Only about 380 Philadelphia medical malpractice lawsuits are filed every year, and only about 25 jury trials are held. A very small number of lawyers and law firms actually have experience in this field. I’ve filed, litigated, settled, and taken to trial medical negligence cases since the beginning of my career, including everything from birth injury, to cancer misdiagnosis, to surgical mistakes. I’ve worked with medical experts in a wide variety of specialties, including neurosurgeons, heart surgeons, emergency medicine physicians, oncologists, radiologists, hospitalists, and family physicians. I’ve also cross-examined experts of the same specialties hired by defense lawyers and malpractice insurance companies.
What Is Malpractice?
“Malpractice” is the same thing as “negligence.” The only difference is that the law uses “malpractice” when discussing a licensed professional, like a doctor. A doctor commits malpractice or is negligent when their actions don’t meet the “standard of care.” The “standard of care” is defined by what a reasonable doctor must do when seeing a patient with those signs, symptoms, and medical conditions.
What Does A Medical Malpractice Lawyer Do?
A medical malpractice lawyer represents patients in claims against a nurse, a doctor, or a hospital. Lawyers typically do at least these seven things:
- Review the case to identify whether there is a reasonable probability of success
- Pays all expenses for the case (such as expert witness fees, court reporting fees, and court filing costs), and is reimbursed for those costs if the patient wins a settlement or verdict
- Finds a qualified expert witness to review the medical records and the patient’s story (usually, the expert witness must be a physician) in the same specialty as the potential defendant
- Files a complaint in court, and handles any court motions or hearings
- Uses “discovery” to investigate the claim, such as by serving subpoenas and conducting interviews under oath (called “depositions”)
- Works with the expert witnesses, such as physicians, nurses, life care planning experts, and economists, to develop the case for presentation at trial
- Handles trial of the case, including jury selection, hearings with the judge, and the questioning of witnesses
The Most Common Examples Of Med Mal Lawsuits: Misdiagnosis, Surgery Mismanagement, Birth Injury, and Medication Errors
In my experience, there are four main types of medical negligence.
Misdiagnosis (including delayed or wrong diagnoses) comprises up to one-quarter of all malpractice claims, with colorectal cancer, breast cancer, and prostrate cancer being the most commonly misdiagnosed conditions, so much so that medical negligence insurance companies have developed screening algorithms for all three. In many cases, a physician like a family physician, gastroenterologist or internist simply failed to follow up on subtle but revealing signs of cancer like anemia, bleeding, or low hemocrit levels and order a workup of blood tests. Cervical cancer and skin cancer are also unfortunately common, often because many gynecologists and general practitioners dismiss patient concerns as ordinary complaints instead of stepping back and considering each medical issue on its own merits. Read more about misdiagnosis and failure to diagnose malpractice lawsuits.
Surgery mismanagement is the next most common form of malpractice claim. Although some surgery malpractice lawsuits involve a simple technical error by a surgeon — such as a general surgeon, orthopedic surgeon, or neurosurgeon performing a technique improperly and thereby injuring the spine or adjacent organs — in our experience most claims arise not just from a surgeon making a mistake in the middle of the procedure but from the hospital and staff as a whole failing to follow appropriate protocols to prepare for surgery, to monitor patients for complications during surgery, and to ensure patients recover safely. For example, many serious injuries arise in the post-operative period when the staff fails to notice hemorrhaging or when the physicians fail to take appropriate steps, like administering steroids, to prevent vision loss or blindness after major surgeries. Even common procedures like gallbladder removal are not immune from these mistakes. (This problem is nothing new. For more about this issue, read this decade-old article in The New Yorker.)
Birth injury cases involve failures by obstetricians, midwives, nurses or hospitals to appropriately diagnose and to treat complications that arise during birth. We are intimately familiar with obstetrics — I personally spent 78 days in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) with my own premature twins — and we know what fetal heart rates should indicate a problem, how shoulder dystocia should be managed when a baby gets stuck, when an emergency c-section should be ordered for fetal distress, when cerebral palsy was avoidable, and why babies are referred to head cooling for hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy or to extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) for meconium aspiration. Read more about cerebral palsy malpractice lawsuits.
