According to the Pennsylvania Medical Society, there were 102 medical malpractice cases tried to a jury in Pennsylvania in 2017. The majority of awards in plaintiff verdicts were between $1M and $5M and the two largest awards were between $5M and $10M. Medical malpractice attorneys know that many medical malpractice cases go unreported for a number of reasons including the fact that the subject is intimidating and complicated, especially for patients who trust their doctors and have no medical background.
Simply described, medical malpractice occurs when a medical professional’s negligence causes injuries to a patient. Often when a patient sustains injuries after a procedure or treatment, medical professionals explain injuries away as a side effect, risk of treatment, or plain bad luck. Of course that is true some of the time, but how does a patient know when doctors are telling the truth or when their injuries are actually caused by a doctor’s negligence? If this is the situation you have found yourself in, it is time to consult with a medical malpractice attorney who has the experience and knowledge to review and assess the strength of your case.
Establishing medical malpractice
In order to prove medical malpractice, it is necessary to establish the following three elements:
- Doctor patient relationship – Medical professionals owe a duty of care to their patients, which is why it is necessary to prove that a relationship existed. This is typically easy to prove by showing that a patient went to an appointment and was treated by the medical professional. Once it is proved that the medical professional owed the plaintiff a duty of care, it is time to move on to negligence.
- Medical negligence – Often the most difficult part of medical malpractice cases is proving that the medical professional was negligent. In order to prove negligence, the plaintiff must show that his or her doctor’s practice and treatment (or failure to treat) fell below the acceptable standard of care. The acceptable standard of care is based on the level of care practiced by other local medical professionals who have a similar medical background and area of practice as the defendant.
- Quantifiable injuries – Finally, once negligence has been proven, the plaintiff must show that the medical negligence was a direct cause of his or her measurable injuries such as medical bills, lost wages, or pain and suffering.
Medical malpractice defenses
Common medical malpractice defenses include the following:
- The medical professional’s conduct did not fall below the acceptable standard of care.
- The patient’s injuries were not caused by negligence because the plaintiff would have sustained the injuries even if the doctor had not been negligent. For example, if a doctor was negligent in failing to diagnose a patient and as a result, the correct diagnosis was delayed, but diagnosing the condition earlier would not have reduced or avoided the patient’s injuries, the injuries were not caused by the medical professional’s negligence.
- The plaintiff waited too long to file the claim and the statute of limitations has run.
- Patient did not follow through with recommended treatment and care.