According to the Journal of the American Medical Association and The BMJ, malpractice is the third leading cause of death in the United States – right behind heart disease and cancer. Unfortunately, the numbers in Pennsylvania are also shocking, with more than 1,500 medical malpractice lawsuits filed each year. At a time when a patient is at their most vulnerable, they need to know that they can trust the medical professionals handling their care. When a mistake does happen, a Harrisburg medical malpractice lawyer at our firm can work hard for you,just as they have for the last 40 years.
What is Medical Malpractice?
Medical malpractice occurs when a health care professional fails to competently perform their medical duties, causing injury to a patient. To prove medical malpractice, an attorney in Harrisburg must show:
- The doctor owed the patient a professional duty of care.
When a doctor-patient relationship exists, it creates a professional duty of care on the part of the physician or medical professional. The health care professional has an obligation to treat the patient to the standard of care of the profession.
- The doctor breached the duty of care.
A negligent act or medical mistake can be a breach of the duty of care that a medical professional owed to a patient. The standard of care a doctor owes a patient may vary from practice to practice and procedure to procedure. For example, if a hospital physician fails to follow the protocol set by a hospital for a patient heart attack, that may be a breach of the standard of care. In Harrisburg, establishing the duty of care required by the physician, and a breach of the standard of care, requires an expert witness.
- The doctor’s breach of the duty of care caused an injury.
A malpractice claim must also show that the doctor’s breach of the standard of care actually caused an injury. For example, if a doctor fails to order a test that could diagnose your cancer, and your prognosis is significantly worse because of that, you have been injured.
- The injury resulted in damages.
A malpractice claim must also show that the injury resulted in specific damages. In Harrisburg, these damages may include economic and non-economic damages. Economic damages might include medical expenses, future medical care, lost wages or lost future earning potential, medical devices, or accommodations made in the home. Noneconomic damages include pain and suffering, emotional anguish, disfigurement, disability, and loss of quality of life.
How Long Do I Have to File a Claim?
In addition to the elements of the medical malpractice claim, a lawsuit must also be filed within the statute of limitations. In Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, you must file a malpractice suit within two years of the date the malpractice occurred, but the statute is “tolled” or delayed until the patient knows, or reasonably should have known, of the injury. For example, if a surgeon leaves a sponge in a patient during surgery and the patient doesn’t discover the error until the sponge causes complications, the statute of limitations will begin when the patient discovered or should have reasonably discovered, the error.
Common Medical Malpractice Mistakes in Harrisburg
Some of the most common medical mistakes involve delayed or incorrect diagnoses, improper treatment, birth injuries, and failure to warn a patient of known risks.
- Failure to Diagnose: A misdiagnosis, a failure to diagnose, or a delay in diagnosis can all result in a delay of necessary treatment for a patient, which can seriously impact a patient’s health or prognosis.
- Improper Treatment: Negligent procedures or surgical errors can result from overworked, sleep deprived, and distracted medical professionals.
- Birth Injuries: Some of the most common birth injuries result from a physician’s failure to ensure that a patient is covered by another physician familiar with a patient’s clinical history and the overuse of oxytocin, particularly when a baby is in distress.
- Failure to Warn a Patient of Known Risks: When a patient isn’t fully informed about the possible risks and reasonable alternatives to medical treatment, it can result in injury and unnecessary treatments for a patient.
- Medication Errors: Mistakes in drug doses, improper medications, or failing to account for drug interactions result in nearly 1 million medication errors every year.
For more information, be sure to check out our medical malpractice videos on our YouTube channel, or speak with one of our lawyers in Harrisburg today.
Do I Have a Malpractice Case?
The best way to determine if you have a viable medical malpractice claim in Harrisburg is to consult an experienced lawyer. Medical malpractice can range from medical and surgical errors to misdiagnoses or medication errors. While sometimes it may be obvious that you have been seriously injured by medical negligence, it can still be difficult to know where to turn and who will be on your side.
We provide free consultations and can help you evaluate your case; work with medical professionals to help prove a breach of the standard of care, causation, and damages; prove your full economic and non-economic damages; negotiate with insurance adjusters; make sure your suit is filed within the statute of limitations; and bring your case to court.
What is the Medical Malpractice Tort Reform?
Tort reform involves placing caps on the damages that an injured person can receive from a medical malpractice claim. The idea is to make the medical malpractice system more equitable and efficient, while still ensuring patient safety. Many in the medical profession blame medical malpractice claims for the rising costs of practicing medicine and, ultimately, the rising cost of health care. However, while medical malpractice claim costs are still on the rise, patient safety and an equitable system of compensating victims have not been protected.
Medical malpractice tort reform in Pennsylvania has nonetheless resulted in some limits on damage awards. Punitive damages, damages intended to punish a wrongdoer, are not allowed in PA, but all other economic and non-economic damages are generally allowed.
What Types of Medical Malpractice Claims Do Attorneys Handle?
Our lawyers handle a full range of medical malpractice claims against all medical professionals, including nurses, doctors, pharmacists, and hospital negligence in Harrisburg. We’ve handled everything from anesthesia errors to birth injuries; wrongful death; surgical errors; brain injury; diagnosis errors, including cancer misdiagnosis, delayed diagnosis, and failure to diagnose. We also handle “never events,” mistakes that should never happen, like operating on the wrong limb or leaving a sponge inside a patient’s body cavity.
Contact a Harrisburg Medical Malpractice Attorney
The Harrisburg malpractice lawyers and attorneys at our firm work hard on behalf of every client, treating them like family. We’ve been fighting for justice for the victims of medical mistakes for more than 40 years. Our team is led by award-winning malpractice attorney Dennis Abrams. Mr. Abrams has settled dozens of claims on behalf of victims and received substantial awards for his clients. Our team also includes an attorney who is a physician and an attorney who is a nurse. We can evaluate your case and medical records in-house, to ensure that you can make the best decision after your injury.
If you or a loved one in Harrisburg suspect that you may be the victim of medical malpractice, the professionals’ attorneys at Lowenthal & Abrams, Injury Attorneys can help. Contact us today for a free consultation.