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Medical and Hospital Malpractice FAQ’s

Frequently Aksed Questions


inner-content-img4If the problem was caused by negligence or other conduct that violates the law and you have suffered serious harm as a result, you may have grounds for a medical or hospital lawsuit to obtain compensation for your loss. Not everything that goes wrong during a medical procedure necessarily supports a valid medical or hospital malpractice claim. These cases are highly dependent upon the facts and circumstances.

How do you know when to call a lawyer? Medical and hospital malpractice is highly regulated by a complex body of rules and laws. Pennsylvania has the Mcare Act, and we also have to address and follow the Pennsylvania Rules of Civil Procedure. There are even potential federal claims where medical and hospital malpractice is concerned.

For a claim to be well handled, you need to have competent and experienced counsel.

Under most circumstances, the burden of proof is to a preponderance of the evidence. That burden is on the patient. The experienced and compassionate Pennsylvania medical and hospital malpractice attorney Clifford A. Rieders of Rieders, Travis, Dohrmann, Mowrey, Humphrey & Waters, has spent decades honing his skills and successfully representing Pennsylvania families who have suffered injury or loss due to medical negligence and faulty devices. We offer a free consultation to examine your situation and show you how we can help.

Cliff Rieders has literally written the book on medical malpractice in Pennsylvania. The encyclopedic work, Medical Malpractice in Pennsylvania, is used by most lawyers in the state and is on the shelves of many judges. He is a past President of the Pennsylvania Trial Lawyers Association, now Pennsylvania Association for Justice. Rieders is a Board Certified Civil Trial Advocate and is extremely well credentialed. Check out his resume.

Here are some answers to questions that are frequently asked about medical and hospital malpractice.

What is considered medical and hospital malpractice?

According to Pennsylvania law, medical malpractice occurs when a healthcare professional commits medical negligence by violating the generally accepted standard of care used by other medical professionals in the same field. The medical negligence must be a factual cause resulting in the patient’s injuries.
These elements must be present:

  1. There was a violation of the “standard of care” – the degree of prudence and caution required of a medical professional who is under a duty of care. Medical expert testimony is necessary. The Mcare Act strictly regulates who can testify in a medical liability claim. Sometimes obtaining that professional to testify so that the lawyer can sign a Certificate of Merit is the most difficult part of the case.
  2. The injury was factually caused by the negligence of another, whether that be an individual doctor, nurse or health care provider, or whether the negligence is vicarious or corporate in nature.
  3. Damages that are serious.

What are examples of medical negligence?

Examples include:

  • Making an incorrect diagnosis, failure to diagnose, or providing inappropriate treatment for the diagnosis
  • Prescribing wrong medication or dosage
  • Not considering a patient’s medical history
  • Surgical errors, doing unnecessary surgery or operating on the wrong body part
  • Laboratory errors or ignoring laboratory results
  • Leaving a foreign object in the body after surgery
  • Errors in anesthesia administration
  • Birth injuries that lead to oxygen deprivation or other serious consequences
  • Emergency room injuries
  • Lack of informed consent may be a claim, but in Pennsylvania it must be proven that lack of informed consent was a substantial factor in the patient undergoing the procedure. The Mcare Act has also enhanced the procedures for which lack of informed consent may be claimed.

Who can be held responsible?

Any type of health care professional and any medical facility or company they work for can be held liable for medical malpractice, and more than one party can be responsible.

This may include:

  • Doctors and surgeons
  • Emergency room staff
  • Nurses
  • Anesthesiologists
  • Dentists
  • Psychiatrists
  • Hospitals, clinics and nursing homes
  • Government institutions
  • Pharmaceutical and medical device manufacturers.

What compensation can I receive?

If you win a medical malpractice case, you may receive compensation for economic or monetary damages, and for non-economic damages as well.

Possible economic damages include:

  • Medical expenses, such as costs for rehabilitation, therapy, and corrective surgeries. There are certain circumstances when, under the Mcare Act, a person may not recover medical or hospital expenses. There is a specific provision in the law for when medical and hospital expenses can be recovered and when they cannot be recovered. This is another matter that you need to talk with an attorney about.
  • Time spent away from work, lost wages and earnings and potential future earnings. Again, the circumstances of when such a claim can be made depends upon the dictates of the Mcare Act.
  • Funeral costs.
Non-economic damages refer to intangible losses, such as emotional or psychological inflictions stemming from the injury.

Examples include:

  • Pain and suffering
  • Emotional distress and trauma
  • Loss of consortium and companionship
  • Disfigurement
  • Loss of life’s pleasures.

In some cases, where a medical professional acted in ways that are deemed to invoke punitive damages, punitive damages may be awarded by the court to punish the person involved. Punitive damages are rarely awarded, and they are regulated strictly by the Mcare Act.

Will I have to go to court?

It depends on the case. Statistics show that over 90% of medical malpractice cases are settled out of court and they rarely go to trial. If the evidence points to the liability of a health care provider, a settlement is often offered, since this avoids the court fees of an actual trial. If both sides in a case agree to a settlement, the provider will pay the agreed amount of money. However, if your case goes to trial, it is 100% for you. There certainly can be no guarantee as to what cases will settle and what cases go to trial.

