It has been estimated that preventable medical mistakes cause 1,000 deaths and 10,000 cases of serious complications per day. Medical malpractice can happen anywhere, including doctors’ offices, ambulatory care centers, surgery centers, urgent care centers, physical rehabilitation medical facilities, and even at renowned medical institutions.
In Pennsylvania, medical malpractice claims are governed by the Medical Care Availability and Reduction of Error Act, the MCARE Act (Pa. Stat. Ann. tit. 40, §§ 1303.101 to 1303.910 (Westlaw 2007)). The act states that if a medical professional was negligent or incompetent, the patient may be eligible to file a medical malpractice claim. Cliff Rieders was instrumental in the writing of the Bill. At the time the Bill was enacted by the legislature, Cliff Rieders was President of the Pennsylvania Trial Lawyers Association, now the Pennsylvania Association for Justice. Rieders appointed one of the negotiating committees involved with writing the Act. Rieders even wrote some parts of the MCARE Act. Rieders has testified before the legislature in connection with medical and hospital malpractice, the MCARE Act, and medical malpractice insurance issues as well.
Malpractice cases have been brought against local institutions such as the Susquehanna Health System, Evangelical Community Hospital, Geisinger Medical Center, Memorial Hospital, Robert Packer Hospital and Guthrie Clinic, among others. Cliff Rieders obtained a verdict against Robert Packer Guthrie for $16.8 million in a medical malpractice claim.
If you or a loved one has suffered because of medical malpractice or incompetence due to negligence from health care professionals and/or institutions, you need legal representation. The experienced medical malpractice attorneys of Rieders, Travis, Humphrey, Waters & Dohrmann have spent decades honing their skills and successfully representing Pennsylvania families who have suffered an injury or loss due to medical negligence. We offer a free consultation to examine your situation and show you how we can help.
What Constitutes Medical 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 local medical professionals or is lacking in competence. The medical negligence must be a factual cause of harm to the patient.
There are many situations where medical malpractice occurs, including:
- Failure to diagnose, evaluate, monitor, or fully treat a patient
- Inappropriate treatment for the diagnosis
- Laboratory errors
- Mismanagement of medical tests
- Birth injuries
- Prescribing or administering incorrect medication
- Surgical errors
- Errors in anesthesia administration
- Pharmaceutical errors
- Issues with respect to pharmaceuticals and medical devices
- Failure to supervise other medical professionals such as nurses, residents and interns.
Signs of Medical Malpractice
How do you know if you have been a victim of medical malpractice? There are so many factors involved that it is not always easy to be sure, which is one reason why you should consult a lawyer. However, there are some signs that should lead you to believe malpractice may have taken place:
Death is expected in some situations, but if you suspect that the death of a loved one is due to medical mistreatment, misdiagnosis, mismanagement, or negligence, you should contact an attorney. Perhaps the patient was given the wrong medication or surgery, or symptoms of the condition’s worsening were ignored. It is very helpful for there to be an autopsy. If there are any questions whatsoever, make sure that your loved one has an autopsy.
- Surgical Errors
Problems and complications can always arise during surgery, but if these were caused by negligence, such as tools not being sterilized properly, patients getting the wrong surgery, and leaving objects within a surgical site, you may have a malpractice case. For example, Cliff Rieders handled the case of Thurston v. Robert Packer, where a woman was being operated on for a tumor in her lung. The surgeon put a hole in the woman’s diaphragm but did not act upon reports of nurses after the surgery that things did not look right. The patient’s intestinal system eventually herniated through the diaphragm, causing catastrophic injuries. The verdict was $16.8 million.
- Incorrect Diagnosis
Perhaps your condition was misdiagnosed because you never had a thorough exam or condition-specific testing. If you later received a correct diagnosis from a different physician, you might be able to show that your doctor should have been able to see the symptoms and diagnose the illness correctly.
Laboratories can be negligent, and sometimes doctors do not question the results. If it can be shown that the laboratory was negligent in connection with your tests that led to a misdiagnosis, you may have a case against the laboratory.
- Treatments Are Not Working, and/or Symptoms and Treatment do not Match Diagnosis
If your prescribed treatment is not working and you continue to get worse, malpractice may be involved. Perhaps the medication you are prescribed may cause you to get sicker or develop new symptoms. However, not every new symptom may be a result of the treatment or surgery, so keep track of how and when symptoms appeared.
- Understaffed Facilities
If a hospital or facility is not adequately staffed, patients may not be monitored properly or receive prompt and appropriate care, so negligence can occur. For example, if the patient did not receive proper medication on schedule, or monitors and calls for nurses were ignored, the neglect may lead to injury.
- Lack of Informed Consent
Patients need to be told of the risks of procedures and surgery and reasonable alternatives. The patients are then given a consent form stating they understand the risks and are still willing to go ahead with it. What is explained to the patient should normally be in the medical records. Patients have a right to ask questions and have them answered. If medical professionals fail advise the patient of the risks and alternatives and the substantial factor test required by the MCARE Act is satisfied, there may be a claim for lack of informed consent.
Pennsylvania Medical Malpractice Statute of Limitations
This is a very factually intensive issue. In medical malpractice cases, the statute of limitations is two (2) years from the time the claim accrued. When a claim accrues can be a matter of some contest. Typically, the discovery rule states that the statute of limitations expires after the date the patient knew or, in the exercise of reasonable diligence, should have known of the relationship of the harm to the medical care. In Pennsylvania, there is also a 7-year statute of repose. A minor does not have to initiate an action until two (2) years after reaching the age of 20. Cliff Rieders “wrote the book” on Medical Malpractice. It is the only major work in Pennsylvania, and it is encyclopedic in nature. Cliff teaches medical malpractice to lawyers in the state both through the Pennsylvania Bar Institute and the Pennsylvania Association for Justice. Cliff’s book is available through the Pennsylvania Association for Justice. All the proceeds remain with PAJ, and Cliff Rieders gets paid nothing for his work on this crucial text.
Call Us For Information
Medical malpractice law is highly regulated by a complex body of rules. For a successful medical malpractice claim, the burden of proof is on the injured patient, so it is essential to have a skilled medical malpractice lawyer.
Whether in settlement negotiations or pursuing a favorable trial verdict, the experienced attorneys of Rieders, Travis, Humphrey, Waters & Dohrmann are familiar with the law and thoroughly prepared and committed to achieving a just outcome. With our sizeable staff, we offer strength in numbers while providing top-notch personal service.
Remember, Cliff Rieders “wrote the book” on medical and hospital malpractice in Pennsylvania, including pharmaceutical and medical device claims. Cliff’s work and teaching on medical malpractice is the Bible in Pennsylvania.