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Philadelphia Medical Malpractice Attorney

 

At the Philadelphia, Pennsylvania personal injury law firm of The Levin Firm we represent clients who have been injured by medical malpractice. Our personal injury attorneys understand that medical practice cases require a team of lawyers, nurses and others trained to review the facts of these cases, including medical records. At The Levin Firm, our Philadelphia, Pennsylvania medical malpractice personal injury lawyers aggressively and zealously represent our clients and obtain the best possible results. We also work with highly-regarded medical malpractice experts to determine the type of medical malpractice and how and why it happened. At times, we will work with other law firms that have particular expertise to assure that our clients receive the most thorough and zealous representation.

malpracticeMedical malpractice happens in many ways, and the effects of a doctor’s or a hospital’s negligence can be catastrophic. Medical malpractice occurs when a physician, nurse, or other health care provider deviates from the appropriate standard of care in the medical community and injures a patient. The most common types of medical malpractice include anesthesia mistakes, improper treatment, failure to deliver a baby properly, prescribing the wrong medication or the incorrect dosage of a drug, diagnosis errors, performing surgery improperly or performing surgery that was not necessary, failure to diagnose cancer and other conditions, infections that occur from improperly sterilized equipment or facilities, and failing to obtain a patient’s informed consent before performing surgery or other procedures.

When you go to a doctor or other healthcare professional seeking care, you rightfully expect that the care you receive will make your condition better, not worse. Unfortunately, not all doctors are created equal and some fail to provide the standard of care expected in the medical profession.

Medical malpractice is a widespread problem that can happen to any patient when they least expect it. While medical malpractice laws recognize that injured patients should have the right to seek financial recovery, such laws are strict and can be confusing. For this reason, if you have been injured by poor medical care, it is time to consult a medical malpractice attorney. With the help of a skilled medical malpractice lawyer, you can be compensated for the injuries you received at the hands of a doctor, nurse, or hospital.

Every doctor and similar medical professional has the responsibility to act with a certain duty of care. This duty of care is to perform in a way that a similarly situated medical professional with reasonable skill and competence would have performed under the same circumstances. When a doctor fails to uphold this standard of care[1] and a patient suffers unnecessary injury, medical malpractice occurs.

Medical errors can be minor or they can be severe, even causing the death of a patient who otherwise would have survived. In an article regarding medical malpractice, Forbes Magazine reported[2] that an estimated 200,000 people die as a result of medical errors on an annual basis. Even if patients survive the medical error, such mistakes can cause unnecessary complications, can exacerbate medical conditions, or even cause new illnesses or injuries that otherwise would not have been suffered.

Though medical malpractice is relatively rare—as most medical professionals do meet the appropriate standard of care—it is important to be educated on the different types of medical malpractice and how they can affect you a loved one. The following are brief overviews of the most common types of medical malpractice in the United States

What is Medical Malpractice?

Failure to diagnose, delay in diagnosis, or misdiagnosis

Medical Malpractice When you go to an emergency department or doctor’s office presenting certain symptoms, the doctor should ask all of the appropriate questions, run all of the proper tests, and take any other necessary steps to accurately and completely diagnose your condition. Unfortunately, some medical professionals do not delve deep enough into a patient’s medical history or symptoms to correctly diagnose their condition in a timely fashion.

For example, the symptoms of a minor heart attack are often similar to that of acid reflux. Too often, doctors diagnose a patient with acid reflux and send them home with medication, only to have the patient have a more severe heart event at a later date. On many occasions, if the doctor had performed tests such as an electrocardiogram or an angiogram, or had simply asked more about the patient’s family medical history, the first heart attack would have been easily diagnosed and the patient would have received proper treatment to avoid future episodes.

Diagnosis issues often cause additional complications because it causes a delay in the proper treatment for a patient’s illness. For instance, if a cancer patient receives a diagnosis at stage one, the disease can often be successfully treated. If a doctor error causes the diagnosis to be delayed to stage four, the patient has a much lesser chance of survival even with treatment.

Medical Misdiagnosis

When you have symptoms of an illness arise, your first instinct should be to visit your doctor or another type of healthcare provider to have any medical condition diagnosed. There are many tools that doctors have for diagnosing illnesses and a proper diagnosis is imperative to ensure you receive the necessary treatment for your condition. Unfortunately, a large number of patients receive an inaccurate diagnosis each and every year in Philadelphia and across the U.S.

