Medical Malpractice FAQs

Medical malpractice is a specialized area of the law, so it’s no wonder that there are so many medical malpractice questions. The medical malpractice attorneys at Eisenberg, Rothweiler, Winkler, Eisenberg & Jeck, P.C. have successfully recovered more than $660 million in compensation for clients, showing our command of this area of the law.

Here are some of the medical malpractice faqs we receive:

What is medical malpractice?

Many people wonder, “What does malpractice mean?” Medical malpractice occurs when a healthcare provider delivers negligent healthcare to a patient that is inconsistent with the accepted standard of care. A healthcare provider can be held responsible for all damages that result from their negligent care.

The medical malpractice definition includes various types of mistakes, including:

  • Misdiagnosis
  • Delayed diagnosis
  • Misreading or misinterpreting x-rays or laboratory results
  • Emergency room errors
  • Failure to obtain relevant patient history
  • Failure to order proper testing
  • Failure to properly administer anesthesia
  • Failure to recognize symptoms
  • Failure to obtain informed consent
  • Surgical mistakes
  • Medication errors
  • Premature discharge
  • Negligent post-operative care
  • Negligence in the labor and delivery room

How do I know if I have a medical malpractice case?

Not all medical treatments are successful. Patients may have negative outcomes. This does not necessarily mean there is a medical malpractice case. Simply having a bad medical outcome is not enough to be successful in a medical malpractice case. Instead, you must show that the bad medical outcome is a result of your healthcare provider’s negligent care.

To prevail in a medical malpractice case, you must prove the following legal elements existed at the time of your injury:

  • There was a doctor-patient relationship.
  • The healthcare provider deviated from the accepted standard of care during your course of treatment.
  • Because of the healthcare provider’s breach of the standard of care, you were injured.

What is the standard of care in medical malpractice cases?

The standard of care is the type of care a competent healthcare provider in the same specialty would provide under similar circumstances. A medical expert usually testifies about the standard of care in a given case and then explains how the healthcare provider deviated from it.

What damages can be recovered in a medical malpractice claim?

You may be able to receive compensation for one or more of the following types of damages through a successful medical malpractice case:

Special Damages

 Special damages provide compensation for a victim’s monetary losses, such as:

  • Medical expenses, including past care, surgeries, hospitalizations, rehabilitation, and future anticipated medical expenses
  • Home healthcare expenses
  • Costs of medical equipment
  • Lost wages
  • Lost future earnings or earning capacity
  • Loss of comfort and support

General Damages

The law recognizes that a patient may be harmed in ways that are difficult to assign a dollar amount to. General damages provide compensation for things that are difficult to quantify, such as:

  • Pain and suffering
  • Mental and emotional distress
  • Disfigurement
  • Loss of enjoyment of life
  • Loss of consortium

Punitive Damages

Punitive damages are not intended as compensation to the victim. Instead, they are meant to punish someone who acts in an outrageous manner that society cannot tolerate. While punitive damages are rare in medical malpractice cases, they are sometimes awarded if the healthcare provider acted recklessly.

What is the time limit to file a medical malpractice case?

Each state has what is known as a “statute of limitations” for medical malpractice cases that sets a deadline for filing malpractice cases. In Pennsylvania, the general statute of limitations for medical malpractice cases is two years. However, there are exceptions to this time limit, such as if the injury could not have been reasonably discovered at the time it occurred or if the patient was a minor. A knowledgeable medical malpractice attorney can tell you how long you have to file a lawsuit based on your particular circumstances.

Can I sue the doctor?

If a doctor provided negligent healthcare that resulted in your injury, you might be able to sue them. Doctors may also be responsible for the actions of nurses and other medical staff under their supervision.

Can I sue the hospital?

That depends on the factors that contributed to the medical malpractice. Hospitals can be held  responsible for the actions of negligent doctors and other healthcare providers like nurses or technicians if they are their employers or the hospital does not make it clear to patients that doctors are independent contractors.

I was injured because a nurse gave me the wrong drug. Who can I sue?

If the nurse was negligent in giving you the wrong drug, you might be able to sue the nurse for the damages you suffered. If the nurse was an employee of the hospital, the hospital might also be liable for medical malpractice. Additionally, if the treating doctor was present and had control over the nurse, the doctor may be held liable for the nurse’s actions.

What are some proposals for reforming medical malpractice law?

Doctor groups and insurance companies claim that medical malpractice litigation causes healthcare expenses to increase because medical malpractice insurance rates increase. They criticize medical malpractice litigation and are seeking to reform the system.

Some proposals for reforming medical malpractice laws include:

  • Setting up special medical malpractice courts where a medically-trained judge decides cases
  • Capping damages and attorney fee awards
  • Shortening the statute of limitations so a patient has less time to bring a lawsuit after being injured

What are key arguments for and against reform?

Proponents of medical malpractice reform argue that medical malpractice causes medical malpractice insurance rates to increase, along with the cost of healthcare. Opponents argue that negligent healthcare providers should be held accountable for their treatment errors. They also argue that the rise in medical malpractice insurance rates is lower than in previous decades except for a few specialty areas.

Why do I need a medical malpractice lawyer?

Medical malpractice cases are some of the most complex cases. They often involve complicated legal and medical issues and require experts to help explain the areas of medicine involved. A medical malpractice lawyer can help by:

  • Assembling and interpreting your medical records
  • Interviewing witnesses to gather information about how the medical malpractice occurred
  • Answering all of your medical malpractice questions and advising you of your rights
  • Retaining medical experts to consult with them and testify on your behalf
  • Complying with complex procedural requirements in the courts
  • Calculating the full extent of your damages
  • Fighting for the best outcome in your case

How can ER Legal help?

The medical malpractice attorneys at Eisenberg, Rothweiler, Winkler, Eisenberg & Jeck, P.C. have extensive experience handling complex medical malpractice claims. While a lawsuit cannot undo the damage that a healthcare provider’s mistake causes, it may be able to ease the financial burden that you and your family are facing. Contact us today for a free case evaluation with an experienced medical malpractice attorney.