What is the cost to speak to an attorney?

Medical malpractice representation is done on a contingency basis. This means you do not have to pay anything for the attorney’s fees unless we are successful in recovering money for you. The fee will be an agreed-upon percentage of the settlement. We like to utilize in our office a sliding scale so as to make the fee more affordable. We advance the costs of our consultations and out-of-pocket costs, which can be considerable. Contingent fee agreement includes the amount of the contingent fee, should there be a successful recovery, and any of the costs listed on the fee agreement.

Is there a statute of limitations?

In Pennsylvania, the statute of limitations is two (2) years from the date the cause of action accrues. Pennsylvania does have a discovery rule, sometimes called the tolling rule. This is a very complex area of law as well, covered in Cliff Rieders’ book on medical malpractice in Pennsylvania. For a “discovery” case, the statute of limitations begins to run when a person knew or, in the exercise of reasonable diligence, should have known of the relationship between the medical care and the harm. Pennsylvania also has a statute of repose, which is seven (7) years.

However, there is a Minor’s Tolling Act in Pennsylvania. A minor does not have to start an action prior to the age of 20.

The law in Pennsylvania is still not absolutely clear in a death case. When a case involves death, they can bring both a wrongful death and survival action. The wrongful death action must be brought within two (2) years of the date of death. However, the survival action may have to be brought within two (2) years of when the cause of action accrued, which could even be before death! This is a very confusing area of the law, and the courts have not absolutely resolved it. We like to use the earliest possible dates.

What should I do if I think I have suffered medical or hospital malpractice?

You must act quickly because time limits will apply, and delaying action could mean forever losing your right to seek compensation. Some steps you should take include:

  • Act quickly to avoid the statute of limitations or loss of evidence.
  • Contact our experienced medical malpractice attorney for legal guidance.
  • Get copies of all of your medical records. Make sure that you ask for them on CD and say that they are for “personal” use so that you get the special patient rate.
  • Get a medical evaluation from an independent party. Sometimes you may want a medical evaluation from an independent party or a second opinion. That is something you would want to discuss with the attorney.
  • Obtain all financial records and receipts for related expenses and income loss.
  • Keep a diary and write down what is happening to you and how you have been affected physically and emotionally. Do not keep or start a diary until you have actually retained an attorney, or the diary may not be attorney-client privilege. This is something you have to be very careful about.

Contact Us for a Free Consultation

If you or a loved one has suffered from medical malpractice, time is of the essence. It is essential to have a skilled and knowledgeable medical malpractice lawyer on your side, especially since the laws are so complicated.

Based in Williamsport, we serve clients throughout the state of Pennsylvania, offering a free consultation on all injury matters. More than that, we offer you experience, knowledge, compassion, and a long history of results.

Whether in settlement negotiations or pursuing a favorable trial verdict, the experienced Pennsylvania medical malpractice attorney Cliff Rieders is familiar with the law and thoroughly prepared and committed to achieving a just outcome and getting you the compensation you deserve. With our sizeable staff, we offer strength in numbers while providing top-notch personal service.

If you or your loved one has suffered from medical malpractice, do not delay. Consult our attorney by calling 1-(570) 323-8711 for a free consultation, or use our online contact form.

Attorney Cliff Rieders

Attorney Cliff RiedersCliff Rieders is a Nationally Board Certified Trial Lawyer practicing personal injury law. A large part of his practice involves multi-district litigation, including cases related to pharmaceuticals, vitamin supplements and medical devices. He is admitted in several state and federal courts, as well as the Supreme Court of the United States. Rieders is the past regional president of the Federal Bar Association and is a life member of the distinguished American Law Institute, which promulgates proposed rules adopted by many state courts. He is a past president of the Pennsylvania Association for Justice, formerly Pennsylvania Trial Lawyers Association. As a founder of the Pennsylvania Patient Safety Authority, he served on the Board for 15 years.

Not only has Rieders held many highly esteemed, leadership positions, he authored legislation related to the Patient Safety Authority and the Mcare Act, which governs medical and hospital liability actions in Pennsylvania. He authored texts upon which both practitioners and judges rely, including Pennsylvania Malpractice Laws and Forms, and Financial Responsibility Law Issues in Pennsylvania, the latter governing auto and truck collisions in Pennsylvania. In addition, he wrote several books on the practice of law in Pennsylvania regarding wrongful death and survivor actions, insurance bad faith, legal malpractice claims and worker rights, among others. Rieders also serves as a resource to practitioners as a regular speaker for Celesq, an arm of the world’s largest legal publisher, Thomson Reuters West Publishing.

As recognition of his wide range of contribution to his profession and of his dedication to protecting the rights of his clients, he received numerous awards, among them the George F. Douglas Amicus Curiae Award, the Milton D. Rosenberg Award, the B’nai B’rith Justice Award, and awards of recognition from the Pennsylvania Trial Lawyers. [ Attorney Bio ]