Medical negligence is the third leading cause of cause of death in the US.
A negative outcome caused by the avoidable error of a medical professional can give a patient or their loved ones reason to file a medical malpractice lawsuit. With over 250,000 deaths occurring each year from medical malpractice, and only a few hundred cases going to trial, this is an important, though complex area of our legal system that requires genuine experience and past results. Our skilled lawyers, alongside our in-house staff nurse, work hard to build a winning case that holds medical professionals accountable for their negligence.
Learn more about our history with medical malpractice cases
Types of Medical Malpractice Cases
- Anesthesia Negligence
- Birth Injuries
- Brain and Spinal Cord Injuries
- Delayed Diagnosis
- Dental Negligence
- Emergency Room Negligence
- Failure to Monitor
- Failure Diagnose
- Failure to Test
- Failure to Treat
- Hospital Infections
- Informed Consent
- Surgical Negligence
- Wrongful Death
Frequently Asked Questions
Medical malpractice is when a health care professional or organization such as a doctor, nurse, hospital, nursing home facility, etc. has been careless and not performed their job to the required standard of care, causing injury to, or the death of, a patient. If the standard of care is not met, that person or organization is negligent. Negligence is carelessness. Medical negligence is, essentially, medical carelessness. Medical malpractice can span many areas, including misdiagnosis and failure to diagnose, failure to treat, failure to monitor, lack of informed consent, and failure to communicate, to name just a few. This can apply to birth injuries, spinal cord injuries, medication, amputation, and hospital infections, for example.
To prove a medical malpractice claim, a plaintiff must prove that the defendant healthcare professional or organization fell below the standard of care for that surgery or procedure. Not every unfavorable outcome is due to medical malpractice because there are some known risks associated with surgeries or certain procedures. However, in general, if you have an unexpected outcome from which you are unlikely to make a full recovery, you should contact an attorney who can help evaluate any potential case.
If you think you have a medical malpractice claim because you had an unfavorable and unexpected outcome, which will significantly impact you or a loved one’s life, we advise you to contact an experienced medical malpractice attorney. An experienced attorney will investigate the details of your potential claim, want to understand how your life has been affected, and may obtain medical records, and an expert opinion. Once this information is obtained, an attorney can help evaluate if you have a potential medical malpractice case.
According to the peer-reviewed Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), failure to diagnose or a delay in diagnosies are two of the most common types of medical negligence that can lead to a medical malpractice claim. Oftentimes, symptoms and differing diagnoses can be overlooked, leading to worsening health before the patient can finally receive the treatment he or she needs. If you think a health care professional failed to properly diagnose or delayed diagnosing a medical issue, contact an experienced medical malpractice attorney who will investigate the facts further.
Informed consent is an important part of the patient‐physician relationship. Informed consent means that a physician must inform the patient of all material risks, complications, facts, and benefits involved in any proposed, nonemergency surgical treatment, so that the patient can make an informed decision about whether to undergo surgical intervention. Doctors in Pennsylvania have an affirmative duty to obtain their patients’ informed consent, and this duty cannot be delegated to anyone else. You can still pursue a medical malpractice claim even if a consent form was signed. A consent form does not release the medical provider of liability for negligence. As in all medical malpractice cases, the plaintiff must prove that the health care professional failed to meet the standard of care, which caused or increased the risk of injury.
A jury is a group of people summoned and sworn to decide on the facts in issue at a trial. The jury is composed of people who represent a cross-section of the community. The jury listens to the evidence during a trial and decides what facts the evidence has established to form the basis for their decision. A jury will consider the testimony of experts, usually doctors, who will testify whether they believe a physician’s actions followed standard medical practices or fell below the accepted standard of care. Other witnesses may include family members and life care planners who can testify to the impact the injuries have had on the plaintiff’s life.
After both sides, plaintiff and defendant, have had a chance to present their evidence and make a closing argument, the next step toward a verdict is jury instruction – a process in which the judge gives the jury the set of legal standards it will need to decide whether the defendant should be held accountable for the plaintiff’s alleged harm. In civil cases, the jury decides whether a defendant is “liable” or “not liable.”
The jurors as a group consider the case through a process called “deliberation,” attempting to agree on whether the defendant should be held liable based on the plaintiff’s claims, and, if so, the appropriate damages that should be awarded. Deliberation is the first opportunity for the jury to discuss the case, a methodical process that can last from a few hours to several weeks. Once the jury reaches a decision, the jury foreperson informs the judge, and the judge usually announces the verdict in open court.
When a jury holds a doctor or hospital accountable for their negligence, it tells them, and others in their profession, that they must pay attention to safety or be held accountable for the harm caused. The jury is the voice of the community and jury verdicts play an important part in safety reforms.
It is very difficult to predict how much a medical malpractice claim is worth. Each case is unique, and there is no predetermined amount or formula that defendants or juries use for non-economic damages (see section on types of damages in a personal injury case). We need to prove liability (that there was a breach of the duty of care owed by a doctor to a patient and, that the breach of the duty led to the injury, as well as damages. The experienced team of attorneys at Atlee Hall will investigate cases to determine liability will gather evidence to support the nature and extent of the damages. Our team will guide you based on our experience.
Generally, the statute of limitations for a medical malpractice claim in Pennsylvania is two years from the date of injury. There may be exceptions in medical malpractice cases where the deadline for filing may be extended if you did not discover the injury until much later after the actual event. Another exception is the injury of a minor. A case can be filed on behalf of a minor up to two years after his or her 18th birthday. It is important, therefore, to contact an attorney as soon as possible after the date of the incident who can look at the details of your case to determine when the statute of limitations expires.
In the state of Pennsylvania, compensation for personal injury that individuals can recover (referred to as damages) are broken down into different classes. There are four main categories and recovery depends on each person’s specific situation:
Economic Damages – These are intended to compensate you for present and future lost monetary expenses. Medical bills, lost wages, lost future earning capacity, and out-of-pocket expenses, such as maintenance services you can no longer perform on your own, are all classified as economic damages.
Non-Economic Damages – These can be more difficult to determine because they are not tangible losses like economic damages. In Pennsylvania, non-economic damages include compensation for pain and suffering, scarring and disfigurement, embarrassment and humiliation, and the loss of enjoyment of life. At trial, a jury will consider factors such as the severity of the injury, the permanency of the injury, the duration and extent of the party’s pain and suffering, and the party’s age and life circumstance, among others, to determine the amount of noneconomic damages that are recoverable.
Wrongful Death and Survival Damages – Wrongful death damages are those that can be recovered by the decedent’s surviving family members, such as a spouse, child or parent. Types of recoverable damages in a wrongful death lawsuit include medical, funeral and estate expenses, loss of future support and/or clothing, education, shelter and food contributions of the decedent, among others. Survival damages are those are recovered on behalf of the person who passed away. Types of survival damages that can be recovered include the loved one’s conscious pain and suffering prior to death and the loved one’s lost earnings.
Loss of Consortium – If you are married, your spouse may be entitled to a loss of consortium claim. This type of claim is designed to compensate the spouse of the injured person for loss of services and companionship. More specifically, these damages include the loss of company, society, cooperation, affection, support, comfort, assistance, association, companionship, and the loss of ability to engage in sexual relations.
While damages are obviously a crucial part of any personal injury case, the types of compensation and how much you can recover will depend on your specific circumstances. In addition, none of these damages are recoverable if a breach in the standard of care as well as causation cannot first be proven or established. It is important to contact an attorney who can help guide you.