Common Harmful Misdiagnoses

While any medical condition could potentially be misdiagnosed, there are some conditions that are misdiagnosed more regularly than others and that can cause particular harm to patients. The following are some examples of commonly misdiagnosed illnesses.

Heart attack – One of the main symptoms of a heart attack is chest pain, however, there are many other signs that a patient has suffered a heart attack and may have serious heart disease. However, in many situations, a heart attack can be misdiagnosed as a panic attack or even simple indigestion. This results in patients with serious cardiovascular risks being sent home from the emergency department or doctor’s office with antacids or anti-anxiety medication. In many cases, these patients may have needed heart medicine or even surgery to protect them from future heart attacks. Without the proper treatment, many patients will suffer additional life-threatening heart attacks that could have been prevented with a proper diagnosis.

Cancer – Different types of cancers can have widely varying symptoms. Symptoms like fatigue, weakness, or nausea can often be misdiagnosed as a wide range of simpler illnesses, especially if there is no obvious tumor site. However, when cancer is diagnosed in the early stages of the disease, there is a much better chance of successfully treating cancer with less severe treatments. However, cancer that is not diagnosed initially can quickly progress into later stages of the disease, which can require significantly more invasive and aggressive treatments such as surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation. These treatments can make a cancer patient seriously ill and can lower their immune system, thereby increasing the risks of life-threatening illness. Sometimes, if a cancer diagnosis is delayed too long, the disease may not be treatable at all and may be fatal.

Meningitis – Meningitis is an often life-threatening illness that requires immediate medical treatment to save a patient’s life – especially if the patient is a child. Unfortunately, meningitis can often be misdiagnosed as a virus if a doctor does not perform the necessary tests to identify a bacterial illness. Bacterial meningitis1 is the most severe and life-threatening type. If bacterial meningitis is misdiagnosed as a viral condition, the patient may suffer brain damage or even death.

The above are only a few of the many serious situations that can result from a medical misdiagnosis.

Common Reasons for a Misdiagnosis

Sometimes, a misdiagnosis is based on simple human error, as other doctors in the same situation may have also missed the correct diagnosis. However, in many cases, a misdiagnosis occurs because a doctor was negligent. There are many forms of medical negligence2 that can result in a medical misdiagnosis, including the following:

  • Failing to ask the proper questions regarding symptoms;
  • Failing to inquire about a patient’s medical history;
  • Not performing the tests needed to screen for certain conditions;
  • Misinterpreting the results of lab or imaging tests;
  • Not referring a patient to a doctor in a more specialized practice when needed;
  • Failing to follow up with patients regarding the continuation of symptoms;
  • Not exploring alternative diagnoses when treatment is ineffective.

Surgical errors

Doctors can make many mistakes during surgery that can lead to greater injury for a patient. If it is a simple mistake, it will likely not rise up to the level of medical malpractice. However, if a doctor uses poor judgment during a surgery and does not perform as a surgeon should, it is likely that medical malpractice occurred. Some examples of surgical malpractice include being distracted, fatigued, or even impaired during a procedure or allowing an unqualified assistant to perform tasks during the procedure. Surgical errors can result in the following and more:Surgical Errors

  • Operating on the wrong side of the body or even the completely wrong body part
  • Performing the wrong procedure on the wrong patient
  • Puncturing organs near the surgery
  • Leaving instruments or objects inside the body
  • Mistakes involving surgical robots[3] or other technologies
  • Not performing appropriate care post-operation resulting in infection

All of these mistakes can cause serious complications for a patient, even if they were only undergoing a minor procedure. Furthermore, particularly ill, elderly, or other relatively weak patients may not survive such surgical mistakes.

Errors involving medication

A study conducted in 2006[4] estimated that approximately 1.5 million individuals suffer harm from medication errors on an annual basis in the United States. The processes of distributing and administrating prescription medication have many opportunities for harmful errors. Some of the most common medication errors include the following:

  • A medical professional prescribes the incorrect medication for the condition.
  • A doctor fails to inquire into patient allergies or other medications that may react with the newly prescribed medication.
  • A doctor prescribes the incorrect dosage for a particular patient.
  • A nurse or another hospital staff member administers the incorrect medication or dosage despite having a correct prescription.
  • Medical equipment meant to automatically administer medication malfunctions, which often results in a patient receiving too large of a dose in too short a time.

Medication is often an integral part of a patient’s treatment, stabilization, and more. When medication errors occur because doctors or other medical professionals are not sufficiently careful, patients can suffer serious injury and complications.

