There are birth injury medical malpractice cases. There are other medical malpractice cases. And then there are all the other lawsuits, like personal injury cases. What is the difference? Read on to learn the important factors that distinguish one from another.
Generally speaking, personal injury cases involve someone suffering an injury as the result of someone else’s negligent action or omission. An “injury” can be physical (eg, a broken leg), emotional (eg, depression), or reputational (eg, customers no longer come to your store because of your damaged reputation).
And while “injury” describes damages to your body or mind or heart or good name, actual “damages” is a broader and more conceptual term. You can have economic damages. These are quantifiable damages, such as lost wages (eg, you had to stop working for six months to recover from your injury so you lost six months of wages). Other obvious examples of economic damages are medical bills and co-pays, pharmaceutical costs, and drugstore purchases – all expenses you had to undergo to treat the injury caused by the defendant.
In addition to economic damages, you can collect non-economic damages. These are damages that are real, but not easily quantifiable. For instance, pain and suffering are non-economic damages. They are to compensate you for the inconvenience, the physical discomfort, and the emotional anguish you suffered following the injury. Other examples of non-economic damage include loss of enjoyment of life, scarring and disfigurement, and emotional distress.
In addition to the injury in your personal injury lawsuit, you also must establish that the defendant was negligent. Negligence is, simply put, the failure to take appropriate care in doing something.
Sometimes it’s easier to understand this concept of negligence with concrete examples. In the context of a car accident, let’s say a truck driver drove through a red light and hit a car that was driving through the intersection when it had the green light. The truck driver was negligent because he didn’t take care to stop at the red light, as he should have. So, in that case, it was the truck driver’s action that caused the accident.
But sometimes someone is negligent when they fail to act at all. The next example demonstrates this negligence by omission circumstance.
In the context of a slip and fall, perhaps a box of beads fell on the floor of an art store and the beads spilled all over the aisle and no one cleaned up the beads as they should have. A man was walking through the aisle, focusing on the paints on the shelves, and stepped right onto the beads. The beads caused his feet to slip and he fell hard on his back. The art store would be considered negligent for failing to sweep up the scattered beads. So, it was the art store’s failure to act – its omission – that caused the person’s injuries.
How does medical malpractice differ from personal injury negligence? There’s one key difference: medical malpractice is when negligence occurs in the context of medical treatment. In other words, the wrongdoer is a healthcare provider, such as a doctor, nurse, hospital administrator, hospital staff member, or even the hospital itself – as a corporate entity.
While the identity of the defendant is a key distinguishing factor between a standard personal injury case and a medical malpractice case, there are other very important distinctions:
In a medical malpractice case, instead of asking whether the defendant simply failed to take care, the question is more about what the reasonable professional standard of care was for the defendant to follow. And to measure that, your medical malpractice attorney would have to hire a good expert to review the medical records and make that determination.
As stated, your medical malpractice attorney will need to hire a good expert to review your medical records and determine whether or not your healthcare provider was negligent, or failed to meet the standard of care. Not only do you need a medical expert to help prove that medical negligence occurred in your case – but you also need a medical expert who practices the same field of medicine as the healthcare professional who harmed you. For instance, if your injuries occurred during orthopedic surgery, your medical malpractice attorney will likely discuss the case with an expert who is an orthopedic surgeon.
Typically, there are more medical records in a medical malpractice case compared to a standard personal injury case and the records are more complex. The question isn’t simply is the plaintiff injured, yes or no? The medical records are instead evaluated to determine both liability and injury. In other words, was the patient injured, and did a healthcare provider contribute to the cause of the patient’s injury? Thus, your attorney must help you collect and preserve all forms of evidence including blood work, radiology reports, medical records, prescription history, intake forms, discharge instructions, etc.
The evidence in a medical malpractice case is often different from a standard personal injury case in that, in many cases, you’d have to get the evidence from the defendant. In other words, if your injury occurred in the hospital where the defendant was your doctor, you’d need your medical records to help determine whether there was medical malpractice. So, your medical malpractice attorney would have to ask the defendant to supply a good portion of the evidence. Naturally, this is not always easy, and often the defendant will not hand over all the essential evidence immediately. This is why you need to hire an experienced medical malpractice attorney who knows what to ask for and how to ask for it (and then, if necessary, how to file a motion to compel the defendant to produce it).
