Legal Guide

3 Facts About Medical Malpractice for Patients and Families

When we seek medical attention, we expect to receive the needed care professionally and accurately. It’s unthinkable that a health care professional’s careless behavior can endanger a patient’s life and well-being, but it happens all too frequently.

Medical malpractice is a complex area of law that’s necessary in holding those in the medical industry accountable for providing high quality care to every patient. Below are three facts about medical malpractice that patients and their families should now in order to protect themselves in case something should ever go wrong.

1. Medical malpractice refers to a variety of errors.

There are many different kinds of medical errors that can harm a patient. Surgical errors can range from nicking a blood vessel, causing nerve damage, making a mistake with anesthesia, and even leaving a foreign object inside a patient’s body. Other medical professionals have acted negligently by failing to diagnose a problem correctly or within a reasonable amount of time. Medication errors, birth injuries, and nurses’ mistakes are also medical malpractice, and there are many others. Any of these errors can cause a person to suffer lifelong pain. Sometimes, they are fatal.

Since malpractice occurs when a patient is already receiving medical care, it’s often difficult to pinpoint what happened and whether the harm done was due to medical negligence. “Medical malpractice is one of the most challenging areas of personal injury law,” said Gay & Chacker partner and medical malpractice lawyer Edward Chacker. “If you went to a doctor for help and they committed negligence, that means that they did not do what other reasonable doctors would have done. They deviated from the standard of medical care. It’s important to have an experienced lawyer who understands medicine and the intricacies of what went wrong.” Many law firms offer free initial consultations with no obligation, giving patients and their families an opportunity to tell their story and get helpful advice without worrying about another bill. Then, if they do decide to pursue a claim against those who acted negligently, they will be armed with the right information.

2. There is a state-specific time limit to filing a claim.

Each state has its own law, called a statute of limitations, regarding the filing deadline for a personal injury claim. In other words, if a health care professional acted negligently and you suffered harm, you only have a certain time frame to seek compensation. Some states have laws that specifically apply to medical malpractice lawsuits, while others fall under the category of personal injury law. Oftentimes, states give patients one, two, or three years from the date the harm was inflicted to start the claim process. Pennsylvania, for example, requires an injured patient to file a claim within two years of the date that the alleged medical negligence happened. However, that timeframe does not begin until the injured person finds out (or should have found out) that he or she was harmed by malpractice, for up to seven years after the date of the error.

The best thing to do is to contact an experienced law firm as soon as you suspect that medical negligence might be to blame for the harm you’ve suffered. A medical malpractice attorney can look into the details of the situation and help determine whether you have grounds to file a claim against those responsible.

3. Filing a claim seeks more than compensation for medical bills.

If an act of medical negligence harmed you, you’re likely facing the need for additional treatment, therapy, and maybe even home equipment and long-term care. More care means more bills. And if you lost a loved one, the unexpected funeral expenses can put you in a financial bind. Filing a claim against the hospital, doctor’s office, or other facility, as well as against the individual who acted carelessly, seeks compensation for the financial expenses that resulted.

However, a legal claim can do more. Victims can also seek restitution for the income they have lost and will lose as a result of the incident. They may also recover for pain and suffering, which refers to both the physical pain and mental anguish that this incident caused, including the loss of enjoyment of life. On rare occasions, a medical malpractice lawsuit can even seek punitive damages, which are meant to punish the defendant for particularly egregious behavior.

Finally, a medical malpractice claim sends an important message that those who act negligently must take responsibility for their actions. It’s a person’s right in the American civil justice system to hold someone accountable for causing them harm. It is also an action that can help prevent another patient from falling victim in a similar situation, by making it clear to the facility and personnel that they will answer for any negligence they commit.

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