sooner the process can start.
Philadelphia Medical Malpractice FAQ
Philadelphia residents, workers, and visitors trust local medical providers to give them quality care. Most of the time, that is exactly what they receive. But not always. Every year, thousands of Americans suffer serious and fatal injuries and health complications because of a medical provider’s error.
If a medical error left you or a loved one injured or in a worsening health condition, then you may have the right to take legal action seeking compensation for medical malpractice. Read on to see the answers to the questions our Philadelphia clients most frequently ask about medical malpractice cases. For answers to specific questions about a suspected case of medical malpractice, contact an experienced Philadelphia medical injury lawyer at the Levin Firm today.
What is medical malpractice?
Medical malpractice occurs when a doctor, hospital, or other medical professional fails to deliver a minimum standard of care to a patient, resulting in an injury or health complication for the patient.
Some common types of medical malpractice include
- Medication errors
- Misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis
- Failure to communicate important health information to a patient
- Healthcare-associated infections
- Surgical errors (such as operating on the wrong body part, accidentally severing a nerve or blood vessel, and leaving a surgical implement inside the body cavity)
- Premature discharge from the hospital
- Failure to provide adequate after-care instructions
- Injuries to a mother or infant in connection with childbirth
I suffered complications due to a surgery. Is that medical malpractice?
Maybe. It depends on the degree of skill and care the surgical team used in your case. Any type of surgery involves at least some risk of complications. Having complications, alone, does not always mean a medical professional made a serious mistake in providing care. However, complications can constitute a sign of a serious mistake in some instances. Speak with an experienced Philadelphia medical malpractice attorney to learn more.
If I was injured as a result of a medical mistake while in the hospital, should I sue my doctor or the hospital?
It depends on what happened and who was involved. The answer might be both.
Pennsylvania law determines who faces legal liability for a medical error constituting malpractice. An error by an individual doctor, nurse, or other medical team member could saddle that individual with liability, but it could also place liability on the individual’s employer, or the owner of the facility where the error occurred, or on a third party.
One of the most important jobs of any medical malpractice attorney is to assess the facts of a case to identify all parties who may have legal liability for harm done to a patient by a medical mistake.
What are the damages I can recover through a medical malpractice lawsuit?
First, it is important to understand that there is no guarantee a person will recover compensation by filing a lawsuit. Patients give themselves the best chance of recovering damages, however, by hiring a skilled Philadelphia medical malpractice lawyer to pursue their claim.
When injured or sick patients succeed in a legal action for medical malpractice, they may obtain payment for:
- Medical expenses resulting from the harm done by the malpractice;
- Non-medical expenses associated with the harm and inconvenience resulting from the medical malpractice;
- Current and future loss of income caused by missing work, or being unable to work, because of the malpractice-related injury or illness; and
- The patient’s physical and emotional pain and suffering, and diminished quality of life, due to the malpractice.
Are there special requirements for filing a medical malpractice lawsuit in Philadelphia?
Yes. A lawyer must follow special procedures in connection with filing a Philadelphia medical malpractice lawsuit. In particular, the lawyer must submit a certificate of merit verifying the legitimacy of the claim. Lawyers typically do this by obtaining a written statement from an appropriate medical professional stating that the care the patient received did not meet the minimum standard of care.
This requirement ensures that only valid medical malpractice claims move forward in Pennsylvania courts. In practice, it also means that patients need to hire a lawyer who has experience in selecting and working with medical professionals to evaluate a claim before filing a lawsuit.
Is a medical error in a nursing home considered medical malpractice?
If it violates the standard of care a nursing home resident should receive, then yes. Medical providers have an obligation to provide a minimum standard of care to patients no matter where the patients receive that care. A medical mistake made by a doctor, nurse, or other medical professional in a nursing home or long-term care facility is no less of a mistake than one made by a healthcare worker in a hospital or doctor’s office.
My medical implant was defective. Can I sue the doctor who performed the procedure to implant it?
It depends on whether the doctor had any role in the device’s defect. The mere fact that a medical implant is defective might not have anything to do with the job the doctor did in implanting it. Even if the doctor performed a flawless surgery, the device still might not work. A doctor could, however, have liability for implanting a defective device if the doctor’s actions made the device defective, or if the device was obviously defective but the doctor implanted it anyway. Talk to an experienced Philadelphia medical malpractice attorney to learn more about who may have a legal liability to you for your medical injury.
How do medical errors happen?
Mistakes happen in a medical setting due to a wide variety of factors, which commonly include:
- Too many patients, not enough time. Medical staff stretched thin as a result of understaffing have a higher likelihood of making mistakes.
- Improper or inadequate training. Medical personnel need significant initial training, and must keep their knowledge and skills up-to-date. Untrained staff make mistakes that can have deadly consequences.
- Prescription-related miscommunications. In the past, illegible, handwritten prescriptions led to medication errors. Today, electronic prescription-writing has reduced the chances of that particular mistake. However, other mistakes involving the communication of medication information persist because of medications with similar-sounding names and carelessness in entering or reading dosage-related information in electronic health records.
- Staff-to-staff miscommunications. Verbal communication between health care staff, particularly during shift changes or in inter-department patient handoffs, can lead to serious medical errors.
