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How Does Medical Malpractice Differ from Ordinary Negligence?

Doctors In Surgery

If you are injured because of a medical negligence, you may wonder, how does medical malpractice differ from an ordinary negligence claim? Negligence is a legal theory called a tort, covering a wide range of cases. Medical malpractice is a specific type of negligence case for injuries caused by healthcare professionals, hospitals, or other organizations.

If you have been injured while getting medical care, you may feel betrayed by someone you trusted. You are probably frustrated by their lack of accountability for your suffering. It is a familiar story for Clifford A. Rieders. He has spent decades sharpening his skills and representing Pennsylvania families who suffered an injury or loss due to medical malpractice negligence and defective medical devices. Cliff is a past president of the Pennsylvania Trial Lawyers, now Pennsylvania Association for Justice, and he literally wrote the book on medical malpractice in Pennsylvania used by Pennsylvania lawyers and judges.

Ordinary negligence cases seek compensation for people injured by the lack of due care, sometimes called reasonable care, on the part of others. These claims are a way to resolve disputes when parties disagree about who is legally responsible for an injury. Insurance policies may cover negligence claims, like medical and hospital malpractice, but not always. There may be excess insurance policies. Some hospitals and even doctors are self-insured.

How Would You Prove an Ordinary Negligence Case?

There are several elements involved in proving a negligence case. These details may help you understand how negligence can differ from medical malpractice. You would have to prove the below.

You Were Owed a Legal Duty

That person or organization is required by law to show reasonable care so that you are not harmed. They are also required to do things to prevent you from being harmed. This is called a “duty of care.” They need to be concerned about you because of their relationship to you. In an example of medical negligence, you are the doctor’s patient.

They failed in their duty

The other party did not live up to their obligation. They did something that was careless or neglectful or recklessly indifferent. For example, a doctor may have prescribed you a medication even though your records show that you were allergic to it. This is different than a claim against the pharmaceutical manufacturer. Those claims are guided by a complex set of rules and laws.

The failure caused Harm and your injury

The negligence of another must be the legal cause of what happened to you. In Pennsylvania, that is called “factual cause.” For example, you had a harmful reaction to a medication that should not have been prescribed to you by a doctor or other healthcare professional.

You suffered harm because of that failure

In the example, the reaction you had, which the doctor should have been aware would occur, killed you or seriously injured someone, such as loss of kidney function.

Under Pennsylvania law, the party must compensate you for the harm

Because a person or organization negligently causes your injury, it must pay to make things right. Damages are guided by specific rules and principles in Pennsylvania. The harm measured in dollar is the damages in the case.

Medical negligence cases can be very complex, so working with a skilled and experienced attorney is important. Our team at Rieders Travis aggressively protects the rights of our clients to assist them in receiving the amount of the compensation which is due under the law. Our experienced attorneys may negotiate with insurance companies, if insurance is involved, to obtain a desirable outcome. As indicated earlier, some organizations are self-insured. Also in Pennsylvania, depending upon the size of the claim, the Mcare Fund may become involved, which is an arm of the Pennsylvania Insurance Department.

You Can be Partly to Blame but Still Have a Negligence Case

You can be partially at fault for an occurrence and still recover damages. Under Pennsylvania comparative negligence law, a share of fault is assigned to each side of a negligence claim. It shows how much their action, or inaction, led to the accident and injuries. Here are some examples of how you can be partially at fault and how that impacts the outcome of your case.

  • You may recover damages if you were no more than 50 percent at fault.
  • If your fault is greater than half, your case will be dismissed.
  • If your fault is less than 50%, your damages will be reduced by your share of the blame.
  • If a jury decides your fault is 25 percent, for example, then your damages will be cut by 25 percent.

In a medical malpractice case, the other party may try to blame you for your injury. They may say you did not follow instructions or you gave the doctor the wrong information. It may also blame another healthcare provider for the problem.

Pennsylvania also has a law dealing joint and several. In some cases, there may be more than one negligent party. In those circumstances, the party 60% or more responsible may be liable for the entirety of the verdict, should the matter go to court, depending upon a number of factors and principles that arise under the Joint Tortfeasors Act in Pennsylvania.

Medical Malpractice Cases Focus on Lack of Due Care by the Healthcare Industry

Medical malpractice claims follow negligence rules, but medical malpractice law and the facts of your case will be applied. The other party can be any healthcare provider or organization responsible for your injury. It can be a paramedic, nurse, physician, surgeon, radiologist, pathologist, psychiatrist, hospital, or medical practice. As long as facts show a connection from the party to your injury, you may have a valid medical malpractice claim.

Your claim would need to show:

  • At the time of the lack of due care, the party owed you a legal duty of care because there was a relationship between you and the healthcare provider.
  • The standard of care to be used in your case. It is what a reasonably prudent healthcare provider would have done under similar circumstances. What standard should be applied is often disputed. In most cases, there will be experts on both sides of the claim contending as to what the standard of care should be and whether an individual or organization met it.
  • The party’s conduct or lack of action was the factual cause of your injuries.
  • Your injuries caused you problems which resulted in harm, translated as damages. For example, you walk with a limp or suffer chronic headaches, or you cannot earn as much as you did before your injuries.
  • Under Pennsylvania law, there may even be punitive damages for punishment, but this is only in limited circumstances and there are caps on such damages.

The Difference Between Malpractice and Negligence

Medical malpractice cases typically are more complicated than most negligence cases. A lawyer must sign a certificate of merit after a Complaint is filed in a medical liability case attesting to the fact that the lawyer has obtained a “statement” from an appropriate healthcare professional. This is a requirement to weed out cases not supported by medical experts.

The certificate of merit signed by the attorney attests to the opinion of a doctor that there is a reasonable probability that the care and conduct of the party being sued were less than the acceptable professional standards. It also states that they played a role in causing your harm.

Get Help with Your Medical Malpractice Claim

The experienced and compassionate Williamsport medical malpractice lawyer Clifford A. Rieders of Rieders, Travis, Dohrmann, Mowrey, Humphrey & Waters has spent decades helping clients injured by negligent healthcare providers. If we accept a claim, we will aggressively, but appropriately, work hard for your right to reasonable compensation. We also offer a free telephone consultation to examine the facts of your case and show you how we can help. Call our offices at (570) 323-8711 today to set up your free telephone consultation. In certain cases, we will examine all the records in-house and do an evaluation prior to considering whether the matter should be sent out to a physician for review.