Medication errors are as simple and often as devastating as they sound. In 2008, for example, I and another attorney at the firm tried a case in which a woman was needlessly given an antibiotic to which she was allergic — despite telling three nurses and her doctor about the allergy and having a red armband that say, in large capital letters, that she was allergic. Sometimes patients are given the wrong medicine. Many times, patients are accidentally given extraordinary overdoses of anesthesia, insulin, heparin, and other common medications. Other times, the doctors and nurses fail to monitor a patients’ blood lab values to ensure that the patient’s dosages of powerful medicines like blood thinners are appropriately adjusted for the situation.
Malpractice is sadly quite common, with potentially up to 440,000 patients dying every year. But successful malpractice lawsuits are far less common, and only 15,000 cases result in a payment each year. Having a good medical malpractice lawyer can make a big difference.
We apply our substantial medical knowledge, and substantial medical malpractice success, each and every day investigating, developing, litigating, advocating, and winning our cases. We stay on top of the cutting-edge research and stay in touch with the most qualified expert witnesses. A lot of patients or their survivors come to us just looking for answers, not knowing if they want to file a lawsuit. That’s okay; our expert nurses, doctors, and lawyers will review your case free of charge. If we don’t think the physician or hospital was negligent in their care, we’ll tell you. If we find evidence of negligence or malpractice, we’ll tell you why, and discuss with you your options. If you decide to go forward, we will fight for your right to full compensation, using state-of-the-art litigation and trial strategies and top-notch experts, nurses, economists, and care planners.
If you are a victim of medical negligence, use the below contact form or call us at 1-215-948-2718 for a free, confidential consultation. We represent clients across Pennsylvania, with a focus on our medical malpractice and hospital negligence cases on Philadelphia, Montgomery, Bucks, Delaware, Chester, and Lancaster counties. Similarly, in New Jersey we focus on Camden, Burlington, Glouchester, Salem, Mercer, Ocean, and Atlantic Counties. In Delaware, we focus on New Castle and Kent counties. For certain cases, like wrongful death and childbirth malpractice, we partner with other firms to extend our representation nationwide.
Because the rights of malpractice victims are so important to me, I regularly write about medical malpractice in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey on this blog. You can read all of my posts here. Here are some of my more popular posts:
- The Doctors Company’s Dubious Medical Malpractice Statistics
- Could Jeremy Carter’s Death Have Been Prevented?
- PA Supreme Court Rejects “Assumption of Risk” In Malpractice Cases
- Doctor, Before You Save My Life, Can I See Your Hospital Contract?
- The Pennsylvania Medical Society’s Hypocrisy On Malpractice Cases
- Studies Again Show Dangerous Doctors Bigger Problem Than Defensive Medicine
- ACOG Improves Its Guidelines On Brain Injury At Birth (A Little)
- A Doctor’s “Mistake” or “Error in Judgment” Can Still Be Malpractice
- Consumer Reports And The Wrong Way To Choose A Hospital
- Medical Malpractice Accountability Plummets, While Malpractice Epidemic Continues Unabated
- The Reality of Pennsylvania Medical Malpractice
- Proving Negligent Hospital-Acquired Infection Through Bacterial Genes
- Atul Gawande Versus Sanjay Gupta On Defensive Medicine
- Abington Hospital Commits To Less Care, More Malpractice
- New Hampshire’s Insidious Early Offer Medical Malpractice Law
- Civil Sanctions Against Pennsylvania Doctors And Hospitals
- Defense Lawyer Sanctioned For Expert Witness Intimidation In Medical Malpractice Case
- Choosing Wisely: Healthcare Costs Debate Moves Beyond Defensive Medicine
- Anesthesia Complications In Routine Surgery
- Corporate Negligence vs. Vicarious Liability In Nursing Home Abuse Lawsuits
- Medical Apology Laws Are An Excuse To Avoid Doctors’ Ethical And Legal Duties To Patients
- The Arbitrary Tragedy of Cancer Misdiagnosis
- When Does A Reasonable Person Suspect Medical Malpractice?
- Medical Malpractice, Errors in Judgment, and The Beginner’s Mind
- Massive Emergency Room Malpractice Award For Noncompliant Patient
- 17P & Makena: Exploiting Premature Birth For Billions In Profit
- It’s Legal Malpractice Not To Sue Hospital Residents For Medical Malpractice
- Medical Malpractice Filings in Pennsylvania Are Dwindling, Taking Civil Justice And Patient Safety With Them
- The Truth About Those Blockbuster Birth Injury / Obstetrical Malpractice Jury Verdicts