- Patient-to-staff miscommunications. A failure to ask about medicines and supplements a patient is already taking, a failure to listen to the patient’s answers, and medical staff failures to understand or communicate effectively with patients, can lead to significant medical errors.
These are just a few examples. No matter how a costly, injurious medical mistake happens, an experienced medical malpractice lawyer can help patients seek the compensation they need and deserve.
What does a lawyer need to prove to win my case?
It all depends on the specifics of your situation, of course.
However, in general, a Philadelphia medical malpractice lawyer must prove that:
- A provider-patient relationship existed between the client and the medical professional;
- The medical professional failed to provide the standard of care that would have been provided by a reasonably prudent professional in the same circumstance; and
- This failure to provide the standard of care resulted in the injury and subsequent damages to the client.
These three elements of a medical malpractice claim may sound straightforward, but in reality, proving a Philadelphia medical malpractice claim can get very complicated. Trust only an experienced medical malpractice injury attorney to represent you in your claim.
I have not suffered an injury due to a medical error, but I am worried that my doctor is in such a hurry that he is going to eventually make a mistake. What can be done to prevent that from happening?
Doctors today contend with significant time pressures. The economics of providing care limit the amount of time a doctor can spend with each patient. Some doctors may even have quotas for the number of patients seen in a day. Plus, doctors—particularly front-line providers—may see patients with a wide array of health conditions. The need to have answers to such a broad range of medical complaints can take a toll.
Sadly, those features of 21st medicine do not seem destined to change anytime soon.
To protect yourself against errors made by tired, stressed-out medical professionals, you may:
- Schedule appointments first thing in the morning, when a doctor is most likely to be well-rested and on-schedule.
- Make sure every doctor you see has a list of the medications and supplements that you are currently taking.
- Request that your doctor provides to you, in language you can understand, written information about your conditions, the medications you are taking for those conditions, and the possible side effects and interactions of that medication.
- Bring a friend or family member to your doctor’s appointment to assist in asking questions and ensuring that you understand the information you receive.
- If you are hospitalized, make sure that all of the health care staff that touches you has washed their hands. While that seems like a rude thing to ask, infections can transmit deadly infections, and improper handwashing is a major contributor to health-associated infections.
- Be sure, before you are discharged from the hospital, your doctor has provided you with detailed instructions on how you should treat your wound or illness at home. If you are unclear about anything discussed in your after-care instructions, be sure to ask for—and receive—clarification before leaving.
- If you have surgery, be sure before the procedure is performed that you, your doctor, and the surgeon are all in agreement about what is going to be done and to which body part. Though rare, wrong-site surgery does happen and it is generally a result in a lapse in communication between providers.
My dentist prescribed the wrong dosage of medication after a dental procedure. Is that malpractice?
Possibly. We would need to know the details of the case. However, the wrong dosage is a form of a medication error, and dentists qualify as health care providers who can face legal liability for medical malpractice. Speak with a Philadelphia medical malpractice attorney right away.
Can a doctor continue practicing medicine if he or she has been sued for malpractice?
Yes. An estimated one in three doctors will be sued for medical malpractice at some point in their careers. In fact, in a study of physicians over the age of 55, around one-half report that they have been sued. The practices that see the most medical malpractice cases are general surgeons and obstetrician-gynecologists.
Being sued for medical malpractice does not generally affect the doctor’s license to practice medicine. In fact, a doctor usually only loses a license to practice medicine if that doctor’s malpractice constitutes severely reckless, prolonged conduct. These are determinations that would be made by the state medical board, not through a civil lawsuit.
I did not realize that a medical error had been made until three years after my surgery. Is it too late to file a lawsuit?
Not necessarily. The statute of limitations in medical malpractice cases in Pennsylvania is generally two years after the injury. However, the law makes exceptions in some cases, including when an individual does not discover the injury even after exercising reasonable diligence. In that case, individuals have two years from the date of discovery of the injury to take legal action. Never assume that you do not have legal rights to compensation just because more than two years have passed since your injury.
Do I need an attorney for my medical malpractice case? What if I can’t afford one?
Yes, you absolutely need an attorney for your medical malpractice case. Among all practice areas that fall under the wide umbrella of personal injury, medical malpractice cases are among the most complex and difficult to prove, requiring not only extensive knowledge of the legal process and the laws pertaining to this type of case, but also a deep well of medical knowledge. Having an attorney with experience in medical malpractice cases gives you an advantage not only in the ability to negotiate such a case, but also the ability to litigate one.
Fortunately, our Philadelphia medical malpractice lawyers provide a free case evaluation to prospective clients and work on a contingent fee basis—so you pay no money up-front, and we only collect fees out of any compensation our efforts achieve for you.
If a medical error in Philadelphia left you or a loved one injured or in poor health, contact an experienced Philadelphia medical malpractice attorney at the Levin Firm today.
Discuss Your Rights with an Experienced Philadelphia Medical Malpractice Attorney
At The Levin Firm in Philadelphia, we can review your situation and help determine whether or not your misdiagnosis resulted in the right to bring legal action against your doctor.
Our medical malpractice attorney has handled many cases involving misdiagnosis and other forms of malpractice, so please call for a free consultation at 215-825-5183 today.