Childbirth Injuries

Statistics indicate that an estimated 28,000 children[5] are born with birth injuries every year in the United States. A large number of these birth injuries are caused due to medical malpractice. Medical malpractice can lead to childbirth injuries in many different ways, including the following:

  • Failing to identify medical conditions of the mother during pregnancy, including preeclampsia, anemia, hypoglycemia, gestational diabetes, ectopic pregnancies, and more.
  • Failing to identify significant birth defects that would require special treatment or consideration during pregnancy.
  • Failing to otherwise provide proper prenatal care.
  • Failing to properly identify potential complications during childbirth (i.e. umbilical cord around the baby’s neck) and prepare for them as such.
  • Not properly monitoring the condition of both mother and child during labor and delivery.
  • Not responding to distress on the part of the mother or child in a timely fashion.
  • Improper use of a vacuum or forceps during childbirth.
  • Not ordering a cesarean section in a timely manner when appropriate.

Such mistakes during pregnancy and childbirth can result in numerous injuries to the mother and child. Some of these injuries, such as cerebral palsy,[6] Erb’s Palsy,[7] spinal cord injuries, and perinatal asphyxia,8 can affect a child for the rest of his or her life.

Other Types of Medical Malpractice

There are many different ways that medical malpractice can occur, as there are many different mistakes that doctors can make in many different situations. Some common causes of medical injuries can include the following:

  • Delayed diagnosis
  • Cosmetic/Plastic surgery errors
  • Infections contracted in a hospital or due to a doctor’s care
  • Mistakes during C-sections
  • Cerebral palsy1 due to errors during labor and delivery
  • Cardiac catheterization
  • Surgery on the wrong patient or the wrong site in the body
  • Foreign objects left in the body after surgery
  • Laparoscopic surgery mistakes
  • Performing surgery while fatigued or intoxicated
  • Sepsis
  • Severed nerves
  • Severed arteries
  • Punctured arteries
  • Birth Injuries Caused By A Doctor’s Negligence
  • Surgical Errors
  • Post Surgery Injuries Due To Negligence
  • Elder Care Abuse
  • Nursing Home Abuse
  • Abuse Of Those With Special Needs
  • Mistakes In The Emergency Room
  • Medical Malpractice Leading To Amputation
  • Medical Malpractice leading to Wrongful Death
  • Failure To Diagnose

Pennsylvania Medical Malpractice Law

It is important for injured patients to understand that medical malpractice claims are significantly different and often much more complicated than ordinary personal injury claims. This is why it is important to find an attorney who is familiar with the process and the laws, which can vary significantly from state to state.

For example, in Pennsylvania, the following laws may have a substantial impact on your case:

Statute of Limitations – This is the time limit that you have to file a claim with the civil courts. In many situations, this time limit is fairly straightforward. However, in medical malpractice claims, many variables can affect what the statute of limitations may be in your case. For example, the following may apply:

  • Two years from the date you reasonably discovered that you suffered an injury due to a medical professional;
  • Seven years from the date of the injury even if you did not discover it until late (this time limit does not apply if you had a foreign object left in your body);
  • For minors, seven years from their 20th birthday, regardless of when the injury happened or was discovered;
  • For cases resulting in death, two years from the wrongful death.

Damage Caps – Unlike many states, Pennsylvania does not have laws that limit the economic damages or non-economic damages2 in medical malpractice cases, which can be for medical bills, pain and suffering, and more. Instead, the law only limits the amount of punitive damages you can seek, which are damages awarded to punish the doctor. While punitive damages are rare, they can be awarded in cases involving particularly egregious or intentional actions on the part of your doctor. Punitive damages are capped at twice the amount of the economic damages you suffered.

There are also laws that address when damages must be paid periodically, the requirements for the testimony of experts, contributory negligence, and many other legal issues that may be present in a medical malpractice case. If you have been injured as a result of a doctor’s negligence, you have a limited time to act. The sooner you meet with an attorney, the sooner the process can start.

Discuss Your Rights with an Experienced Philadelphia Medical Malpractice Attorney

At The Levin Firm in Philadelphia, we can review your situation and help determine whether or not your misdiagnosis resulted in the right to bring legal action against your doctor. Our medical malpractice attorney has handled many cases involving misdiagnosis and other forms of malpractice, so please call for a free consultation at 215-825-5183 today.

1http://www.cdc.gov/meningitis/bacterial.html

2https://www.law.cornell.edu/wex/negligence

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