The statute of limitations is the time you have to file a lawsuit. In a standard personal injury case, like, for instance, a car accident, this is two years from the date of the accident. In other words, the day you first encountered the defendant and were injured is the day the clock starts ticking, and you have two years to file a complaint. But, in medical malpractice cases, your injury might not occur the day you first encountered the defendant. You may be treating the defendant for days, weeks, months, or years before your injury occurs. Also, you are not required to file the lawsuit within two years until you know or should have known that your injury was the result of the defendant’s negligence. For instance, say you had abdominal surgery and were discharged from the hospital and felt fine. But within days, you start to become feverish and very ill. An x-ray determines that the abdominal surgeon accidentally left a surgical tool in your abdomen and it caused an infection. While the negligent act occurred the day of your surgery, the statute of limitations doesn’t begin to toll until the day you discover that the negligent act occurred. It’s a different timetable.
Birth injury cases are similar to medical malpractice cases in that they occur in the context of a medical setting and the defendants are doctors, nurses, hospital staff, etc. They are also similar because they require expert review and testimony and complex review of medical records.
Birth injury cases, though, are arguably more complex than medical malpractice cases for the following reasons:
–Evidence. In birth injury cases, your birth injury lawyer needs to evaluate both the baby’s and the mother’s medical records. These include fetal heart monitoring strips, the mother’s blood pressure readings, the prenatal medical records, the delivery report, bloodwork, etc.
–Statute of Limitations. In birth injury cases, the parents have two years after the child turns eighteen to file the lawsuit. However, the parent’s right to file the lawsuit for a birth injury case is two years from the date of birth. This is the law in Pennsylvania. To make sure you don’t lose your right to sue, it is imperative to contact an experienced Pennsylvania birth injury attorney.
Because birth injury cases are more complex than run-of-the-mill personal injury cases and often more complicated than other types of medical malpractice cases, it is advisable to connect with a birth trauma lawyer in Pennsylvania who has the background and experience to help you navigate this highly specialized and complex area of law.
The experienced birth injury, neonatal, and cerebral palsy lawyers at VSCP Law can help.
Wrongful Death Lawyer in Philadelphia is a civil cause of action brought by family members or legal representatives of the decedent against the person or multiple persons who caused the death of the decedent. The defendant(s) might have caused the death intentionally or they might have caused the death unintentionally (or “negligently”) and either way, the plaintiffs referenced above would have a wrongful death claim. The following are various situations that could lead to a wrongful death lawsuit.
Healthcare providers often misdiagnose patients, which could lead to death. For example, a woman may come to the emergency room with symptoms of nausea and fatigue. The poorly-informed doctor incorrectly concludes that she’s suffering from menstrual issues or indigestion. The doctor prescribes some antacids and a painkiller. The woman was suffering a heart attack. When women suffer heart attacks, they don’t have the same symptoms as men suffering heart attacks. Most doctors only know the typical male symptoms and often misdiagnose women, which could lead to their untimely deaths.
Many medical conditions require prompt intervention by healthcare professionals. For example, time is of the essence when a patient is suffering a stroke. A stroke is when the blood supply to the brain is interrupted or reduced. This is an urgent medical issue and requires a timely diagnosis. Sometimes medical staff will mistake a stroke for a migraine and prescribe painkillers. Unfortunately, during a stroke, every minute that passes is a minute that the brain is losing precious oxygen. And if the proper diagnosis is delayed for too long, the person could die.
When a hospital or other healthcare facility allows a patient to leave their care when the patient’s health condition requires more close monitoring in the healthcare setting, that’s called early discharge medical malpractice. Releasing a patient before it’s physically safe to do so could end in the patient’s death.
Car, truck, or other vehicle accidents can often be fatal. Such accidents can result in the death of the driver, the passenger, and pedestrians. Fatal accidents can result in wrongful death lawsuits against whichever party is found to be at fault for causing the collision.
A product can be defective in its design or its assembly and in some cases, a defective product could kill the user of the product. A defective product could also kill people who aren’t directly using the product, but who are physically near the product user. Wrongful death litigation can result from such defective products.
If a person falls or otherwise gets hurt and then dies as a result of a dangerous condition of a property, the property owner could be liable to the family of the decedent. Business owners and private property owners must keep their properties safe and free from hazards.
Some workplaces (for instance, construction sites, factories, and aircraft) are more dangerous than others. If someone dies from a workplace accident, their family or legal representatives can sue the employer and/or the company that owns the site for wrongful death.
Sadly, even though a person is just trying to have fun at the water park, ATV course, or an amusement park, they can experience a deadly accident.
A civil right is an enforceable right or privilege. Citizens have the right to be free from false arrest, malicious prosecution, and excessive use of force by law enforcement. Wrongful Death Lawyer in Philadelphia can occur particularly in that last example: excessive or unreasonable use of force against a citizen.
Regardless of what type of case is at issue, an experienced wrongful death attorney will help you navigate the complicated legal landscape. To talk with an experienced wrongful death attorney, contact the lawyers at VSCP Law.
