How long can you sue for medical malpractice in Pennsylvania?
In the state of Pennsylvania, the statute of limitations for medical malpractice claims is two years from the date that the plaintiff discovers his or her injuries (or alternatively, the date that the plaintiff reasonably should have discovered his or her injuries). For example, suppose that you go in for surgery, and one year later, symptoms begin to appear that alert you to the possibility that the surgery was conducted negligently. Your medical malpractice claim would begin to run from the date that you discovered the injury that was caused by the malpractice.
Are there damage caps on what I can recover in my Pennsylvania medical malpractice lawsuit?
Pennsylvania does not implement damage caps on compensatory damages (i.e., economic and noneconomic damages, such as wage loss, medical expenses, pain and suffering, emotional distress, etc.). Instead, there are very narrow and specific limits imposed on punitive damages, which are only awarded in rare cases where the defendant’s conduct is particularly egregious or malicious in nature. The punitive damage cap for medical malpractice recovery in Pennsylvania is two times the compensatory damages.
Should I get an autopsy if I think there was medical malpractice?
Unfortunately, when one of our loved ones dies in the hospital, a host of practical decisions must be made immediately. One of those decisions is whether or not to get an autopsy.
We have seen that many people who are struggling with the loss of a loved one decide against an autopsy because they feel their loved one has already been through enough. This is often a big mistake. Many times an autopsy is a very good idea. A sensible rule of thumb is this: If you have any degree of suspicion — any degree at all — that your loved one who died in the hospital should not have died when or how they did, GET AN AUTOPSY!
We have had and won cases based on autopsy reports. An autopsy is the only way to know for sure what caused your loved one’s death and to find out whether the death was the result of medical malpractice or medical negligence by a doctor or hospital employees.
What is the difference between a mistake and actionable negligence in the medical malpractice context?
The difference between a mistake and medical malpractice is fundamentally a question of the standard of care and whether it has been violated by the healthcare professional. The standard of care depends on the circumstances.
Suppose, for example, that the defendant is a healthcare professional who misdiagnosed your illness. The court will assess the standard of care based on expert testimony and argument relating to what another similarly trained healthcare professional would have done in the same circumstances. If another healthcare professional in the same circumstances could have reasonably misdiagnosed you, then the defendant will not be found liable for medical malpractice.
What type of medical errors can lead to a medical malpractice lawsuit?
There are a number of different medical errors that commonly lead to a medical malpractice lawsuit. These errors include:
• Surgical errors
• Failure to diagnose correctly
• Delayed diagnosis
• Medication errors (i.e., prescribing the wrong medication or prescribing the incorrect amount of medication)
• Failure to properly sanitize equipment
• Negligent testing (i.e., improper procedure)
What makes a medical malpractice lawsuit challenging?
In some states – such as California, where damage caps on medical malpractice recovery limit potential compensation – medical malpractice claims can be challenging to litigate since they tend to be quite expensive. Medical experts will have to be consulted, and investigation of the facts can demand substantial resources. In Pennsylvania, however, much of the challenge in litigating a medical malpractice claim is based on the inequity of power and legitimacy between the patient-victim and the healthcare professional. When you litigate a medical malpractice claim in PA, you will have to overcome the inherent bias that jurors are likely to have toward a healthcare professional, particularly if that professional has had a long and successful career.
Do I have a right to see my medical records in Pennsylvania?
Yes. Pursuant to a federal law called HIPAA, you are entitled to inspect or copy your medical records. If you request a copy of your records, your health care provider is entitled to charge a cost-based fee that includes only the cost of (a) copying; and (b) postage, when you request that the copy be mailed to you.