What does “standard of care” mean in the context of medical malpractice?
You may have heard the term “standard of care” on television or from a law firm website. But what does it mean exactly? And what does it mean in the context of medical malpractice (also known as medical negligence)?
Before you can understand the term, it’s important to first comprehend the four necessary elements that comprise medical malpractice. In order to prove your medical malpractice claim, you have to establish the following: (1) there was a duty; (2) the medical professional breached that duty; (3) the medical professional’s breach of duty led to your injuries; and (4) you suffered injuries as a result of the medical professional’s actions (or inactions).
“Standard of care” arises in the context of that second element: breach of duty. It describes the skill, talent, knowledge, and expertise that is expected of the healthcare professional by fellow professionals in the medical community.
And standard of care applies in the area of specific medicine of the healthcare professional. In other words, the standards of care for a cardiologist (pertaining, for example, to reading EKGs and properly diagnosing heart abnormalities) are different from the standards of care of a pulmonologist (pertaining, for example, to reading chest x-rays and properly diagnosing a chronic cough).
Thus, when you are trying to prove that medical negligence occurred, you need a medical expert who practices the same field of medicine as the healthcare professional who harmed you. For instance, if your injuries occurred during gastrointestinal surgery, your medical malpractice attorney will likely discuss the case with an expert who is a gastrointestinal surgeon.
Assuming the gastrointestinal surgeon agrees that a medical error took place and caused your injuries, the expert surgeon will prepare a Certificate of Merit. A Certificate of Merit is a statement from an expert that says that the defendant healthcare professional you are suing deviated from the standard of care. In other words, her actions (or inactions) didn’t rise to the level of care expected of someone in her field of medicine. You must establish (with an expert) a deviation from the standard of care – without it, you have not proved that necessary second element of your medical negligence claim: breach of duty.
Your medical malpractice attorney will file that Certificate of Merit along with the Complaint with the court, and thus begins your medical malpractice lawsuit.
If you believe you or a loved one has suffered an injury as the result of a healthcare professional failing to meet the standard of care, contact the medical malpractice lawyers at VSCP Law.
How Do I File a Medical Malpractice Lawsuit?
If you believe you have been injured because of what a doctor has done (or has not done), then you might have a valid medical malpractice case. Now what? How do you file a lawsuit?
In order to file a medical malpractice lawsuit, you should contact an attorney who has substantial experience in medical malpractice law. There are some legal cases that people try to handle pro se – on one’s own behalf. This is not one of them. You should not attempt to handle your own medical malpractice case. This is not the kind of case that can be done properly without an attorney.
Pennsylvania medical malpractice law is highly specialized. Below are some of the important steps a medical malpractice attorney will take to file your lawsuit.
Your attorney will review medical records, health summaries, hospital notes, lab results, and all other necessary paperwork to fully understand the actions (and sometimes inactions) of the health care staff who may have been responsible for the medical mistake. It takes an experienced attorney to know how to analyze piles and piles of medical records and which pieces of evidence are key to the success of the case.
Comply with statutory requirements
Pennsylvania medical malpractice law can be complex. There are several important statutes that must be followed in order to successfully file your lawsuit. For instance, under Pennsylvania’s Statute of Limitations law, you have two years to file a lawsuit, starting from when you knew or should have known that your injury was the result of the defendants’ medical mistake. In the case of a deceased party, Pennsylvania law allows you two years from the official death date to file a wrongful death medical malpractice lawsuit. If you miss this crucial deadline, you lose the right to file a lawsuit. So, your medical malpractice attorney will have to figure out the best timing for filing the Complaint. In addition to the question of when to file the lawsuit, your attorney needs to figure out where to do so. Your medical malpractice attorney should spend considerable effort figuring out the best venue for your case. Several factors go into this analysis, including location of medical treatment and whether the county is typically supportive of medical malpractice plaintiffs.
Find the right expert
Not only do you need a medical expert to help prove that medical negligence occurred in your case – you need a medical expert who practices the same field of medicine as the healthcare professional who harmed you. For instance, if your injuries occurred during gastrointestinal surgery, your medical malpractice attorney will likely discuss the case with an expert who is a gastrointestinal surgeon.
File the Complaint and Certificate of Merit
Assuming the expert described above agrees that a medical error took place and caused your loved one’s injuries, the expert will prepare a Certificate of Merit. Your Pennsylvania medical malpractice attorney will file a Complaint along with the Certificate of Merit in court.
And thus begins your formal lawsuit against the defendants.
An experienced medical malpractice attorney in Pennsylvania will help you file (and win!) your medical malpractice lawsuit. Find one at VSCP Law.